THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
I’m back!!! Not that you’d recognise me. I morphed during lockdown. Now known as Ninja Mike on his demon bike, I cycled the 6 miles to Ayllu. Of course, that’s nothing for a Ninja! Even so, I was amply rewarded. Lunch was as stunning as the ride along Regent’s Canal!
At present, Ayllu shares the terrace with Smith’s Bar & Grill. Their dining room is gorgeous but nothing beats al fresco dining just now and the canal adds a holiday feel. A delightful spot.
Perhaps I was a bit euphoric but everything was pretty perfect, starting with our divine French waitress. Her suggestions were spot on. While I waited for my guest (see note) I ordered a bottle of Mesta, Verdejo 2018 (£24). Citrus on the tongue with a hibiscus finish. Lovely. The wine list is a bit Spartan but has a good mix and is very reasonable.
The food was pure joy. If you’ve read my every word, you will know about the Japanese migration to Peru in the late 1800s. The fusion of the two cuisines is exceptional and so is the kitchen at Ayllu.
Smoked octopus tiradito with olive chimichurri and olive mayo (£8) and pan fried butterfish with cauliflower purée, quinoa, bacon, leek and burned apple purée (£8) were both served under smoke filled glass. I love dining theatrics! This reveal comes with a delicious smoky aroma that got all my culinary senses going. Both dishes were beautifully balanced. The octopus was melt-in-your-mouth tender and we swooned over the apple puree.
Tuna ceviche with tigers milk Nikkei, avocado and sesame seed (£8) brought all my favourite Asian flavours to the Peruvian classic. I could eat this every day.
The Ayllu sashimi selection (£65) is an absolute show stopper. The stunning array of fish and seafood is served on a bed of crushed ice with leaves, flowers and even coloured lights! Oysters, caviar, scallops, 3 kinds of tuna, yellowtail, squid… I was bowled over. The quality is superb and the subtle addition of Peruvian influence elevates Japanese simplicity to the sublime.
We gilded the lily with a prawn tempura uramaki (£8).
For me, green tea is perfect after sushi or sashimi. A cup of Twining’s was OK but with such an extraordinary meal, why serve OK tea? I drink organic jasmine pearl at home. Just an idea.
Baked chocolate mala with kiwicha pop (amaranth) and vanilla ice cream (£6.50) is Ayllu’s take on a fondant. Not quite as oozy but warm and gooey and not too sweet.
Peruvian petit fours of shortbread with dulce de leche were so light. At £2, one of the best bargains around.
The ride home was equally stunning but my cycling suffered a bit. If one can waddle on a bike, that’s what I did. I blame it on the chocolate mala, but after lunch, Ninja Mike seemed to turn back into plain old Michael …he who is like God!
Note: My guest arrived by car and headed to Paddington station thinking she could find her way from there. She couldn’t! Building works make it difficult to exit the station on the canal side. I suggest avoiding the station and navigating instead to Bishop’s Bridge. Sheldon Square is just underneath on the Paddington side of the canal. As well, there is no signage for Ayllu so look for Smith’s Bar & Grill.
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