Tucked away from the tourist trail (yet just minutes from the Old Vic, Imperial War Museum and Waterloo), Paladar is an absolute find in an area which is, frankly, a bit of a culinary wasteland. They have a weekday set lunch/pre-theatre menu but it is one of my new favourite places for the kind of long, leisurely lunches that threaten to nudge their way into the evening.
This absolute feast is the chef's summer tasting menu, a procession of small to medium sized plates that just sing summer.
From The Land
Green plantain crisps & taquero guacamole.
I love these thin, elegant slices of plantain with the fresh guacamole, irresistibly moreish with the Pisquini; a summery pisco-based cocktail with cucumber, basil and lime.
Tapioca and cheese croquette dice, guava and balsamic reduction
Tapioca has a distinctive texture you may not have had in a savoury context but one bite and you land in the familiar comfort food territory of cheese, carbs and a fruit/vinegar side: Cheddar, crackers & chutney anyone, or St John Eccles Cake & cheese? It's interesting how this successful flavour partnership is seen in a range of cuisines and works in all of them.
Palm heart ceviche, borojo, truffle oil, tamarind & chipotle tiger’s milk, cassava crisp.
Heart of palm is a delicacy I don't find too often, so this was a real treat. This was paired with a very drinkable 2020 Viña Cousiño Isadora Riesling from the Maipo Valley in central Chile: pronounced notes of pear and apple, some citrus and tropical fruit and a refreshing level of minerality.
I just need to pause here and have a quick word about Paladar's wine list. It's exclusively Latin American and showcases some unusual wines and grapes from the region. They are in the process of building a premium wine list and have a bargain bin end section on their website, as well as offering all wines on the list at 50% off for retail sale, so you can carry on the party at home. I'm going to be keeping a close eye as this evolves and I suggest you do the same.
From The Sea
Seared prawn, Colombian Pacific coast salsa, plantain toston, suero costeño
Seabass ceviche, chontaduro & aji Amarillo tiger’s milk, watermelon radish
Sashimi-grade Nikkei tuna tostada, guacamole, chipotle mayonnaise
These was the stand-out course for me, despite considerable competition. It's also a great indication of both the freshness and quality of the ingredients and the skill of the chef in balancing flavour, as with so little actual cooking there is nowhere to hide. These were expertly done and utterly delicious; it's so hard to choose a favourite, but perhaps the tuna tostada? Frankly I could have these for lunch every day and be happy - particularly when paired with a glass of their delicate Uruguayan 2018 Bodega Garzón rosé Pinot Noir.
(Oh, and just to let you know, in a seven deadly sins lite alert, I am now also coveting my neighbour's gorgeous tableware.)
Lulo and jalapeño sorbet, Aguardiente liqueur, Chamoy
Perhaps more usually described as a palate cleanser, this course has endless pun potential but is also 100% delicious. The combination of tangy lulo (aka naranjilla) with a zip of jalapeño really did enliven the palate, a perfect bridge between sea and farm.
From The Farm
Cochinita pibil taco, roasted pineapple and habanero chilli jam, pickle red onion
Grilled ox tongue, guajillo and tomato purée, blue corn tortillas
Grilled lettuce heart with almond & ají amarillo pesto
Back to the big flavours with these dishes; the meltingly soft cochinita pibil, traditional Yucatán slow-roasted pork, given a kick with the addictive roasted pineapple and hot chilli jam and the ox tongue with a purée of tomato and gentle but fruity guajillo chillies. This is a perfect (if somewhat indulgent) way to appreciate the dramatically different flavour profiles of the wide range of Latin American chillies and a masterclass on how to use them.
This was served with a lightly-chilled red, a delicious old vine Montes, Outer Limits Cinsault from the Itata Valley in Chile with a vibrant acidity that held its own against the rich meat and chilli flavours.
Roast aubergine, fried beans with salsa negra, Maya hummus
No fear that your veggie friends are going to feel short-changed with this roasted aubergine option as a main. In the evening Paladar has a warm and sexy Latin vibe that would make a great date night but also works for a laid-back, fun evening with friends. The service here is exceptionally good: warm, genuine and attentive without being at all pushy, you're made to feel like an old friend.
Purple corn churros, chocolate & ancho chilli sauce, coffee dulce de leche
Duo of home-made ice cream/sorbet, cocada and candied chulpi corn crunch
I was utterly convinced I was full until I had the merest nibble of those churros (yes, I finished them). Fabulous with a glass of Bodega Pablo Fallabrino, Alcyone Tannat from Atlántida, Canelones, Uruguay; a fortified red dessert wine with lovely deep, chocolatey notes.
One quick footnote: reviewing a recent cookbook for the recent Chatting Food Summer Reads post, I was surprised to realise how many cuisines naturally tend towards being gluten-free, purely because of their native ingredients. If you follow a gluten-free diet, or know someone who does, then Paladar is the restaurant for you; every single dish (including this amazing tasting menu) is gluten-free. Given that it is one of my new favourite places for sharing plates and has fabulous vegetarian options, it's a great stress-free and inclusive choice for groups.
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Deputy Editor, Chatting Food London: Amanda David
Amanda David is a freelance food writer specialising in London’s restaurants, bars, exhibitions and events. She is Events Editor for London Cheapo and a regular contributor to Palate Magazine.
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