Autumn is often a starting point when new ideas are considered and plans are realised. With a colourful array of world cuisine now available at our finger tips, tickling our minute and curious taste buds, now more than ever seems like a good time to embrace a new kid on the block, whether cooked at home or served to your table.
A recent influx of new restaurant openings have mirrored this trend, specifically Peruvian-themed being the leading fashionable fusion cuisine of this past year as evidenced by Ceviche in Soho, SushiSamba in the City, Coya in Piccadilly and favourite, Lima on the fringe of Fitzrovia. Virgilio Martinez, proprietor of the latter, brings his skills honed all over the world to oversee Lima’s kitchen. Flavour and visuals inevitably stand up to one another in sublime harmony, delivering first class dishes. As are the heavenly pisco sours. Let’s not also forget the ‘original’ landing of Argentinian-run parrilla restaurant, Santa Maria Buen Ayre in Broadway Market…so much the real thing that it might have been flown in direct from Buenos Aires (as, in fact, the grill equipment was). Since then, other imports include chain big gun, Gaucho, with its extensive range of rich and tender Argentinian steaks, including a competitive section on faultlessly executed Ceviche. Malbec wine-matching is a must here.
I could whittle on, but I should really get back to the subject at hand as a new contender is rearing its intriguing head. A recent crusade has attempted to push Ecuador’s wheels in motion, by putting the aforementioned on the gastronomical map. Recently, I was introduced to burgeoning campaign, Pro Ecuador. With the plush backdrop of the 5* Corinthia Hotel London, this included a three course journey into the minds of the Branding Latin America group, with hired aid from authentic Ecuadorian chefs, David Reyes and Carlos Javier Torres. First on the menu, was an apertif of Ecuador’s most popular alcoholic beverage, Canelazo, made from ‘naranjilla’ (a zingy tropical fruit popular in the region), rum, sugar and cinnamon. One sure way to warm the cockles, this had remnants of mulled wine but with a flush-inducing kick. Our starter of Prawn Ceviche (indigenous to this region), perky, vivid and beautifully fresh in taste, the addition of plantain crisps did no disservice to this dish, perfectly providing textural counterpoint.
Our main featured another important ingredient export, Quinoa (an increasingly favoured alternative to rice in this country thanks to its new label as ‘super grain of the future’…for which I’ve no doubt Ecuador are grateful). Quinotto, a word play on our faithful friend the ‘risotto’, offered an all rounded vegetarian dish with hints of vibrant butternut squash and authentic Ecuadorian broccoli, comforting yes, albeit a rather generous pinch of salt would have done it no harm. Flourless chocolate cake served with physalis ice cream, caramelised plantain and toffee glazed physalis fruit gave a clue that the Ecuadorian food here is viewed with a modern, evolved eye, demonstrating that there is a lot more to the cooking than the Latin American catalogue usually encounters.
As is custom, the evening came to a close just as the real deal came wafting in with its intense aroma. Ecuadorian coffee would certainly give Costa a run for their money (she says, confidently nodding in her new authentic Panama hat. Muchisimas gracias…it really fits like a glove!)
Whatever the future holds for Ecuadorian cuisine in this country, I’m confident we won’t be disappointed.
Watch this space..!