Rachael Mole takes a look at dining post lockdown by visiting Japanese Peruvian fusion restaurant Ayllu.
This place was difficult to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for- luckily you’re reading this! With no external signage pointing you in the right direction, the only indication you’ve reached the right place is the menu sat next to the menu for Smiths Bar and Grill. Ayllu is a Japanese Peruvian fusion restaurant, located in the basement of Smiths.
Though you aren’t relegated to the basement on a sunny afternoon lunch, the atmosphere below ground is both cosy and luxurious. The perfect date night situation, especially if you’re sharing dishes from a small but perfectly curated menu. Sitting outside, you also get the added benefit of being right next to the canal! Sitting watching the boats go by it was almost enough to convince us we weren’t in central London.
There are the classic dishes you would expect from a Japanese restaurant, sushi being the main offering, but if you have the confidence (I didn’t) you could try the yellowtail tiradito, boasting ‘truffle tigers milk’ as the main ingredient.
The menus were paper, disposable in the age of COVID, but it was a shame to see them so small, and the font unreadable in a few places. That being said, once we had navigated the menu, we were spoilt for choice! Heading to their Instagram account to scope out what looks good seemed like a smart decision, but rather than narrowing down our choices, it only made the decision of deciding what to eat harder!
The drinks menu was small but not lacking, with 2-4-1 cocktails between 5:30 and 7:30 daily and boasting the classics of beer, cider and soft drinks. We were having a sober day, so went with a soda and lime, and an orange juice. There was a good wine menu for those who enjoy a glass or two with their food.
We ordered from the classic menu the crispy chicken fried rice, with vegetables, eggs soya sauce and yuzu juice- £12, the Cazuela Sabor A Mar- Chargrilled salmon served seaweed and rice made from a seafood stock- £16 and from the sushi menu we went with the Futomaki Yasai, a tempura sweet potato, stir-fried vegetables and aubergine with a miso sauce. You get 8 pieces for £7.50.
The salmon, though delicious, was very rich. It was seafood stock risotto and the grilled salmon on top was cooked perfectly. The seaweed was crispy (I wish there had been more of it!) and fresh chilli garnish gave it a needed kick. On its own, I would absolutely order this again… sharing with friends? Probably not. It was very filling when you started to dip into the other dishes.
The chicken fried rice was crispy, moreish and the first to be demolished- very nearly our favourite dish (it was a tough choice.) But getting that top spot was the Sushi. They just tipped the scales, and we were very impressed by the fact there was a vegan option so moreish and with so many complex flavours and textures. (Gone are the days when we will accept the dreaded bland cucumber or avocado wrapped in rice!)
With only four choices for dessert, we were disappointed to see that there were no vegan options available after having such success with the mains. We opted for the baked chocolate mala with kiwicha pop and vanilla ice cream- £6.50. It was rich with a gooey centre, the kiwicha on top offering a pleasant crunch to the melt in your mouth dessert. We also tried the Alfajores- £2, which I think I am sold on when it comes to ending a meal with a sweet treat! They were 3 little bite-size Peruvian shortbread biscuit sandwiches, with a caramel dulce de leche centre.
The service was great, very attentive and happy to help! (Thank you, Khalid) The staff made sure to sit tables while keeping socially distanced, without making it feel like that is what they were doing. I also wanted to shout out the fact that even though the restaurant is usually in the basement, they have a modern accessible lift! With no step to enter the main restaurant either, accessibility isn’t a problem at all.
Though the meal was pricey for an average night out, this isn’t your average night out restaurant. If you are careful and pick a few of the dishes that complement each other then this could easily become a restaurant of choice for both date night and taking your friends somewhere impressive.
Located beneath Smith’s Bar & Grill 25 Sheldon Square Paddington, London, W2 6EY
Chatting Food Contributor: Rachael Mole
Rachael is a food lover, food eater, and in her spare time, a food writer. COO of the City Girl Network by day, Rachael loves exploring new cities and their food scenes while sharing where to go and what to eat with over 25 thousand City Girls. By night she talks about accessibility, chronic illness and food intolerance on her blog Sick In The City.