These days, everything is ‘inspired.’ Kitchens can’t resist drawing on inspiration, changing themes or immersing us in some sort of other world. And when I heard that La Rampa was channelling 1950s Havana over in Fitzrovia, I must admit that I didn’t think much of it. Could it prove me wrong?
La Rampa is the latest to join the lineup from MJMK group, along with siblings Casa do Frango and Kol Mezcalaria. Heading up the drinks list is Marcis Dzelzainis, who counts stints at Sager + Wild and 69 Colebrook Row under his belt, while the food offering has been curated by the wagyu sando-famous TĀ TĀ Eatery. No big deal.
The first stop on our girls night out, the restaurant was bustling when we arrived. A live band set the scene, performing Maria Maria as we made our way past the long bar which stretched all the way to a dining area with a skylight and plenty of foliage. Muted tones of brown, red and green gave a rusty industrial feel, as painted pipes, velvet banquettes, raffia booths and paintings of Cuban cars finished off with a flourish of character.
Diving straight into the Latin American-inspired dishes, we rounded up a selection of small and large plates. From the smaller section, tostones (£6) were flat, crispy and paired with a fresh avocado mojo, while elote corn ribs (£8) brought the flavour with a spicy, yet creamy chipotle mayo and squirt of lime.
As for cocktails, there’s multiple versions of mojitos and daiquiris, plus Cuban classics and house signatures. We opted for a couple of classics in the form of the El Presidente (£13) - a perfectly balanced combination of rum, vermouth, triple sec and grenadine, then garnished with orange peel; and the Cleopatra (£12) - a Hennessy, port and pineapple number that could have done with a proper strain to remove the ice.
As the plates rolled through, it was a steady stream of braised ox cheek tacos (£9), prawn ceviche (£10) and tropicana salad (£5) that made our mouths water. I dodged the roasted aubergine (£10) which felt like a gloop of mush, in favour of crispy chicken chicharrons (£12). Served with a punchy habanero and pineapple salsa, it was exactly the kind of dish that I came for.
In what must be a world first for me, we skipped dessert and ended things with more drinks. Sticking to what I know, I had the margarita (£13) – finished off with a spicy salt rim to cut through all the citrus. For my dinner date? A tropical take on the OG, with the mango colada (£13) shaking Eminente Claro rum and Koko Kanu rum with mango, coconut and lime for a fresh, fruity end to the evening.
The DesignMyNight Digest
With live music and the kind of atmosphere that'll make you feel like you're no longer in London, La Rampa has completed its objective of transporting to you warmer climes. There's a little room for improvement on the menu, but overall the selection of cocktails and small plates is a tasty one that'll keep you keep you here for hours. It certainly had my girls night off to a great start.
💰 The damage: around £100 plus service between two.
📍 The location: Market Place, just behind Oxford Street.
👌 Perfect for: a slice of holiday without leaving London.
⭐ Need to know: make sure you stay for the live music.