The opening of Soho’s Ceviche in March 2012 was the start of a trend that saw Peruvian food transformed from rough-around-the-edges family restaurant (shout out Tito’s) to tough-to-get-a-table London joint. Thanks to Lima, Tierra Peru and SushiSamba, the formerly humble ceviche now comes on a razor thin glass plate, with a lemongrass infused Pisco sour on the side and a helluva lot more swag.
Coya, opening at the close of 2012, triumphed over the rest by showing us just how fancy-pants Peru could get. This place is, without a doubt, a beauty to behold. Well, for swanky daters at least. I’m talking dark and plush rooms, pricey red wines in bowl-like glasses, beautiful hosts/hostesses, a reflective bar, leather stools to perch on, chunky and oversized candle holders, shabby chic wooden and stone floors, yellow velvet chairs and some fantastic spotlighting. Good job chaps, I think I’d fancy anyone here. Brought to London by Arjun Waney and Richard Caring – men described as entrepreneurs rather than restaurateurs – the 100-seater basement has a whiff of nightclub about it. The fact that part of Coya is a members’ club adds to the bling appeal, and the price only serves to undermine this point – you’re not in Peublo Libra anymore.
You came here for style over substance, but thankfully the food is quite honestly epic. Ceviche is a light and fresh way to kick things off (sea bass with red onions, sea bream with Amarillo chilli), but the real excitement comes in the form of juicy meats and insanely moreish, spicy patatas bravas. The beef sirloin with chimichurri is a must, ditto the duck breast with soy sauce. Add some tiger prawns and some baby squid and you’re stuffed (and fleeced). Work up to dessert. You could go for something cleansing like a sorbet, but both chocolate pudding options are masterful. Don’t share, order enough.
It’s most fun to bust out sleek corporate attire here. Even though it’s fancy, you’ll fit in better if it looks like this is just a post-work bite that has stretched into a grander affair. Meet at the bar on a Tuesday night – easier to get a table and takes a pinch of formality away. Make sure you’ve both changed into faux work outfits- a dress that could have been worn at work, but is a little too silky, a touch too mignon; a shirt whose open button suggests a casual tie removal, yet looks a little too pressed for a day bent over photocopies at the firm. If you’re nervous, arrive 20 minutes early and prop up the bar. Let them find you. Once you’re at the table, the person who picked the spot, should pick the food – they’re likely to be picking up the check. Drink white with the ceviche, red with the meat, something sweet with the pudding. Keep conversation erudite, sexy and moody. Even it you have been to Peru, don’t talk about it – it’s like talking about rural China whilst munching down in Yauatcha, completely ridiculous. Instead, show off, dish out compliments and enjoy your date’s well lit visage. Scurry onto the streets for a mid meal cigarette, break character for a second, steal a quick kiss, and return to the table relieved and relaxed. Finish up, have a nightcap at the bar and order your cabs.
A little corporate at times.
4. If the food wasn’t so wolfable, this place would be a sure thing. But it is, so see how you’re feeling after.