Mayfair, the UAE… and now the Square Mile: diners in the world’s well-heeled honeypots can’t get enough of Arjun Waney’s Peruvian spin on his phenomenally successful Zuma concept.
Here in the Square Mile, softer acoustics make for a more-relaxed mood than at the ear-splitting original on Piccadilly, but otherwise the formula is pretty much the same: a bar serving lethal cocktails, a dining room decorated in a colour-supplement approximation of South American chic, and a menu of small sharing plates that ticks off the continent’s culinary greatest hits: ceviche and steak, tacos and tiraditos.
There was no faulting the quality of any of the ingredients we ate, but much of the subtlety was drowned out by the sort of assertive seasoning that suggested that this is food that needs to shout through the fog of a third Pisco Sour.
Skewers of springy ox heart with red pepper and parsley, and spicy beef fillet with shallots and star anise, both alas tasted mainly of their very savoury accompaniments.
Our fish dishes were better: soft-fleshed tuna ceviche with sesame, and a pretty arrangement of kingfish tiradito with truffle oil, had been dressed with restraint.
Best of all were tender tamarind-glazed pork ribs stacked like a pile of Jenga and festooned with fresh chilli and cashew nuts – as well as the avocados pounded together in a pestle and mortar at the table to make fresh guacamole.
But the most memorable thing about our meal was the friendliness of the staff, especially our charming sommelier who was as happy to recommend saké as Sauvignon to match the riot of South American flavours in the food.