“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.