Peruvian dining has seen somewhat of a revolution in London over the last few years, and without tooting their horn too early in this review; that’s largely thanks to the guys behind Ceviche. Serving up a huge selection of punchy small plates and their own Pisco-powered cocktails, Ceviche's Old St plot follows suits with coast-inspired flavours and an ocean-load of its own unique style.
Located in the former bones of the Alexandra Trust Dining Rooms - around a 5-minute walk from Old Street roundabout - Ceviche’s East London outpost is a mixed bag when it comes to its design. Think NYC touches in their white industrial tiled walls and hanging lights, original fixtures from the building’s 1898 conception, and colourful South American artwork on the walls too. Somehow though, it works – and helpfully, perfectly complements the cool crowd this place tends to attract.
A standalone bar means you can drop in for drinks, separate from the main dining space. I visited on a Thursday night and both the bar and the restaurant were full, with a buzzy ambience that lasted throughout the evening. Though it doesn’t feel like your archetypal cheesy date night spot, it’s definitely a restaurant worthy of an occasion - meaning it’s just as fitting for a special night out with your latest squeeze as it is for a lively group dinner with friends.
The Food and Drink
The ‘Pisco Pub’ bar serves up a relatively large cocktail menu of Pisco-infused tipples, spanning signatures like the Pisco Sour (£8) to their ‘imposter’ cocktails, which are essentially Pisco-takes on the classics, with anything from a Margarita (£9), to my favourite on the night, the High Society (£9) – made with ‘Pisco imposter gin’, apricot liquor, Contratto bitter and grapefruit.
From the eponymously-named ‘Ceviche Bar’ items and grilled small plates, to the restaurant’s take on foodie stalwarts – the food here is colourful, bold and interesting enough for Instagram. Starting with the ceviche dishes; the Don Ceviche (£8) with sea bass, Amarillo chilli tiger’s milk, sweet potato, red onion and limo chilli, and the Tiradito Arequipa (£11) with yellowfin tuna, roasted lemon gelée, dry yuba skin, huacatay leaves and wasabi tobiko were both screaming of fresh produce and citrusy goodness, but it was the Pico Alto Prawn Ceviche (£11) that really stole my heart on the night. King prawns are tossed with mango and lemongrass tiger’s milk, olluco potatoes, frisee and olive powder, and the result is sea-splashing-in-your-face freshness, with buckets of flavour too - all brought together with a sharp acidic edge from the lemon. I've never had a Harry Met Sally awkward restaurant scene moment before, but if I was ever going to - it'd probably be this dish that did it.
From the grill, the Adobe Secreto (£12) – a small Iberico pork dish served with coriander purée – and the marinated Cod & Coal (£14) served with edible charcoal both provided meaty and substantial interludes, while the slightly daintier duck breast Arroz Con Pato (£12) balanced everything out with a more aesthetic and lighter touch. The only slight criticism would be reserved for the Pastel de Choclo (£7) – a corn and feta cheese savoury cake, which although I love the idea of, tasted heavier than necessary and for me didn’t compare to the other dishes on the night.
The great thing about a place like Ceviche (and any other small plate-dominated eateries) is that you can try a bit of everything, with the downside being you’re splashing a little more cash than elsewhere - so prepare your purse strings if you are planning on going the whole hog here.
As you’ll have probably guessed; I’m a fan of Ceviche Old St. The dishes are fresh, the atmosphere is fun but not in-your-face, and the service is spot on. It’s certainly not a place to eat on a budget, but it’s not ridiculously over-priced either – and if you’re into fresh produce and thought-out flavours, it’s worth every penny.