Chatting Food contributor Erica Pilavaki falls for the fabulous mix and match Latin flavours of Paladar.
Hop on the tube, get off at Elephant and Castle, walk 4 mins until you find Paladar. Once you’re greeted and seated with a glass of wine in hand, get comfy because you will not want to leave anytime soon.
Sometimes, just sometimes, you know you're going to thoroughly enjoy a meal, even before taking one single bite of food. It has a lot to do with the character of the restaurant, the overall mood as you enter, the genuine smiles from the team and how the vibe makes you feel; this was one of those times.
Paladar is a vibrant restaurant, bar and bodega, serving fresh flavours and influences that span the length of South America, and the wine list mirrors the same sentiment. Extra points for their rather fabulous cocktails too, with plenty of tequila, pisco and mezcal concoctions to choose from. Their Pisco Sour is highly recommended: earthy, sweet and tart - one of the best in London.
After being handed the menu, my eyes jumped from section to section; I rubbed my hands together eagerly because I knew I was in for a real treat. To start as a snack whilst sipping on our cocktails we had the deep-fried hominy corn, dusted with a house spice blend and fresh lime. For those that don't know, hominy is corn but not straight off the cob. Hominy is whole kernels of dried field corn (aka maize) puffy, with a more meaty texture. This was a lovely nibble to get our appetite well and truly blazing with excitement for what was to come next.
The tempo of food started gently, which is how I like it. Both the coconut-chilli with mango salsa prawn tostadas and tuna tostadas with guacamole and chipotle mayonnaise were rattlingly good. Small enough for one bite but big enough to fill your entire mouth with an detonation of flavours and textures.
Next up were the big plates: octopus seared with chilli and tamarind, yellow plantain mofongo with salsa verde. I grew up eating octopus on the bbq, its one of my favourite things in the world but I have never ever had it like this before. Let me tell you, plain and simple, I loved this roaring hit of flavour; I almost slapped the table top in exhilaration!
Next up was the DIY Cochinita pibil with roasted pineapple and habanero chilli jam, blue corn tortillas which must have had a magnetic force as the table fell silent until every last scrap was eaten.
What threw me off guard was that the most standout dish was the punchy roast aubergine bathed in fried beans which, I admit, doesn't sound very appealing yet it was undoubtedly the dish that I won’t shut up about. I I think this might be the only way I want to eat aubergine again, ever. Take my advice and do not disregard this when skimming the menu.
To add to my sage advice, go easy, because you need your appetite all the way to the end. A dessert platter arrived and my eyes widened just like the cartoons. The first bite of the purple corn churros with the dulce de leche dip left my jaw open in wonderment and the wonderment did not stop until all of it was judiciously hoovered up.
A fairytale ending to a faultless meal.
I was almost reluctant to write this review and I wanted to keep Paladar as my little secret but on reflection, this gem of a restaurant should be experienced by many so if you are in pursuit of transcendence to Latin America, all you have to do is book a table at Paladar.
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Chatting Food Contributor: Erica Pilavaki
Growing up with the aroma of meat grilling over open coals, views of vine wrapped mountains and surrounded by the abundant seas of Cyprus, Erica has food and drink in her heart and soul. Contact Erica about London restaurant recommendations and the latest products in food and drink.
Follow Erica @erica_eeeats