“You need to go to Coya. It’s the best Peruvian restaurant. The food, the feel, the waiters – all are amazing!” recommends leading businessperson Astrid Bray. “It’s a fav of mine!” And so we make haste while the sun shines. The restaurant has possibly the most discreet frontage ever. A solemn stone columned portico on Piccadilly conveys nothing of the colourful madness that lies beyond, or rather below. Like our favourite Chinese restaurant Hakkasan, the best dining room and bar are in the basement which we just love. Never has subterranean living looked so glam. We’re enthralled!
Amazonica and Lucky Cat may be the new Mayfair restaurants you will shortly be hearing about, and never stop hearing about, and Nobu may or may not be about to close, but here at 118 Piccadilly life gathers pace in the fast lane under the street. The international jet set just can’t get enough of this high end eclectic Latin American cuisine sporting an oriental twist. On a very random Thursday night the place is packed to its rustic rafters. It’s like sitting in Emirates First Class. The vibe is very cool, very relaxed, very us.
“I bring you one to taste,” announces the sommelier, instigating an impromptu pre tiraditos (Peruvian sashimi) wine tasting. “This Argentinian Torrontés is very fruity” is how he describes a Susana Balbo Crios 2018. It instantly transports us back to Atlántico or I Latina or UCO or anywhere spectacularly upmarket in Buenos Aires. “We’ve lots of Argentinian, Chilean and Uruguayan wine! Their high altitude is good for wine growing.” A “full bodied North Argentinian” Hermandad Chardonnay 2016 follows.
Coya’s menu was “born from the spirit of adventure” explains Indo British Culinary Director Sanjay Dwivedi. He spent all of 2012 touring South America and found what he was looking for amidst Incan heritage. “When I went to Peru I was like a kid in a sweet shop, I was so impressed! They have so many different foods – fruits, vegetables, ceviches – I was hooked.” He teamed up with businessman Arjun Waney, the Asian tour de force behind several top London restaurants as well as The Arts Club, and the adventure took wings. Coya now showcases the best of Latin American food, art, music (note the freestanding fireplace in the bar doubling as DJ decks) and culture.
“Peruvian food is the original fusion cuisine,” Sanjay reckons. “It takes in flavours from Japan, China, Spain and Africa.” His menu certainly has recognisable Japanese elements (chiefly miso and teriyaki). It’s an unlikely yet successful pairing of Lima and Tokyo. Late night summer supper costs £60. There’s a tasting menu for £80. Saturday brunch is £95 with cocktails or £115 accompanied by Perrier-Jouët. Our à la carte dinner sets us back a tad more, although we did consume rather a lot of ensaladas (salad), antichuchos (marinated skewers grilled on charcoal), para picar (sharing plates), pescados y mariscos (seafood) and acompañantes (sides). And the highlight: palomitas con leche (sweetcorn and popcorn crème brûlée with roasted pineapple). There’s another Coya in London in the City, and there are branches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Monte Carlo. Coya is also opening shortly in Paris. Another excuse – not that one is ever needed – to return to the City of Light.
That was two years ago. And now from our own foreign correspondent. Our dedicated man in the trenches, or at least he who luncheth in Coya Dubai right now. Hard work, but someone’s gotta do it. So what’s his learned verdict? “It’s part of the Four Seasons Dubai complex. The interior of Coya in Dubai is very similar to London with lemon and lime velvet chairs. The menu is more extensive that its London counterpart with a lot of fish and ceviche choices. There are great views over the city. The staff are mainly European. Excellent restaurant.” Our overseas diplomat cuts it short: happy hour has begun back in his hotel.
We’ll always have printemps Printemps.
Fortune Favours the Few
She may have one of the hottest addresses in Paris (Place des Vosges is of course Henri IV’s early 17th century grande projet of arcaded shops with residences above fronted by four palatial façades set around a garden square in the style of an Italian Piazza) but Elisabeth Visoanska, the glamorous Founder and President of the eponymous haute cosmétique company, loves to travel. In a revelatory exclusive, Elisabeth shares, “Travelling provides the opportunity to witness natural marvels and wonders, expanding our understanding and appreciate of this world.”
Coucou Loulou Frou Frou
Paris was a dream that autumn, a beautifully drawn dream.
Two Nights in Paris
We’re all over the map but the City of Light has its own seductive draw. Maybe it’s the perfect crush of Parisian parties this spring. Maybe it’s the honeycomb hue the stone turns this time of year. Or maybe, racing through the music of time sheet by sheet, Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies are proving the perfect accompaniment to our French Renaissance, our je ne sais ha! Richard E Grant’s fashion designer character Cort Romney in Robert Altman’s film Prêt-à-Porter speaks our minds.
We’ll Always Have Parees
Riding though Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in our hair.
To Die For
Buenos Aires is sometimes compared to Paris, a touch tenuously at times, but together they’ve had a similarly lucky escape. Le Corbusier planned to bulldoze both cities to create modernist utopias. Thankfully, his plans ended up in the dustbin. Instead of the French connection, we’d like to compare Buenos Aires to Savannah. Wait – there are plenty of things in common, honest. Well, ok, four. Firstly, splendid isolation of the geographical kind. One is encircled by Pampas; the other, swamps. Secondly, they’re both laid out like chessboards, streets intersecting at right angles to define square blocks between them. Thirdly, they both have a Pink House. Only Buenos Aires’ is called Casa Rosado. Fourthly, cemeteries top the tourist trail. Recoleta in BA, Bonaventure in SA. Cities of the dead. Theme parks of morbidity. Celebratory sepulchres. Legends written in stone. Recoleta Cemetery, like Buenos Aires, sprawls rather than soars: a linear visual feast of marble mausolea. A labyrinthic architectural encyclopaedia of ways to be buried. A necropolis within the metropolis. Drop dead gorgeous.
Once the orchard of the adjoining startlingly white Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar, the land was designated the city’s first public cemetery in 1822. Two women cry out from the immortalised myriad: one so famous she has a musical named after her; the other, a more intimate tale to tell. The understated yet much sought after tomb of Evita (Eva Perón née Duarte), mother of the nation. And that of the beloved daughter of Porteños, Liliana Crociati. She died in an avalanche on her honeymoon in Austria in 1970. Her parents reconstructed her bedroom in an art nouveau gothic grave. A bronze statue of Liliana in her wedding dress, with her beloved pet dog by her side, guards the entrance. Nostalgia as an art form. Evita’s darling poodle was called Canela. So brief a dream.
Lisbon’s mercurial mix is intoxicating, and made all the more sparkling by its simultaneous and very definite continental dynamic. John O’Connell, designer of ‘The best room in London’ according to The Times, doesn’t hold back, “Lisbon is like Paris in the 1930s. It’s so adorable. And I mean Paris! And I mean adorable!” Elizabeth Bowen drawled, “Paris is always a good idea.” Turns out so is Lisbon. Subdued restaurants, subtropical evenings and a subversive attitude make Lisbon in summer a sexy option. While the locals head for the hills, we head for the beach. We’re smitten by the sultrier side of the city. Lisbon in August is playful, an attribute exaggerated by the soaring temperatures. The weekend exists as a narcotic and we’re aching for it. When it comes, the nightly daiquiri on the five star 20th century iconic Altis Grand Hotel’s San Jorge roof terrace kicks in, before we kick up our heels dancing downtown in Bairro Alto.