Llama Inn has taken the scenic route to London. The Peruvian restaurant launched in Brooklyn way back in 2015. The locals loved it and they weren’t alone. Llama Inn made the 2023 New York Times' Top 100 Restaurants and its chef Erik Ramirez was a James Beard finalist to boot.
Now, the Llama has crossed the Atlantic to pitch up on the rooftop of the Hoxton Hotel. Same name, same vibe, similar-ish menu. And yes, the hype is real.
The restaurant has played the cunning trick of recreating Brooklyn in Shoreditch. The indoor area is stuffed with plants and lamps; the outdoor area heavy on comfy chairs, more plants and lots of East London skyline. This is a venue that has had plenty of care and money invested into it and the investment shows.
What to order?
The menu is split across four sections: snacks, ceviches, un poco de todo and the show must go on (aka the sharing course). There are only two options for the latter to make life easy: a whole sea bass or lomo saltado (marinated meat). Feeling confused by the lingo? Turn over the menu and you’ll see a helpful glossary on the back – a lovely touch.
Starting with the snacks… Chilli oysters have a lovely little kick, a neat twist on a perennial favourite. Cabbage is shit right? Nobody likes cabbage. It's basically an insult. Not here. Cabbage anticucho is served on a skewer, crispy, with saikyo miso. Fantastic. The octopus anticucho also comes skewered, soft and peppery, garnished with capers. I'm a huge octopus fan and this ranks very high on my list. (Anticucho dishes always come skewered, if you hadn’t guessed.)
So crispy squid. We've all had it before. But this crispy squid comes with a bowl of ceviche, a sharp little yellow number containing chilli and toasted corn kernels. We were spooning up long after the squid was gone. In contrast, Zucchini Cau Cau is a warm wintery stew that you really should be eating by a fireplace. It's phenomenal, possibly the best dish on a menu of winners
For our showstopper, we opted for the lomo saltado. It’s quite something. A massive plate of beef strips and chips, swimming in this gorgeous chilli and pepper sauce. But that’s not all! You also get a plate of scallion pancakes to create these massive dripping fajitas which cannot be eaten with any dignity but my word are they good. This is a big, big dish that would easily leave three diners very happy. (I expect the same is true of the sea bass but the lomo saltado will surely be more filling.)
There’s also a list of suitably South American cocktails and wines that favour small producers. Our Chilean Dominio del Cuarzo went down very nicely indeed and provided a muscular accompaniment to the strong flavours of the lomo saltado. Utterly stuffed we managed to share a very nice green tea tart for dessert but I’m not sure that counts as a drink.
What’s the damage?
Depends how you chivvy up the menu. Whatever you do, the bill won’t be cheap but nor should you get a nosebleed. Both sharing dishes are above £50 but as we mentioned, you could easily divvy that up threeways. Or you could even swerve – which would be a shame – and graze quite happily on the smaller plates. Although of course then you’ll want to order more of them.
Assume you’re dropping £100 on food at the very least – you might sneak under but not by much – and do what you will with the booze.
Anything else to note?
Entering the restaurant is quite an adventure. It's hidden behind a little yellow door on Willow Street. Lift space is limited and you may find yourself becoming closely aquatinted with your fellow diners on the way up but that's all part of the fun.
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81 Great Eastern St, Greater, London EC2A 3HU; Llama Inn