Andina in Spitalfields: Scrumptious plates, strong cocktails and a buzzing atmosphere
The bustling area of Spitalfields isn’t exactly short on restaurants, so it’s important that food spots stand out and offer something different and exciting. Picanteria and pisco bar Andina is bright, lively and inviting, offering Peruvian food inspired by traditional, family-run Andean eateries.
Having shut its doors in Shoreditch last July, many feared this was the end of the venture, but fortunately for pisco fans, the new location is here and boasts a colourful menu packed full of flavour.
Located just a few minutes away from Old Spitalfields Market on Commercial Street, the venue is light and vibrant. It’s loud and crowded when we arrive; this warm, animated atmosphere only increases as the evening goes on and makes for a lovely buzz.
To drink, it has to be a pisco sour, Peru’s national cocktail. We opt for the classic – Quebranta Pisco Grape, Chuncho Bitters, Lime, Sugar Syrup and Egg White. It’s tart, refreshing and strong, a great way to kick off a meal. There are options to have it with passion fruit or watermelon, but the straight version is a safe bet to avoid clashing with the food that is to follow.
The menu has a lot to choose from, including street food, ceviches and salads, traditional dishes and desserts. In order to get the best out of the range, there’s the Discovery Menu, which is available to order for a minimum of two people. It’s especially ideal for those slightly unfamiliar with this national cuisine, who want to try something new but aren’t sure where to start.
This kicks off with Toasted Corn Nuts, a pleasant salty and crunchy snack to get the taste buds tingling and in the mood for food. The first small plate is Pork Belly Bites, served in rocoto chilli jam. These are gloriously sticky, just the right amount of fatty and very moreish.
Up next is Don Ceviche, which is most likely the staple everyone thinks of when Peru is mentioned. This iteration is made with sea bass, avocado, amarillo chilli tiger’s milk, limo chilli, sweet potato and red onion. Don’t be scared: tiger’s milk is the Peruvian term for the citrus-based marinade that cures the seafood. It’s wonderfully zingy and pairs beautifully with the firm and meaty fish, with the colours of yellow and orange adding to its appeal.
Alongside this is the Tomato Causa, consisting of heritage tomatoes; passion fruit tiger’s milk; smooth, cool potato cake; avocado purée and shallots. It’s a pleasant vegetarian dish, though some may find the cold mashed potato cake a strange sensation. This isn’t to say it’s bad, just unfamiliar.
The stars of the show are the fantastic Grilled Octopus, with a sugar cane chancaca syrup, and a butter bean, lúcuma purée – it’s meaty, oh-so tender and cooked to utter perfection – and the Fillet Escabechado – beef fillet, corn purée and escabeche sauce – which is moist and juicy with a brilliant balance of textures. Both the latter and the former are standout and are executed with care and skill. Each course comes in a small serving to be shared, making for an intimate dining experience. It’s lovely to split food and eat the exact same thing as the person you’re with.
The dinner is rounded off with Traditional Donuts: two pumpkin doughnuts, cloves, orange and pineapple-infused sugar cane syrup and cinnamon ice cream. They follow the fresh and light meal surprisingly well. Does it get much better than a freshly fried hot doughnut paired with cold ice cream?
Andina is energetic and dynamic. If you want somewhere with scrumptious plates, strong cocktails and a buzzing atmosphere then this is the place to head.
To book a table at Andina, 60-62 Commercial Street London E1 6LT, call 020 3965 3482 or visit their website here.