You can’t miss it. Facing ever up-and-coming Shoreditch High Street, Andina is perched amongst the cool cats and funky hats crowd. It’s laid-back here – the bartender sports a dashing moustache whilst mixing up boozy delights to a heavy
Latin salsa. The walls are lined with colourful South American vinyl records and wooden shelves hold up jars full of exotic Andean ingredients.
It’s midweek and packed to the hilt. Bars both upstairs and downstairs accommodate the easy-going, whilst others sit at simple wooden tables and chairs adorned with a single tea tree candle, relaxing into the Peruvian climate. A rustic and unpretentious interior, Andina’s priority is to fill you with punchy Pisco Sours and the soul food of the Andes.
The menu is made for sharing, so start with a selection of street and ceviche dishes. The colourful Tiger’s Milk Trio offers three tasters of ceviche creatively served in shot glasses and accompanied with cancha (crunchy Peruvian corn) – swap them around, taking dainty sips whilst fishing out the occasional scallop, and allow the fragrant and spicy marinade to give you a kick. The Res (thin slices of beef) is served with figs (the sexiest fruit, according to D.H.Lawrence), and dissolves under the fork. Order a dish of dangerously moreish quinoa croquetas – in fact, order two.
The Lamb Grill is a tango on the tongue, accompanied by plump earthy kernels of choclo corn and a zingy lime vinaigrette. Set the tender meat off against a bottle of smooth and fruity Argentinean Malbec chosen from Andina’s impressive and reasonably priced wine list.
For dessert, the pumpkin donuts with vanilla ice cream are the way to go out on a high. Presented in a large wooden boat, which could have been drifting down Lake Titicaca before finding a calling as a donut vessel, this imaginative dessert comes with purple maize syrup and chocolate fudge dipping sauce for you to play with.
Meet at Shoreditch Overground and head straight to Andina. You’ll probably have a wait before you get to your table so order a couple of strong Pisco Sours and nurse them lovingly whilst you nurse each other. When seated, go on to wine and water so as not to entirely lose your sense of self – Pisco, or aguardiente (firewater) as the Latin Americans say, can do that to you. Warm staff are ready with excellent recommendations, so graciously accept whatever they offer and concentrate on the fine wine and exquisite company.
How you wish to orchestrate the rest of the evening thereafter is up to you. Quaintly named and domestically dressed, The Owl and Pussycat resides further into Redchurch Street if you fancy an intimate nightcap. Or, if you’d rather mix the pace up a bit, there’s always Lounge Lover round back on Whitby Street, waiting to make a film scene out of you.
The waiting area is a dimly lit corridor with limited seating – not the best way to start romancing. But once in, it’s hard to fault.
Steady 3. After a couple of Pisco Sours, you make your own luck.