Soft opening? Sounds a bit nasty to me. ‘Come to my soft opening’. Hmm. Anyway, my visit to Ceviche was on the ‘soft opening’ first night so bear this in mind as there was 50% off the bill. Also it was really dark in there so apologies for the pitch-black photos.
It’s a bustling place, full to the rafters by the time we got there. An attractive bar area at the front (serving an array of pisco-based cocktails) leads to the main dining area down some stairs at the back. It’s not the largest space and they’ve really crammed the tables in there so prepare to get cosy. Interior-wise it’s tasteful enough (with some truly awesome photos of tough looking Peruvian dudes and lovely old-school posters, typography fans) but lacks the finesse of, say, a Russell Norman establishment.
The menu is enticing. It’s all about sharing plates so there’s a ceviche section (obviously), a skewer section, sides and a ‘classic favourites’ section of trad Peruvian fayre. They recommend you have 3-4 dishes each and with prices between £6-£11, cheap eats this ain’t.
We had a couple of excellent pisco cocktails to start, a Pisco Sour and a Soho. I was warned that pisco really messes you up so be careful, especially as the cocktails we had were dangerously drinkable.
I ordered some tequeños to nibble on whilst we waited for the food to start arriving, these were great. Crispy wonton-type coating containing spicy chicken with a rocoto mayo dip. A lovley little appetiser.
First to arrive were the ceviches. I’m a big fan of ceviche generally and have been looking forward to this opening (soft or otherwise) since I found out about it last summer. They both were delicious. The Don Ceviche comprised of large chunks of meaty sea bass in chilli, lime and tiger milk, whatever that it. I thought it was a Belle and Sebastian album, turns out it’s what they call the juice produced by the ingredients of the ceviche in Peru. I definitely didn’t have to google that, I just knew it anyway, yah? There were smokey crunchy fried bits of something in there too. Brilliant dish.
The Sakura Maru ceviche was also fantastic. Very Japanese; sashimi-quality salmon in mirin, soy and chilli. The quality of the fish is plainly evident (it has to be in a ceviche, really). Melt in the the mouth. This also had crunchy bits. I like crunchy bits. Everyone like crunchy bits. If you don’t like crunchy bits you can jog on.
Next up: steak skewers. These were marinaded in chilli sauce and served with fried potatoes. Perfectly cooked, top quality meat, very flavoursome. Solid.
On the side I had this very strange dish - choclo. It’s basically giant corn-on-the-cob but the texture and flavour has more in common with potato. The jury is out on this one, I thought it was a bit strange and not actually that tasty. There was a rather earthy flavour to it, and £4.75 is rather steep for a piece of corn, giant or otherwise.
Finally they brought over the Arroz con Pato: confit of duck in beer and coriander rice. Again, this was perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious. The sauce-fattened rice and tender duck makes for incredible comfort food. A good one to fill you up a bit after all that light ceviche. The photo of this dish was too dark even for the low standards here at MBFBY? so apologies, I didn’t post it.
So, the food at Ceviche is a triumph. My niggle is with the pricing. You definitely need 4 dishes each, before you know it you are looking at 35-40 quid a head on food alone. It’s not a fancy dining room - it’s rammed, canteen style. You get what you pay for to a certain extent (as mentioned the sheer quality of the ingredients is evident in every dish) but personally I’d see Ceviche as an informal kind of place, which it is, but a meal for 2 would be pushing 100 quid with wine (the cheapest red is £20.50) - not informal prices.
As for the service I’m not going to dwell too much as it was their first night but the amount of tables crammed in there caused problems. There’s a single channel down the middle for staff to deliver food, with tables for 4 on each side tables for 2 in between the 4s and the wall meaning it’s really tricky to get the attention of the staff if you are on a 2.
We spent a lot of time trying to catch someone’s eye through the cacophony. To give them credit the staff were really friendly and trying very hard, I’m sure they’ll iron out the problems soon enough. The chaos unfortunately meant we never got the octopus ceviche or the asparagus we’d ordered which is a shame as judging by the rest of the food we’d have been in for a treat.
Ceviche, then. Food - unique, high quality, fantastically executed. Drink - lovely pesco cocktails, could do with better value house wine. Space - nice enough, bit too cosy for me. I’m not going to give them a score like usual as it was their first night. I recommend it, but be warned: it’s not cheap.
17 Frith St
020 7292 2040