Chicama restaurant: An interview with creative director Micaela Philippo
Opened in late summer of this year, Chicama has been adding a little warmth and vibrancy to the King’s Road dining scene with its Peruvian-inspired restaurant. It’s the second opening from the team behind Marylebone’s hugely successful and much-loved Pachamama. Similarly inspired by the flavours of Peru, this time the team in the kitchen is offering up coastal dishes, with a menu that revolves around the fish catch of the day. Unique in that there isn’t any meat on offer, Chicama instead champions seafood and seasonal British produce, offering up stunning plates of food packed full of punchy flavours.
We had a chat with Micaela Philippo, the creative director behind the scenes of Chicama, to find out a bit more about this exciting restaurant, its main design and menu influences.
London has recently exploded with Peruvian restaurants. What is it about Peruvian cuisine that makes it so popular?
Both the social history and geography of Peru mean it is one of the most versatile cuisines in the world. The waves of migration from Japan and China gave birth to Nikkei and Chifa food where traditional Asian cooking techniques are applied to Peruvian ingredients. This is where popular dishes like tiradito (sashimi-cut fish often served with a chilli sauce) or lomo saltado (stir-fried beef with onions, tomatoes and soy sauce) come from. The geography means that you have some of the best seafood and ceviche on the coastline, up in the Andes they adapt to the climate and cook with potatoes and corn, in other regions that are landlocked, it is all about river fishes and stews. For us, Peru is an exciting territory because we can send our chefs there often with a British, fine-dining background and encourage them to experience as much of the food as they can, to return and appropriate Peruvian cuisine with locally provided ingredients in our restaurants.
Do you think London is lacking in good quality fish and seafood restaurants, and was this the motivation behind Chicama?
Yes, I absolutely think London is lacking good quality fish, seafood and also vegetable-focussed restaurants. Most menus will have the fish option – it will invariably be a fillet on some vegetables, or a whole fish with a bland sauce. With the exception of some Asian restaurants (like Som Saa), it is hard to find a restaurant that really celebrates fish, especially British fish and serve it with bold, provocative flavours and sauces. We wanted to be a fish and seafood specialist restaurant and have spent many months perfecting the cooking techniques and the sauces and we want to be known as the best place in London for fish, seafood and vegetable dishes, a place that is memorable and that people will return to again and again.
The décor in Pachamama in Marylebone is beautiful shabby chic, with plenty of green and a really natural feel throughout. What’s the look you are going for with Chicama?
The look for Chicama is bright and playful, feminine, natural and a combination of refined details and rough edges. The colour palate of the branding and design resembles the sand and sea and inspiration has been art deco design and beautiful Moroccan riads.
What kind of experience are you hoping to inspire in diners during their visit to the restaurant?
For us, the best dining experience is when we’re by the coast, on holiday, feeling utterly relaxed and warm from a day in the sun. To try and recreate this dining experience in London is a challenge but we have done our best to reflect it in the design, the construction of the menu with almost everything cooked on the grill, the lightness of the food with bold flavours and magnificent ingredients.
Perhaps a little shocking to some, but Chicama is a completely meat-free restaurant, focusing instead on fresh fish and vegetables. Do you think this has an impact on your clientele and the reception of the restaurant?
We decided to not have any meat on the menu because it didn’t feel authentic to the concept. People wouldn’t consider it shocking if a specialist sushi restaurant had no meat on the menu, so why should Chicama be any different? We found that at Pachamama, diners were ordering fish, seafood and vegetables in equal measures so we were confident producing a menu that focused on the latter two. We didn’t just want to put a token steak on the menu, to please everyone. A full, delicious, balanced and healthy meal can be had with a beautiful grilled fish and vegetables.
Chicama cooks fresh catch of the day. From where do you source your fish and also the rest of your kitchen’s produce?
Produce is largely coming from Cornwall and we have a forager who brings us interesting herbs and wild mushrooms from his excursions to the New Forest.
Chicama is located on the King’s Road. What was the motivation behind opening in Chelsea?
We found the site over a year ago and were excited by the terrace and also the fact that there are rarely new openings in that part of Chelsea. There are some great traditional restaurants that have been there for years like La Famiglia and Medlar but no one was doing anything progressive. We believed there was a demand for something different and during the build there was a lot of interest from locals.
Chicama features a chef’s table. Can diners expect to eat something different here from the rest of the menu?
The chef’s table is our private dining room where we offer a family-style sharing men. We also hope to host chef residencies and pop ups in the space.
Like Pachamama, you also offer a weekend brunch menu. Is this also heavy on fish?
The weekend brunch menu is naturally fish and seafood led but also features classic dishes. The terrace is the most perfect place for a boozy brunch on the weekend!
To book a table at Chicama, 383 King’s Road, SW10 0LP, London, call 0203 874 2000 or visit here.