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2013 and earlier

Tierra Peru, Islington, London

We spent Valentine’s Day in Soho’s trendy ‘Ceviche’ restaurant last month, so when pay day came around my girlfriend and I were on the hunt for more tasty Peruvian flavours in London - when better to enjoy them than the start of a long, bank holiday weekend? ‘Tierra Peru’ in north London’s Islington, invites you to “come and taste the delicious and exotic flavours of Peru” – perfect!

Cosy and welcoming, we could see content Londoners tucking in to various dishes through the restaurant’s glass front. It was reassuringly busy, but with space for a couple of late additions who hadn’t booked!

The very friendly waitress who came to take our order asked if we had ever eaten Peruvian food before. “We’ve been there!” We replied proudly. She was from Lima and listened keenly as I recounted some of my very best anecdotes from my time spent in her country, meanwhile my girlfriend tried not to fall asleep!

We ordered two of their Pisco Sours to get us started (you can buy Pisco by the bottle here too). Slightly embarrassingly, I was most excited when I noticed the inclusion of Inca Kola on the drinks menu. Labelled ‘The national soda of Peru’, I hadn’t drunk the stuff before, or since my time in Latin America. It’s an acid yellow coloured fizzy soft drink, probably closest in taste to Irn Bru, and I absolutely love it. They say tastes and smells can transport you back to foreign lands and distant memories and this definitely did it for me. Arriving at busy bus stations in Peru having lugged my huge backpack for miles in the mid-day sun, cracking open a cold can of Inca Kola bought from one of the locals selling drinks and sweets on the bus before it departs. With one taste I was whisked back. For any fellow Inca Kola fiends, Tierra Peru sells 2 litre bottles of the stuff for £10.

To start we shared the ‘Cebiche Mixto’ (£9, also available as a main for £16) and the ‘Tequeńos Rellenos de Queso’ (£6). Both very well presented, the cebiche of raw seafood marinated inTierraPeruInsideView.jpg lime juice came served with corn kernels, sweet and normal potato, red onion and coriander. The refreshingly cool tang that I love so much about the dish did not disappoint, and beating my girlfriend to all the biggest and juiciest prawns was particularly enjoyable. The Tequeńos Rellenos were less adventurous but still very nice. Light and crispy fried pastry rolls filled with stretchy cheese, dipped in the accompanying traditionally inspired Huancaina sauce (a spiced cheese sauce). Together they made a nice duo, one chilled, refreshing and healthy. The other a warm, deep-fried, cheesy indulgence.

For the main course I ordered the ‘Picante de Mariscos’ and my girlfriend chose the ‘Arroz con Mariscos’ (both £13). The Picante is described as a ‘creamy seafood stew’ made with Aji Limo and comes served with steamed rice and potato medallions. Perfect given the freezing temperatures we’d come in from outside, this was a beautifully thick, fishy and slightly spiced sauce, poured over a mix of great big rings of calamari, prawns and mussels, sitting on a bed of sliced potato. I wolfed it down. The Arroz is effectively the Picante’s much healthier creamy-sauce-free nemesis. Unlike the traditionally moist Italian risotto, this is a dry and crispy rice dish, more similar to Chinese style fried rice. Carrying much more of a spicy punch than the Picante, it similarly included deliciously big and tasty prawns, mussels and calamari, and also featured an accompanying garlic and parsley based sauce on the side.

We were both too stuffed for a desert but were immediately won over by the sound of the ‘Double Inca Coffee’ (£6), a house special coffee made with coconut puree and a double shot of Pisco! Wow, was it strong! Topped with a deceptively sweet cream to spoon off the top, that was the drink that made us both want to head straight to the nearest bar upon leaving. The bank holiday weekend had landed.

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