Eat Here: Casita Andina, SohoBy Angelica Malin
This restaurant. Oh boy, this restaurant. If there’s one thing Martin Morales knows, it’s how to run a seriously sexy restaurant. The vibe is great, the food is well, bloody out-of-this world, and the cocktails are just how we like them: strong. For a new date spot in Soho, Casita Andina ticks all the boxes. We think it’s going to be your new favourite restaurant in town, and here’s why:
Casita Andina is the real deal. A new restaurant by much-respected entrepreneur Martin Morales, of Ceviche and Andina fame, it’s a welcome addition to the Soho dining scene. A Peruvian “picanteria” in the heart of Soho, the restaurant has the feel of a family-run establishment in Peru itself, with all the warmth, heart and soul you’d expect. Inspired by the cuisine of Cusco, in the Peruvian Andes, Casita Andina is all about the incredible food of Peru. The spirit of Peru runs through the veins of the restaurant; the restaurant is decorated with the art, textiles and crafts of this amazing culture. Casita Andina has just got such a fun, lively South American buzz to it – the kind of place you want to spend hours sipping Pisco Sours and chowing down on the most incredible Peruvian small plates.
The place itself is full of history; the little house housing Casita Andina has been the life and soul of Soho for over two hundred years, and it used to be a stomping ground for West End actors and thespians, shopkeepers, market traders and creatives. There’s a sense of passion and creativity that goes into everything about Casita Andina – from the unusual and delicious smoothie menus, to the little nibbles to start your meal and the wow-factor desserts. In the words of Martin Morales’ grandmother: aquí se cocina con cariño – here we cook with love. And you can really taste that.
Truly, this is Peruvian food like you’ve never tasted before. Peruvian food is one of my favourite cuisine – it’s full of flavour, colour and surprise and it’s fantastic for those that don’t eat meat, too. Split into nibbles, ceviche and raw, and hot dishes, the food at Casita Andina is inspired by the gastronomy of the Peruvian Andes, with nutritious native ingredients paired with the local British produce. We started with a few of the nibbles, which were both fantastic. The Cancha corn is crisp and tasty, and the avocado fritters with panca chilli and anchovy salt are absolutely delicious little bites of fried of avocado, with a good hit of chilli.
Next up, the real deal: Casita Andina’s ceviche. The classic ceviche is an absolute winner, with sustainable seabass, classic tiger’s milk, sweet potato and coriander – this dish is so fresh and light, with lots of lime cutting through all the incredible flavours. We had to order a second portion, it was that good. The ceviche casita is equally delicious, with sustainable seabass, amarillo tigers milk, avocado, sweet potato and cancha corn. This ceviche is a little bit more unusual, with a sweetness coming from the sweet potato and a scattering of kumquats, but it’s no less delicious. The presentation of the ceviche at Casita Andina goes above and beyond – the food is almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
The trout tiradito with British farmed trout, trout caviar, amarillo chilli tigers milk, violet potatoes and amaranth is a visually stunning dish, and totally faultless. The trout is beautifully soft and light, with a little crunch from the amaranth and the creaminess of the pureed violet potatoes, this is truly the kind of food summer is made for. My favourite dish of the whole evening was probably the watermelon and quinoa salad with chilli-pressed watermelon, lemon-almond vinaigrette, black quinoa and queso fresco. The combination of the super sweet, refreshing and light fruit with the salty cheese is simply heaven – it’s the kind of salad you want to eat again and again. We finish our savoury experience on a high, with a whole panca chilli-marinated cauliflower with sweet potato, broad bean, onions and tomatoes. The cauliflower is perfectly cooked, still with a bit of bite, and a warmth coming from all the lovely spices and chilli – a fantastic veggie main that you’ll simply love.
The desserts are no less impressive. In fact, they are quite the highlight of the meal. The choco-sauco with Peruvian Alto El Sol chocolate ball, elderberry gel and chocolate crumble is worth travelling for – a delicious sphere of chocolate, filled with chocolate mousse, on a bed of melted chocolate and chocolate crispies. Death by chocolate, in a good way.
The cocktails at Casita Andina are divine, and you can tell a huge amount of thought has gone into each and every one. You’ve got to try the classic Pisco Sour, Peru’s national cocktail, with Quebranta pisco, lime juice, syrup, egg white and Peruvian Chuncho bitters. For something a little more unusual, try the Peru Bravo – a punch-style cocktail with a spicy touch, with pineapple and limo chilli-infused La Caravedo pisco, pomegranate liquor, lime and Fever Tree ginger ale. If you’re keeping clean, you’ll love their range of juices and smoothies. My favourite was the Cochinilla – earthy, fruity and light with carrot, ruby red grapefruit, strawberries, passion fruit, annatto and pink peppercorn. Dreamy.
Casita Andina ticks all the boxes, and so much more. The Peruvian-inspired food is absolutely flawless, the vibe is very cool and the cocktails are absolutely killer. If you visit one new restaurant this month, make it this hidden gem in Soho.
Casita Andina is at 31 Great Windmill St, London W1D 7LP. Photo credit: Paul Winch-Furness.