Restaurant Review: Lima, Fitzrovia, London
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I paid a visit to Lima Fitzrovia in London. Last year I spotted that Lima advertised on Travelzoo (join using that link and we both get £10 to spend) during their quiet periods (normally Jan-March and over the summer). Unlike many other offers that restaurants make, this voucher was for two-courses from the a-la-carte menu (rather than a separate set-menu), meaning you could sample whichever dishes you wish. A couple of the more expensive dishes do have small surcharges, but for £49 for 2-courses and champagne for two people, this really makes a good value evening out.
Lima, which currently holds 1 Michelin Star is located in Fitzrovia, a 5-minute walk north from the hustle and bustle of Tottenham Court Road Underground Station and Oxford Street. For anyone on a shopping trip, or even before an evening out at the theatre, Lima is a great option.
Lima’s head chef, Robert Ortiz, is not a household name for most. He is Peruvian though, hence the theme of the food at Lima. Lima also has an executive chef by the name of Virgilio Martinez who owns the ‘5th best restaurant in the world’, 1 Michelin Star Central, which is located in Lima (the city) in Peru. Between these two, you would have to imagine the cuisine will be very authentically Peruvian!
Virgilio Martinez was best known to me from the Netflix series ‘Chef’s Table’ where his Central restaurant appears in Episode 6 of Series 3. Chef’s Table certainly focusses very much on being a food-porn show. This left us with high-expectations for the Peruvian food we would experience at Lima.
Interestingly, last year when we visited Lyle’s we think we saw Virgilio and a large group eating out. We sat there for a while wondering who it was before I remembered we had seen the face on Chef’s Table.
We booked a table for 6pm on a Wednesday evening and on arrival the restaurant was empty. A little disappointingly they were still setting up some of the tables. Could this really not be completed before service? We were seated upstairs in a corner facing across the restaurant.
First thing about Lima is that it feels really quite small and cramped. A typical restaurant in the Tottenham Court Road area, it has a very narrow frontage and spreads backwards. This leaves a long, narrow restaurant. Lima has a small, narrow serving kitchen upstairs and the main seating area is at the rear. During the day this area is bathed in sunlight from a skylight (although it was dark at 6pm in February!). The tables are crammed pretty close together and as the restaurant filled later it did start to get quite noisy. Downstairs is another small bar area, a larger prep kitchen and toilets.
The overall style of Lima is modern, tables are bare with no linen. All of the utensils and crockery are brightly coloured to match the vibe of the food.
The a-la-carte menu at Lima is pretty extensive. You certainly have plenty of choice with around 15 dishes for starters and 10–12 for mains. The starters are broken down into a number of sections, each showcasing a different type of Peruvian dish. The main are similarly broken down in to land and sea dishes.
As well as a-la-carte, like most Michelin Starred restaurants, there is also a tasting menu to take you through a selection of the best dishes. Lima also serves a very reasonably priced lunch or pre-theatre menu. At £24 for 3-courses, this is certainly a cheaper way of sampling Lima if you aren’t lucky enough to get a Travelzoo voucher.
Before our meal started we were offered an amuse bouche of a mushroom soup and a selection of Peruvian breads (corn and another I’m not sure about). The soup was a nice taster, although it certainly wasn’t my favourite taster I’ve had at a restaurant. The breads were delicious and certainly different from the normal, white / sourdough / rolls choices at some restaurants. The breads were served with a yoghurt dip, which was a lovely accompaniment.
My wife and I both decided to order from the Signature dishes for starters. Clara opted for the Braised Octopus while I decided on the Lomo Steak Huanciana. As you’ll see from the pictures below, both were served as beautiful dishes and both tasted great. If anything the braised octopus probably had the edge, but maybe that was because I felt it looked prettier. The steak dish was served cold, but the mayonnaise was lovely with a slight spicy kick that complemented the rare beef well.
For mains, we both opted for dishes from the land section of the menu. I decided on a Suckling Pig dish while Clara ordered Duck Nisei. Again, both dishes looked pretty, although perhaps not as much as the starters. Both were served on imaginative crockery which helps to complement the food.
In this case the Suckling Pig was certainly not my favourite dish and I felt I had perhaps made a mistake with ordering. The pig was actually smaller pieces formed into a patty of pork served on top of a celeriac mash. While the dish was tasty, I would certainly have preferred to have a large tasty piece of pork to cut into. Clara’s Duck gave me food envy with this!
By contrast the Duck Nisei was cooked perfectly and the portion was actually very generous. The only downside to the duck dish being a sauce that was quite salty and left us reaching for water afterwards.
Even though our deal didn’t include them we decided to opt for a dessert. The choice here is a little more limited than the other menus, but there are still six to choose from. To be honest it was actually pretty difficult to pick the dishes as they are certainly not desserts that you would immediately recognise from more traditional menus.
I opted for the Chirimoya Parfait, Amazonian Chocolate, Blue Potato Crisps. while Clara ordered Lucuma Fruit Ice Cream, Ginger Syrup, Rocoto Pepper Crisps. Most of the desserts were really focussed around different flavours of ice-cream or parfait served with different types of crisp. Both desserts were again, prettily presented, with the Lucuma Fruit dish probably having a slight edge due to its vibrant colours. I’d struggle to tell you what the Chirimoya tasted of as its was heavily masked by the chocolate — but tasty non-the-less.
Service throughout the meal was friendly, relaxed and professional. It did feel slightly less professional than some other Michelin Starred restaurants we’ve visited. This made me feel more like eating in a ‘normal’ restaurant than being truly spoiled — which could be seen as positive or negative depending on what you are after.
As Lima got busier (it was probably 75% full by the time we left around 8pm), the service did get a little slower. There were only 2–3 waiters for the whole dining room and a large party of 12 took significant time and effort. It took us a little while to pay — which is always the most annoying position I find myself in. When I’ve got to the point of paying I’d prefer this to happen swiftly as we’ve already decided to leave. I’m not sure why most restaurants struggle with this.
Overall we had a lovely meal at Lima. If we hadn’t ordered with a voucher I would have certainly felt that the food was a little expensive. Personally when I spend this much I do like it to feel a little more luxurious. The type of food was certainly a change though and was really photographically beautiful, which I love.
I’m glad that we visited Lima, even more so that we managed to get a bargain on the cost. If you’re after a cheaper pre-theatre or lucky enough to get a voucher then I’d certainly recommend a visit. Otherwise there would be places that appear above it on my list for a similar cost.