Sí, sí, Señor | Señor Ceviche, Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, London W1B 5PW
My first experience of ceviche was only this summer at Tierra peru, a stall at the Campo Viejo Streets of Spain festival and I loved it! Although ceviche has a Spanish heritage, it’s actually a seafood dish popular in the coastal regions of the central and south America. Made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices and spiced with ají or chili peppers – but you probably knew that already.
So when we found out that Señor Ceviche, the ridiculously popular Peruvian pop-up that’s been doing the rounds, had found a permanent home in Kingly Court, we simply had to go. Kingly Court is tucked behind Carnaby Street and is now pretty much one big food court. What used to be three floors of boutique shops has been transformed into a real foodie destination, with the likes of Whyte & Brown, Pizza Pilgrims, The Rum Kitchen, Stax Diner, Bittersweet and Shoryu flanking the pretty covered courtyard.
We visited on a wet and windy evening but walking into Señor Ceviche made us forget all about the autumnal drizzle. It’s decor is said to ‘evoke the vibe of downtown Lima’. Not that we’ve ever been to downtown Lima, or even uptown Lima come to that, so we wouldn’t know. What we did know was that the low lighting and welcoming smiles took our minds off the miserable weather outside. We weren’t the only ones who felt this way, the restaurant was full, we saw at least two couples (who hadn’t booked) turned away.
So London’s obsession with filament bulbs and industrial light shades must come from Peru, as does up-cycled wooden wall panelling and exposed pipe work. The decor that did seem fairly authentic were the brightly coloured tiles, distressed window shutters, neon posters and a salsa soundtrack. The lighting was a little low (half of the bulbs weren’t even on) and the music a little loud (now I do sound old) but don’t let this put you off, for the food here is great!
As always we scanned over the cocktail list, when one is in a street market in downtown Lima one must order a Pisco – apparently! I went for the Pisco Sour £7.50 – 1615 Pisco, egg white, lime juice, gomme syrup and chuncho bitters. This short drink is both refreshing and tongue-tingling, the flavour of the Pisco (a pale brandy made by distilling wine) is subtle compared to the lime and bitters, whilst the egg white gives it that light fluffy texture. The perfect drink that’s bold enough to hold its own against all the acidic dishes that followed.
Saff went all fruity and ordered the Ayahuasca £8.50 – Bacardi Gold Rum, peach liqueur, spiced pineapple syrup, bitters and ginger beer for a little after kick. Later she asked for a Mamaquilla £8.50 – 1615 Pisco, Dewars 12 Whisky, orange juice, lemon juice, coconut syrup and orgeat syrup. Basically a Peruvian version of a Piña Colada, sans pineapple and the Del Boy style cocktail umbrella. While we’re on the subject of drinks, the wine list starts at £5/£19 for a glass/bottle of good Spanish 2013 Molino Loco Macabeo Do Yecla and bottled Cusqueña beer is a very reasonable £4.
The menu states that their ‘dishes are served tapas style and are made for sharing [where isn’t these days?] Order three per person or four if you’re hungry!’ The plates arrive as soon as they are cooked/prepared so they turn up all higgledy piggledy, sometimes three at once (like buses) and sometimes with a quarter of an hour gap between delivery.
From the Para Picar section we ordered the Chifa Chicharonnes £5 – slow cooked crispy pork belly. These weren’t the usual cubes of fatty pork, the meat had been cooked so the squishy fat had somehow disappeared, leaving behind firm yet tender meat. Saff thought it was a little dry but I loved its texture especially when drizzled with the sticky sweet soy sauce. Our Smoky Chilli Citrus Wings £5, were so messy that they could easily out ‘finger lick’ even The Big Easy‘s voodoo wings. They weren’t kidding when they called them ‘citrus wings’ – the lemon glaze was so lively and sweet that it overpowered any aji panca present.
Now onto the main event and the real reason we came – the ceviche. Their signature Señor Ceviche £8, with super soft chunks of sea bream, avocado, red pepper and fresh coriander was incredible. The fresh aji amarillo tiger’s milk* was so aromatic, but what set this dish apart from the others on the menu was the delicate and oh so crunchy tempura baby squid. I think we missed out by not ordering the Jalea Mixti £6.50 – tempura baby squid, prawn and market fish served with jalepēno tiger’s milk.
*Don’t worry tiger’s milk, or leche de tigre, isn’t actual milk from a mummy tiger – that would be dangerously difficult to extract, extremely cruel and probably ridiculously expensive. It’s simply the Peruvian term for the citrus-based marinade that cures the seafood in a ceviche. Believe it or not in Peru, this invigorating potion is served alongside ceviche in a small glass and is said to be both a hangover cure AND an aphrodisiac – I’ll have a pint please! The other dish that we ordered from the ceviche section was Chimbote £7. This vegetarian dish of sweet potato, asparagus, avocado, giant corn, baby tomatoes and thinly sliced red onion with passion fruit tiger’s milk was our by far the best thing we ate that night – incredibly bold, tangy, crisp and fresh. If you need to wake your taste buds up, eat this.
We ordered two more dishes, this time from the Barbecue section. Flat Iron Anticuchos £7.50 – thinly sliced beef served on skewers cooked perfectly pink in the middle and served with a fiery aji rocotto anticucho sauce. A much calmer dish was the Chancaca Salmon £8.50 – a miso and brown sugar chargrilled fillet served with a delicate fennel and apple slaw. Lastly, from the salad and sides section, we had a Cusco Quinoa £6.50 – giant choclo corn, edamame beans, quinoa and crumbled queso cheese, this was very light with a fresh yet with a subtle combination of tastes and textures.
We just about had room for dessert, not that we knew what Peruvian puddings where like – sugar coated guinea pig possibly? Luckily for us (and the guinea pig) the desserts here were fairly safe and as there were only two on the menu we shared them both. Saff had more than her share of the Passion Fruit Posset £5 – topped with dehydrated passion fruit pieces and a sprinkling of popping candy, she sure loves a posset. I was left fighting my way through a monster slice of gooey-in-the-middle Chocolate Brownie £5.50 served with a creamy coconut ice cream – giving it the flavour of a deconstructed Bounty bar.
We’re so glad that Señor Ceviche has finally put down roots in a permanent location, we’ve never been any good at chasing pop-ups around London. Where better a place to make a home for Peruvian cuisine than in the bustling Kingly Court, it may not be downtown Lima but it’s as sure as hell a lot easier to get to.
Kingly Court, Carnaby Street, London W1B 5PW
Telephone: 020 7842 8540
Opening hours: Daily noon-2.40pm and 5pm-10.30pm
Nearest station: Oxford Circus (5 mins walk) Piccadilly Circus (6 mins walk)
We ate as guests of Señor Ceviche, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.