Eat Here: Ayllu, PaddingtonBy Joanne Gould
Looking for a weekend brunch spot with a difference? Forget the eggs, pancakes and mimosas and head over to Sheldon Square for a riot of flavour, fun and free-flowing drinks at Peruvian fusion restaurant Ayllu. Here’s the lowdown:
Brunches – bottomless or otherwise – are two-a-penny in London, with most of them peddling the standard menu of avo toast, fluffy stacks of pancakes and perhaps a hollandaise-bathed English muffin or two with as much prosecco as you can knock back throughout. It’s a formula that works, and we’re here for it, but sometimes you want to step things up a notch, no? Enter: Ayllu.
Pass the colourful barges moored on the Paddington Basin (hello Daisy & May Green and The Cheese Barge) and nestled canal-side underneath Smith’s Bar and Grill you’ll find Ayllu, a sleek little spot specialising in Peruvian-Japanese fusion food and a decent line in cocktails. Visit anytime for their inventive a la carte or tasting menus spanning sashimi, black cod, tuna tacos and Peruvian classics like lomo saltado, or head over on Saturdays for their new immersive samba brunch, like we did.
With DJ’s lining up the South American party tunes it’s easy to get into the spirit of the carnival in this basement bar and restaurant (even on a sunny Saturday lunchtime!) and our shoulders were shimmying quicker than you can say ‘Peach Snaps’ – just one of the options to go bottomless with. Choose from the wine and beer bundle, where you can enjoy refillable Prosecco, red or white wine or San Miguel for £25, or splurge on the premium bundle at £35 for unending Champagne, vodka or gin cocktails or the aforementioned Peach Snaps (peach liqueur, lime, mango syrup, passion fruit juice and fresh mint).
The carnival continues with the arrival of samba dancers in full – amazing – costume, who shake their tail feathers around the tables while you sip on your sparkling wine. Tap along to the high-energy choreographed routines and drumming with a side of pyrotechnics from your comfy booth, or get on your feet and join in with the party: after a cocktail or two the rhythm is going to get you.
The brunch itself is based on Nikkei sharing plates: so expect traditional Peruvian ingredients served up using modern Japanese techniques. You’ll start with salted edamame and a zippy mixed ceviche of sea bass, corn and octopus before tucking into pillowy bao buns filled with meltingly tender slow cooked teriyaki beef shin, lots of fresh herbs and a silky aji rocoto chili cream; spicy uramaki salmon completes the starting line up. Portions are generous so save some room to pick a main each – we’d recommend the smoky and succulent octopus a la plancha which is vibrant and well seasoned with a satisfying umami hit from katsuobushi (dried bonito) flakes, but the Pollada of baby chicken marinated with four different types of Peruvian chilli and topped with crispy shallots was tempting too. Dessert is chef’s choice; we enjoyed mini mango mochi and pretty petit fours and a complimentary shot of something sweet and strawberry-flavoured spiked with booze to wrap up our samba experience.
The immersive brunch costs £39pp (plus drinks package) for 90 minutes of Latin fuelled fun and is well worth your hard-earned cash. The waiting staff are fast and friendly – and ensure your glass is never empty. The only downside? You’ll never want to go back to plain old pancakes after this fiesta of fusion and flavour.