From ceviche at Liverpool Street station through to West London’s prettiest plates, South America’s food offering have become big business on this city’s restaurant scene. But when it comes to the drinks - up until now, the pisco sour was a solo act, hogging the stage. The tides are turning, however; where there was once whisky and gin, smoked mezcals and Latin American rums are hustling for some mic time. The Lost Alpaca, underneath Lima Floral, is bang on trend as it extends it food AND drinks menu to the southern continent.
I didn’t need to look at the cocktail menu to make up my mind that this basement bar was worth my once-weekly tube ride out of East London. Set in Covent Garden, the newly revamped corner is part of Floral by Lima - the younger sister of Michelin-starred Lima, and if the food is that good, surely the drinks are packing? Though it shares an entrance with the restaurant, the cocktail bar has recently undergone a makeover to make sure it stands alone. Descending downstairs feels like dipping into the ocean; the decor is distinctly under the sea, with shimmery aquamarine tiles behind the bar and windows that emit a blue glow.
It’s not a massive space and most of the booths that line the graffiti-sprayed brick walls are filled with punters having a pre-dinner livener. When it comes to cocktails, I live my life according to the SSS law - short, sharp and strong, something this joint agrees on, with a menu of drinks potent enough to explain quite why the alpaca is so lost. The Lima Negroni (£9.50) was a smoky homage to the classic, swapping the lighter gin for a medicinal, syrupy combination of mezcal and Cynar (an artichoke liqueur).
Small plates are whizzed down from the upstairs restaurant and appear before I’ve had chance to put down the menu. Tequeños (£6) are a sexier, Venezuelan take on cheese sticks as molten white cheese oozes out of the fried pastry-like shell, while the sweet potato cakes have also had the deep fryer treatment, giving the starch the consistency of creamy mash. I break my SSS rule for the Macario (£11), a long, pineapple and tequila drink that’s almost black from being muddled with charcoal, an ingredient which serves to undercut some of the pineapple’s tartness.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Sure Macchu Picchu, the grandiose streets of Lima, and the beaches of Brazil are bucket-list worthy, but if one thing's going to get me over to South America, it's the cuisine. Though with The Lost Alpaca around I won't have to brave my fear of flying just yet; discover this little basement spot for affordable cocktails that are bringing flavours and spirits not much seen in London - at least not yet.