Andina is a Sustainable Restaurant Association-accredited restaurant that promises to serve healthy and sustainably-sourced food, which celebrates the ‘culture and cooking of the Peruvian Andes.’ The restaurant takes its inspiration from picanterías, traditional open kitchen eateries found in the Andean region. The restaurant offers an extensive lunchtime menu and a smaller evening menu, all of which come as small plates designed to share.
The food is bold, fresh and exciting. Even on the smaller evening menu, there are plentiful vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. Each dish served is an eclectic mix of colour, texture, and taste, yet does not compete with the other offerings on the table. Rather, all plates complement one another, perfectly capturing the convivial spirit of Andean Peru. The signature Ceviche Andina struck a perfect balance between punchy citrus and delicate flesh, as did the vegetarian-friendly artichoke ceviche.
By contrast, the Pulpo Chancón (grilled octopus in a spicy tomato and butterbean salsa) and Pato Santiago (panca chilli braised duck leg with a butterbean and pumpkin purée ), were rich, meaty, and satisfying. The biggest surprise was the cantaloupe salad, which cleansed our palates, only to reinvigorate them again with the taste of crunchy black quinoa, creamy quesco fresco and zesty almond and lemon vinaigrette. The traditional ontogo, potato steamed buns drizzled with a sumptuous guava sauce, are a dish not to forget when placing your order.
Excellent non-alcoholic alternatives
Andina’s drinks menu is almost as vibrant as the food offerings, boasting a wide selection of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. Their pisco bar cocktails, particularly the classic pisco sour, are perfectly balanced and work well as both an aperitif and accompaniment to the meal. The fresh juices on offer provide excellent non-alcoholic alternatives, including mixes of clementine, orange, physalis, beetroot, and aji limo chilli. When I visited, some of Andina’s beer and coffee came from east London breweries and roasteries, though looking at the menu since, this might have changed.
Andina strives to ensure all aspects of the restaurant are sustainable. It proudly displays its three gold stars awarded by the Sustainable Restaurant Association for a commitment to ensuring sustainability, from ‘the sourcing of ingredients to working with local communities and charity initiatives.’ The restaurant prides itself on its long-term relationship with its suppliers and has full traceability of its produce, including Cornish and Welsh beef, West Country lamb (which is only offered in season), and poultry - though this isn’t free-range. The restaurant asserts that all fish, including seabass, tuna, and scallops, are from sustainable sources, though it doesn't display any certification to back this up. All teas and coffee on offer are both Fairtrade and organic.
A carnival of clattering plates
The atmosphere is brighter, airier and more laid back than its sibling Ceviche, which seems to be a carnival of clattering plates, blaring music, and lively chatter. Beyond the food, the only other distinctive nods to Andean culture I picked up on were a bright wall hanging and the gentle hum of a Sound of the Peruvian Andes playlist. Given that the restaurant prides itself on emulating the picanterias of Peru, I would have liked to see that culture embraced more within the restaurant design, but my minor niggle was more than made up for by the great food.