I tried Peruvian and nikkei cuisine in and outside of Peru, but none had achieved what Coya in Dubai, London and Monaco did – offering a high-quality ingredients focused menu with the right level of local experimenting, all in a fun, lively ambiance supported by a Dj. Nikkei is a blend of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines and the one chef who made it global is Nobu Matsuhisa, however Coya is more Peruvian than Nobu’s global empire of restaurants or the trendy, multi-awarded Osaka group of nikkei food dotted across South America, while being as much entertaining.
As I learned during my trip to Peru, it is easy to get a plate of superb potatoes, a rainbow of corn or raw fish ceviche at a market in Lima, but Coya gets comparable deliciousness with a much more attractive plating to central London, the fashionable coast of Dubai and for the summer season kicking off by the Grand Prix in Monaco’s most attractive seaside location right next to the legendary Jimmy’z night club. What London lacks Monaco provides – the al-fresco dining fits the Mediterranean, while Dubai’s brunching got ever more mission impossible to reserve with Coya the trendiest place to dine at.
In London, after descending into the Picadilly underground, the sparsely lit scene ushers in a great, cosy vibe. At the cocktail bar like at the Dubai and Monaco locations, you can reserve a small table too and have a bite with the signature grape spirit-based pisco sour or some other fancy cocktail.
To keep it entertaining at the restaurant you can sit along the ceviche bar where the chefs slice and dice the raw dishes, while on the open charcoal grill the meats and seafood sizzle, roasting. The preparation of food is open to scrutiny and to a more immersive dining experience. At Coya they hire well. Even in Monaco, where we rarely are pleased with the service, the attentive, friendly, effective yet casually offbeat (Valentin is so sweet) waiting staff perfectly rounds up the lively atmosphere. Most dishes arrive quickly considering that the restaurant is usually packed. In Dubai, Coya nests right next to the Four Seasons Hotel, therefore beware the valet parking can be extremely inefficient during busy times since the Y-legged driveways are connected.
The food at Coya is authentic with an innovative use of mostly Peruvian and at each location some local ingredients. Quinoa, the great gluten-free source of proteins pops here and there, but mostly it is about seafood and beef. Start with Guacamole chopped in a stone mortar on the table served with house deep flavour corn tortillas and Asian shrimp crackers. I like the Peruvian Trio de Maíz of Josper and crispy corn with sweet onions and red chillies. You must try one of the signature, thinner than sashimi sliced, tiraditos (salmon, yellowtail and wagyu are great) and ceviches from the starters (Pargo a la Trufa – red snapper with truffled ponzu sauce). Ask the staff which of the fish plates is be better on that day. From the skewered, on the charcoal grilled anticuchos I recommend the Tiger prawns and the “Setas” Forest mushrooms.
The naughty with the skin roasted potatoes Patatas Bravas with a rich Huancaina (mayonnaise-based) sauce are really tasty. From the iron hot pot cazuelas the “Langosta” Lobster rice with pea shoots is superb to share. The juicy and fatty Spicy grilled beef fillet “Lomo de Res” pleased our Brazilian meat-loving friends, while the Wagyu ribeye with chimichurri sauce served during the Grand Prix set tasting menu was devoured with pleasure. In Monaco, find the most luscious burrata, while in Dubai lamb and a wider selection mocktails accommodate the Arabic tastes, otherwise the menus are literally identical.
The sweet selection highlights Peruvian fruits, superfoods and vegetables. In the Corn Sundae, Lucuma Bavarois (Vitamin C rich fruit) to Sweet Potato Ice Cream, these combinations are as healthful as they are delectable. Peru has over 3000 types of potatoes and corn stirring one’s interest in trying various dishes prepared from this biodiversity. The ice cream had a tremendous depth underlined with the exotic spices, dried fruit, cocoa powder and a side of Burnt Chocolate Crumble. Peru is a major cocoa producer, and I have a crush on the earthy single origin chocolates from this country.
The Pisco Sour at Coya is marvellous with ceviche as well as most of the tiraditos, so if you are starting with this Peruvian grape-spirit-based refreshing cocktail save it for the fish and seafood starters. There are raw egg whites in it so beware.
The wine list leans towards South America. Full-bodied Argentinian Malbec, tannic Tannat, paprika-spicy Chilean Carmenére or the powerful Petit Verdot, these go well with the meat dishes. Once we went for the adventurous 100% Petit Verdot from Vina Von Siebenthal in Chile’s Acocangua Valley. Petit Verdot is a very tannic and robust grape varietal usually used in a tiny volume in blends (red Bordeaux), but this bottle was quite smooth. We had another Petit Verdot – Toknar 2007 from Chile, which was an expressive, rich, concentrated dark fruits with chocolate, caramel and nutmeg ideal for the Parker-like palates.
As with most grape varietals Tannat shows terroir – like Malbec in Argentina is more fruity and round than in France, the same applies to Tannat in Uruguay and Brazil where its harsh tannins are balanced with its juicy, fruity character. Tannat in the South-West France in Cahors is rarely drinkable on its own and is blended.
Coya has also opened a second London location in Angel and the UAE also in Abu Dhabi.
Check opening hours for each location at their website.
Coya Mayfair: 118 Picadilly, Mayfair, London, W1J 7NW
Coya Monte-Carlo: Sporting Monte-Carlo, 26 Avenue Princesse Grace, Monaco
Coya Dubai: Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 2, Dubai
London Mayfair: +44 0 20 7042 7118
Dubai: +971 0 4 316 9600
Monaco: +377 98 06 20 20