WHEN IT comes to central London, I’m not sure what’s harder – to navigate through the visiting slower-paced tourists or finding a place to eat that doesn’t disappoint. It’s those little hidden gems in Covent Garden with reasonable prices, delicious food and attentive staff that many (quite rightly) gatekeep, but Crudo is one I am going to share.
The brainchild of Venezuelan couple Maria Yanez and Carlos Socorro, the Monmouth Street opening is their third location of the hailed Ceviche and Pisco Sour spot. Having introduced Old Street and Mare Street to the beauty of their simplistic South American dishes, Crudo now finds itself right bang in the middle of London’s busiest areas.
With the buzz rich and somewhat deafening, it would have been easy to overlook this minimalistic restaurant with its refined menu and intimate 22-seats. At lunchtime, this place encapsulates the desire for quick and easy food for those on their breaks, with signature bowls available, such as Clásico Seabass with leche de tigre, quinoa and corn for £10.95.
However, my stop at Crudo was far less frantic and far more indulgent.
It seems apt I began my dinner at Crudo with one of their famous Pisco Sours and half a dozen dressed oysters – a combination that rarely fails to hit all the marks and one that our waiter Guy confirmed was a must-try here. Despite the fact I started with the classics, I swiftly moved on to try the Edamame hummus with crispy quinoa and corn tortilla chips and Brazil’s famous Pão de Queijo.
As someone with an unhealthy obsession with hummus, when the opportunity arises to try a new combination I jump at it, and Crudo’s version that replaced chickpeas was a light and subtle take on this classic – ideal for a pre-starter snack.
The Pão de Queijo was an all-round winner. For something that at its core is dough and cheese it was not too heavy, nor sickly, but actually quite the opposite, a bowl of balls that were utterly moreish.
With the option of ceviche, ceviche tostadas and tiraditos, deciding what to pick can be difficult as the seafood offering ranges from sea bass and salmon to octopus and scallops, and for those who don’t eat fish, is refined to beetroot and shiitake mushrooms for these types of dishes.
Beginning with tiraditos, the Peruvian version of sashimi that has the raw fish lay in a bed of spicy sauce, I opted for the Octopus with Peruvian criolla with lime and La Vera paprika, as well as the Tuna with orange-ponzu sauce.
What’s so surprising is the affordability of this restaurant with the quality and freshness of the fish. The Tuna was a standout dish of the entire meal as the generous thick cut pieces of this meat completed the citrusy yet spicy accompaniment so well.
And of course, the ceviche bowls were next. Picking the aforementioned sea-bass and Prawns with mexicana leche tigre, jalapeños, cucumber and avocado, the two dishes balanced flavour, spice and texture effortlessly, blending the crunches of vegetables with the soft bites of fish.
Sometimes these types of meals where raw meat reigns king can feel a little flat with the lack of variation, but the interchangeable bowls, plates and even cheesy dough balls make for a meal that genuinely surprises with each round.
Though the extent of my shared order may seem excessive, I left Crudo without that sickly feeling of having over-eaten, but instead with a smug confidence of maybe having found my hidden gem for unfailingly good fresh food.
by Imogen Clark
Crudo, 36 Monmouth Street, London, WC2H 9NU