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Chef Virgilio Martinez is set to open a new restaurant in London with the intentions of taking Peruvian cuisine in the city to the next level. Presenting Peruvian ingredients and dishes never seen before in the capital.
The young chef opened the Lima restaurant in London with his partners the Gonzalez brothers back in 2012, quickly gaining lots of avid fans and a Michelin star to boot - the first Peruvian restaurant in Europe to receive such an accolade.
His second location, also with the Gonzalez brothers, will be called Lima Floral and is located on Floral Street at the corner of Covent Garden. The cuisine will be an evolution on what Martinez has offered diners at Lima London with an aim of sharing the latest research and findings direct from his Central restaurant in Peru with customers in the UK.
It will be split into two spaces. A 70-seat contemporary restaurant with what Martinez is describing as a menu of “challenging Peruvian cuisine” aimed at helping people discover new Peruvian flavours, and a 55-seat basement complete with a Pisco cocktail bar serving Andean and Amazonian fruits alongside a mix of Peruvian snacks.
We caught up with Martinez in 2013 to hear about the initial idea and now he’s revealed more exclusive details about the new restaurant, the food they will be serving and why he keeps choosing London as a location for his restaurants.
Tell us about the restaurant.
"The name is related to Floral Street, in which the restaurant is located. And Floral is also very related to our Spanish history. My restaurant in Lima is in the Limean district of Miraflores, and if you spell Miraflores you would find “Flores” in it, which means flowers – floral – you know. Finally, we wanted to keep the name Lima because of its power and due to the fact we are all inspired in what is going in Lima, in its creativeness and gastronomy.
At this time we have some people in training at the Central Restaurant and at Lima London. In a few weeks we will know who the chef will be, for now we are targeting five or six guys for the job."
What’s the style of cuisine?
"We will work with intense Peruvian flavors, the ones that we did not use in Lima London because we wanted to respect the London public in our first years. We will also play more with traditional Peruvian flavors and food.
We are working a lot with raw fish, the success of ceviche has been very important in what is happening now with Peruvian gastronomy. We will also serve 'anticuchos' which are brochettes prepared with veal heart – also octopus – marinated in a mix of Peruvian chillies."
How will this place be different to Lima London?
"Lima London is a casual and comforting kitchen which has some influences from my Central restaurant, but it will never be a fine dinning restaurant, this is clear to us. Peruvian cuisine has been in London for about two years, and now there is a lot of knowledge about it across the city, this is why we can make the next step.
At Lima Floral we want to share the evolution in gastronomy and products that is happening at Central. We want to share creativity and products that are unknown to London. Somehow we want to show that Lima Floral is an evolution of Peruvian cuisine in London."
This will be your second restaurant in the city - why do you keep choosing London?
"The big cities are yearning for Peruvian restaurants and it’s a good time for Peruvian cuisine to expand itself around the world. London is a gastronomic capital where people are talking about Peruvian food, more than we ever thought. This means London is wanting more Peruvian restaurants."
What’s needed to keep pushing the development of Peruvian cuisine?
"Peruvian cuisine is really diverse, it has an enormous amount of different products that are a consequence of the big variety of ecosystems, climates and landscapes in Peru. In addition to this, it has this natural fusion that emerged through the mixture of Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Chinese food with cooking traditions from the Incas and the ancient Peruvian civilisations.
"Gastronomy has made Peruvians feel proud of their heritage and it has helped us to overcome some prejudices, it has helped to start an important social movement.
"Now we have to organize the foundations of this cuisine movement, we must work with respect to our heritage and develop more avenues in this huge field of gastronomy. In order to achieve this plan, first we’ve got to be grateful, then work hard with determination and finally be humble. Peruvian cuisine has not defeated any other, it is just one more in the world, one that is getting a lot of attention, but there are many great cuisines that have their position as the best and have been there for several years."
Opening at the end of July, it will be split into two spaces. A 70-seat contemporary restaurant with what Martinez is describing as a menu of “challenging Peruvian cuisine” aimed at helping people discover new Peruvian flavours, and a 55-seat basement complete with a Pisco cocktail bar serving Andean and Amazonian fruits alongside a mix of Peruvian snacks.