Lat Am meets London in Sharing Plate Form. Helen Down checks it out…
Hidden down a quaint cobbled side street off High Street Ken, you’ll find a little piece of Latin America called Zuaya: a fusion restaurant that, thanks to its exposed brick walls and tumbling foliage, emerges from the retail Mecca like an ancient Mayan temple.
Like Christopher Columbus sailing home with his best new culinary discoveries, Zuaya’s menu offers a smorgasbord of Lat Am sharing plates. On this whistlestop tour of Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela, you’ll find everything tacos to empanadas, before circling back to the Spanish motherland for staples like Padron peppers.
We opened in genteel fashion with a limey guacamole and sweet potato crisps. Homemade crisps made from healthy veg? Sign me up. We then dived into a light spinach and ricotta empanada, served with a creamy Mojo Verde that stole the show. There followed a tuna avocado taco, which was – ceviche style – sublime with lime and confirmed my suspicion that Zuaya is all about its fish. Next up: petal strewn burrata on Peruvian corn cake, where a deliciously dense base hosts a luxuriously creamy topping. The only disappointment was the fried Venezuelan cheese breadsticks. Halloumi wrapped and fried in a bready pastry felt like a bulky and incongruous addition to an otherwise delicate menu.
Zuaya’s portions are incredibly generous. There’s no sign of shrinkflation here. But we valiantly ploughed on with tender prawns tightly tessellated into rafts floating on a river of chilli and lime, and grilled seabass in sour truffle ponzu sauce. To make our indulgence feel healthier, we also ordered a melon, duck and Feta ‘salad’ (who were we kidding?) – a symphony of colours and textures.
Not satisfied with using food to transport guests to the other side of the world, Zuaya also does a mean line in cocktails. The signature ‘London to Lima’ (pisco, falernum, lime, agave and egg white) knocked our socks off. Meanwhile the Mai Pina (rum, triple sec, pineapple, lime, mint and cinnamon) arrived in a Dia Del Muerte style skull glass that brought halcyon memories of Mexico’s Oaxaca flooding back.
Although Zuaya, the five-year-old debut from twin restaurantuers Alberto and Arian Zandi, doesn’t have quite the same buzz as sister restaurant Como Garden, from ceviche to grilling, they sure do know what to do with a piece of fish. And with attentive staff to guide you through your culinary tour, you’ll enjoy your evening as much as a backpacker on the Inca trail.
Address: 35B Kensington High Street, London, W8
Price per head: approx. £50 + drinks and service