On a wet September day fellow Editor Rachel, and I darted across the streets to a hidden gem of a restaurant in High Street Kensington. A Latin American fusion restaurant, Zuaya first opened in July 2018 and has quickly established itself as one of West London’s best dining experiences. Owned by twin- entrepreneurs, Alberto and Arian Zandi, Zuaya was their first restaurant venture in the UK. Part of The Emerald Hospitality Group, sister restaurants include Como Garden, an Italian restaurant inspired by Lake Como, located in Kensington next door to Zuaya. As well as the recently opened El Norte, Mayfair’s latest hotspot, a modern and luxury Spanish restaurant and bar on Dover Street.
Upon entering Zuaya it looked rather small upon first inspection but there is a hidden lower ground floor that is more buzzy than the ground floor but both are decorated reflecting the jungle landscape of Latin America where brightly coloured exotic flowers and evergreen foliage is brought to life via a chic interior. We were seated on the ground floor, our fellow diners were a mix of colleagues having dinner after work, couples and friends on a relaxed night out. We were greeted by Oceana who handed us the menus and explained the concept. The menu is a selection of dishes that draw influence from Brazil, Peru and Mexico, all of which are encouraged to share Tapas style. We ordered two glasses of bubbles while we perused the menu trying to decide how much was too much with suggestions being 3-4 tapas per person. We decided to try and be sensible and order a few at a time and then see how full we were when we had finished those dishes, always the victim of eyes bigger than belly, especially when it comes to Latin food!
First up was the daily croqueta which on the day we visited was Béchamel, chicken and honey, Tuna Avocado Taco, Lamb Taco, Wagyu Beef Short Rib Bao and the Spinach & Ricotta Empanada. Now this sounds a lot but these dishes were from the “To Start Tapas” which are suggested small bites and nibbles as they only serve one of each (you can ask for more as they are priced per portion). Not normally a fan of lamb, this taco was the stand out star of this selection, a slight Moroccan overtone of flavours. It was sweet and savoury at the same time and the lamb was soft and tender. We also enjoyed the Tuna Taco, limey, fresh with the tuna a stand out star. With these nibbles Oceana convinced us to try their signature cocktail the London to Lima, a twist on a Pisco Sour with Pisco, Falernum, Lime, Agave syrup, Egg white. Still hungry we moved on to the “main” Tapas options which are divided up as Fish & Seafood, Mat or Vegetable. Our waiter Yna suggested we try the Grilled Octopus with baked sweet potato, Sea Bass Nikkei and Wild Rice with Confit Duck, we ordered these with a side of Brazilian Cheese Bread Balls, something I make myself at home and adore. The grilled octopus was substantial as a portion with a garlic sauce, it was well cooked, not rubbery at all. The Sea Bass was not as exciting as we hoped, it was a fillet placed on vegetables, beautifully cooked and very healthy but I was expecting something more unique. The winner here was the Wild rice with Confit Duck, again a hefty portion that would easily be substantial as a main dish for one, but the duck was delicious, meaty and salty with a texture that just fell apart, perfectly matched with the sweetness of the wild rice. We both inhaled this dish, it was very autumnal and warming, perfect for the change in season. We washed down our main dishes with a traditional Margarita cocktail, our favourite Latin drink, simple but satisfying, and the ones made here at Zuaya were spot on, sharp with that limey zing.
Too full for desserts we had a small scoop of pistachio and coconut ice cream and finished off our Margaritas before heading back out into the night. Zuaya is a very funky neighbourhood restaurant that I could see being a very cool place to hangout with friends or colleagues for drinks on a Friday. With the menu being sharing style it’s perfect for a group who could order a bit of everything and try different dishes and cuisines along with some fabulous cocktails or wine for a fun night out. I will certainly be back when in the neighbourhood if just for that lamb Taco and a Marg!
35B Kensington High Street