From Afghanistan to Zambia via Jamaica and Montenegro join Fork and Flag for an epic voyage around the world on a culinary journey through London town. Forget expensive flights, carbon guilt and irksome visa regulations. Trade timezones for tube zones and sample 111 countries through the eclectic cuisine, eccentric waiters, eye-watering decor and evocative entertainment of its restaurants

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Peru

Restaurant: Tito’s

Location: London Bridge

By Boeing: 9826 miles

By Boris Bike: 5.7 miles




With cerviche, a rather lovely limed-laced fish dish, being the talk of the culinary capital I searched for Peruvian fare with mouth fairly watering. With Mexican food enjoying a much heralded renaissance other South American countries are enjoying the fortune of fashion too. Argentine steaks, of course, with chimicurri, their succulent sedge accompaniment, and Brazilian fejioda, a rich pork and bean molasses, but none so intriguing as the Andean land of Peru.

What Paddington Bear would make of cerviche I’m not sure, though his countrymen have at least embraced it as an alternative to chargrilled Guinea Pig so that must be some consolation to the welly wearing omnivore. Just as Mexican has tried to market the indulgent delights of pulled pork in a wholesome, healthy image so has Peruvian looked to appease the conscience of the glutton.

London Bridge has gone through a major makeover in recent years but its environs still retain a certain dank, mean-spiritedness. With borough market just a staircase away eating establishments have largely been confined to those of ultra-convenience for the diner who would rather plan their imminent journey home than spend time with friends. £10 will buy a burger in an All Bar One but its only memory will be in the form of an unwelcome burp on the way home. Equally the grimy counter of a station vender is hardly a fitting venue to catch up with old friends. Which is why Tito's was such a surprise.



The ambience was perplexing. The scattered wooden tables had a canteen feel and given that the bill would be around £50 a head didn’t quite ring true. But there were odd bursts of colour and a frenetic barman spending 80% of his time drawing attention to himself and 20% mixing cocktails gave it a suitably Latin feel. We began with some cocktails that were tart and vibrant. This tenderised the palate which made it even more sensitive to the pleasures of cerviche. I’m not generally one for fish, unless the chef has had the good sense to encase a sea bass in salt. But this was one of my favourite forms, without the menace of bones or the oily guilt of batter. It works wonderfully as a starter, especially when complemented by an empanada, the richness of which the lime cuts through.

For the main course there was plenty to choose from, ranging from the regional staples of large slabs of meat with corn or carbs to more intricate, delicate spiced alternatives. And of course fish predominated. Fish stews, some with a nod to the Mediterranean, others with an eastern, coconut base, were complimented by grilled sea bass and prawns. Frequenters of the Aberdeen Angus chain would be bemused by a steak served with an egg and avocado, and might like me have opted for the potato cubes with pork ribs. Though I was torn, as it were, between the ribs and the shredded hen in a cheese sauce. But knowing the gender of the chicken somehow made it less appealing.

Sated but duty bound to choose a dessert there were some intriguing and unique offerings. The Mazzamora Morado was perhaps the most authentic, but a jelly made from purple corn sounded more like a reality TV trial than a pleasant end to a meal. Then there was an ice cream made from a fruit that is not typically exported. Call me a cynic but that begs the question why not. Cynicism prevailed and the Helado went unordered. So that left me with the on reflection bizarre order of two shortbreads with some cream. Rich and buttery and ever so familiar to a baker’s pest.

Walking back out onto the grimy street significantly lighter of pocket I reflected on a rather odd restaurant but an unsurprisingly trendy cuisine. It has more strings to its bow than Colombian and Argentinian, with seafood and subtle sauces. Its novelty also imbues it with a more exotic flavour. Whether it will be a short loved culinary fad, or become an established London favourite only time will tell.