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Andina, London

02/13/2014

Founded by Peruvian born chef Martin Morales, Andina is the new sister restaurant to Soho based Ceviche. Taking a different approach to Ceviche, whose menu and interior take inspiration from the Peruvian coast, Andina based in Shoreditch, is an all day restaurant serving healthy food and drinks inspired by the Peruvian Andes. The food on offer, inspired by traditional Andean recipes, is divided into hot and cold dishes; Ceviche and Street Food. Served as and when it is ready, the cold Ceviches are prepared behind the bar in the Basement Dining area whilst hot food is prepared and cooked in the kitchen on the Ground Floor. Peruvian superfood ingredients such as maca, amaranth, cape gooseberry and purple maize are used alongside seasonal British produce create a flavorsome and exciting menu. “Andean cooking is the soul food of Peru, and it is in the Andes where some of the world’s most nutritious ingredients are found’.

The restaurant is split into two levels, Ground Floor and Basement. Whilst the overall feel throughout the space is one of warmth and rustic charm, creating a casual laid back experience for the diners, each level has it’s own ‘earthy’ and ‘mountain’ inspired feel to it, evoked by the materials and finishes used, how they have been expressed and how they have been placed together.

The Basement Dining area is accessed via a wide solid timber staircase. Dimly lit from above by a twinkling cluster of elegant long copper pendants with exposed filament bulbs hung from the high ceiling of the Ground Floor, there is an immediately inviting warmth that draws you down into the lower level of the restaurant. With it’s illuminated long front face of architecturally woven copper and twine string, the Bar, located in the front left of the rectangular shaped dining room as one enters from the staircase, glows magically. The way these two delicate fine materials; the copper; highly reflective and the string; soft and natural, have been tightly woven into such orderly structure, makes for a very appealing and tactile finish that you can’t help but touch; a perfect contrast to the cold, hard, smooth copper bar top. Blackened steel high stools with a fine perforated mesh seat pad & low back add another layer of woven texture, whilst their semi transparency allows the glow of the copper bar front to pierce through, allowing the bar to really take centre stage in the space.

Rough light grey stone brick clad columns are dotted through the room, whilst the low ceiling, clad in back lit square timber framed panels of bamboo and painted timber, evoke the feeling of being under a natural woven canopy in a Peruvian mountain village hut, but expressed in a more defined, architectural way. The white washed rough plaster walls feel a bit cold and at odds with the rest of the space, where a warmer natural colour may have been more fitting with the rustic mountainous feel being evoked elsewhere, but with the low warm lighting levels and timber cladding to the walls around the bar, the space still has a feeling of warmth and Peruvian spirit to it.

Upstairs, the Ground Floor has a slightly more cool, paired back, architectural edge to the design. Details such as angled recessed strip lights sitting flush within the ceiling above the Bar give the space an edgy city feel to it, rather than feeling true to the ‘Peruvian Andes’ concept evoked by most other elements of the interior. A brightly lit, open kitchen to the back creates a focal point within the dining area whilst the sounds of the Peruvian chefs muttering amongst one another and the sizzling sounds of the food being cooked give a constant buzz to the atmosphere. A back lit splash of bright green glass within the blackened steel Kitchen gantry adds an element of vibrancy and evoke to the bright exciting colours so commonly found all over South America; in the plants and food, the architecture and the people. Another layer of structured natural texture can be seen in the large clusters of woven willow pendants above the main seating area. A soft glowing haze hangs over the diners at night as the light pierces through the woven willow.  Reclaimed dressers with a distressed paint finish are used as Waiter stations, evoking a feel of faded Havana grandeur. In the window of the bar, adjacent to the street, reclaimed timber crates hang under one another on a chunky galvanised steel chain, filled with colourful fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs.

The ‘Music Room’ to the rear of the site functions as the restaurant’s Private Dining room. Brightly coloured vinyl covers of South American musicians with eye-catching vintage graphics are displayed on shelves. These adorn the full length and height of the right hand wall of the room, creating a vibrant bohemian feeling to the space, evoked further by the bright royal blue painted back wall.

A playful injection to the interior is the revolving selection of artworks displayed throughout the restaurant by some of Peru’s best artist, making it an ever-changing gallery space as well as a restaurant. Whilst adding an element of vibrancy and interest, the changing artworks add an authentic Peruvian touch to the space.

Although it’s a great spot to have lunch (you feel like you really are experiencing true Peruvian culture being served by a strong accented all Peruvian team of waiters and waitresses), the restaurant really comes to life at night, when it drawers in the bustles of crowds of creatives, foodies and Peruvians that spill into all areas of the restaurant until it is overflowing. The rich sounds, smells and the flavours of the food, and the warm textural materials and colours in the interior create an appetising and tantalising appeal that will draw you back again and again.

Most design elements and implementation of materials within the space work successfully in eluding to the Peruvian Andes, but there is a lot going on and in areas it feels a bit as though a number of different colours, finishes and materials have been thrown together in a bit of a haphazard way where possibly expressing one or two materials more fully may have felt more honest and true to the concept.  However somehow, the slightly overwhelming mix of materials, colours and finishes works and creates a warm, cosy and fun restaurant with real Peruvian spirit.

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