At the beginning of 2013, the gastronomic guide Zagat published on its website a list of the “hottest” restaurants in the world. We were thrilled to see Gaston Acurio’s Tanta in Barcelona, but we were even more surprised to find another reference to a familiar Peruvian name: Coya.
Zagat’s review mentions that the concept was created by Indian businessman Arjan Waney, owner of the Japanese restaurants Zuma and Roka, as well as La Petite Maison. And in the kitchen of Coya, an English-born Indian carries the baton of Peruvian flavors.
The name of this chef is Sanjai Dwivedi. He was born in England and raised in India, but had early contact with Peruvian food.
“I remember that one of my first steps was to try to understand Peruvian cooking,” the chef said in a telephone interview. “It was 2002 and I was still very young.”
“Exactly a year ago, I visited South America,” he explained. “From Miami we went to Lima and later to Madrid.”
During his trip, he was able to visit Malabar, La Mar, Panchita and Cala, as well as the fishing port.
“I am so surprised by Peruvian food,” said Dwivedi, who, last September, worked briefly in Astrid & Gastón Madrid.
“One of the things that I learned was about the influences that [the food]has had. It’s one of the reasons for its success, because so many people love the influence. The cooking of China and India have had a lot of influence on Great Britain.”
The chef also mentioned that he found it quite impressive how Peruvians have promoted Chinese cuisine.
Dwivedi also confessed to having been charmed by the flavors of Astrid & Gastón when he sampled its menu for the first time.
“It was one of the reasons that prompted me to investigate why Peruvian food was so good,” he said.
Peruvian identity in London
Coya, with a capacity of 100 people, is located in Piccadilly, one of the most lively areas of the English capital. In the kitchen there are three Peruvians, and a few more working in the front of the house.
By taking a look at Coya’s website, we can see elements that are taken directly from Peru, from the photographs of Martín Chambi to the bottles of pisco macerates.
From the menu, Zagat recommends the cebiches, tiraditos and anticuchos (including those made with heart), adding that all are meant to be shared.
Elements like ají amarillo and cilantro, and names like lomo saltado and causa, are part of a concept that allows diners to get the full Peruvian dining experience.