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from peru, with love

it’s been a few years now since i embarked upon some serious wanderlust-inducing travel, but the beauty of living in such a vibrant and eclectic city like manchester is that sometimes you don’t have to travel too far to be tantalised by  the flavours of far-flung destinations. 

last weekend i was invited along to experience the new all-day south american dining concept at  peru perdu, the latest restaurant to take over at whitworth locke’s cotton factory restaurant space. the ethos behind the cotton factory venture is to offer an exciting and ever-evolving food and drink concept that showcases cuisines from around the globe. specialising in peruvian cuisine, the focus at peru perdu is on fresh ingredients, seasonal produce and big bold flavours, inspired by the peri-urban agriculture movement in lima. 

i have to say i’d never really considered what might constitute traditional peruvian cuisine before – nor am i convinced that we experienced it! – but i have to say our meal was a riot of colour and quirky, somewhat experimental, dishes. we’d been invited to experience the ‘bottomless brunch’ menu, served every saturday and sunday between 10am and 5pm, which offers two courses from the standard brunch menu (one small plate, one large) alongside bottomless house pisco sours, garibaldi cocktails or chandon champagne, for £30 per person.

entering the venue i have to admit to be totally seduced by the light and spacious restaurant area adorned with colourful textiles from manchester-based brand woven rosa, who work alongside skilled artisans from around the world to bring pieces to life through the stories entwined within them. i’m always drawn to beautiful homewares that celebrate talented craftsmanship and traditional manufacturing skills, so it was wonderful to discover all the work the brand are doing to create bonds with their peruvian artisans and promote their heritage.

co-founded by laura selby and tom saxon, woven rosa textiles have all been crafted in the sacred valley region of peru, handwoven on back-strapped looms and then cut into size. each loom measures roughly 1 metre wide (depending on the arm span of the artisan) which creates frazadas (rugs) with a similar width, and larger rugs are then constructed by joining two together. the array of colours that are used in these andean textiles are all sourced from the earth, with different colours telling different stories that reflect their heritage, and can be traced right the way back to the inca’s. each piece is a unique work of art with so much history woven into each stitch. a selection of cushions, throws and rugs are available from a pop-up shop in the space for the duration of the peru perdu residency, and i have to say it took all my willpower not to leave with at least one cushion in my possession that day. there’s still a high chance i’ll be heading back.. 

right, back to the brunch. we were greeted on arrival with samples of the two cocktails on the bottomless brunch menu; the garibaldi (campari & fluffy orange juice) and a lavender and coconut pisco sour, which blends gold and white rums with pineapple and citrus. let me tell you, both of these were deeeelicious! the garibaldi had just the right blend of punch and zest for a mid-morning wake-up cocktail, while the pisco sour was a curious mix of sharp tang with sweet aftertaste, and definitely went down a treat.

we were then brought a selection of non-dairy smoothie bowls to try, and here’s where things got interesting. i have to say i’ve never really understood the smoothie bowl concept – it seems like something devised completely for the instagram/pinterest lover – and while they were certainly intriguing and somewhat photogenic (despite looking a little like bowls of kids crayola paint), i’m not sure i would actually order one of these when there are far more tantalising options on offer, including a 5-seed tapioca bowl and alfajores – which i got to try at the end of our meal, and absolutely loved! for those not in the know, alfajores are melt-in-the-mouth shortbread-like cookies made with dulce de lêche and rolled in desiccated coconut. sooo sickly sweet, but somehow also incredibly moreish. they really need a strong coffee accompaniment though, imo.

we then moved onto samples of some of the large plates on the brunch menu, starting with a buddha bowl of rainbow veg, watermelon and strawberries, topped with half a beetroot-dipped boiled egg. a nice idea, and definitely refreshing, but i think it called for a little more rainbow veg than just ribbons of carrot and half an avocado to make it worth recommending from the menu..

the heurvos rancheros was probably the first dish in the selection to really hit the spot for me, with just the right blend of chilli and paprika to enhance the creamy tomato-ness of the dish. it might have been the cold dark manchester morning, but i’d really been in need of something warming to help kick-start the meal. i wonder if in peru i’d have been more welcoming of the fresh smoothie bowls and rainbow buddha bowl..

our last large plate from the bottomless brunch menu was the picanha steak sandwich, served on a beetroot brioche with onion and mustard. being a peruvian restaurant i had high hopes for this dish as picanha steak is considered a prized cut of beef, with the fat left on while cooking in order to lock in juiciness and impart additional flavor into the meat. in the end though, we all agreed that while the steak was nice and reasonably well seasoned (though a little tough), it’s flavour was somewhat drowned out by the beetroot brioche, which was itself delicious, but perhaps not the best pairing.

to finish the meal we were served a little taste peru perdu’s dessert menu, and one of their most popular dishes: half a grilled pineapple with granola and coconut yoghurt. it was certainly a quirky and unexpected combo – almost like a pineapple crumble – and i don’t think i’d have ever thought to cook pineapple.. but it works!

i’d certainly like to go back and try dishes from the all-day menu to discover a little more about the flavourful delights of peruvian cuisine. ceviche plays a huge role on the menu, and taking a quick glance through the options i’m definitely drawn to the tuna with coconut, chilli and plantain crisps, as well as the crab with rice noodles, pomelo and sweet potato. other small plate options that appeal from the main menu include duck ‘ropa vieja’ tostadas, and the crispy coconut shrimp – i can never resist anything crispy, coconut-y or shrimpy!

i’ve been told that the grass-fed uraguyan wet-aged steak marinated in peru perdu’s rich house la brasa marinade is a winning option from the large plates menu, which also features pork belly with adobo chilli, and pollo ‘la brasa’ with sweet potato and mint. it’s not all meat and fish though, there’s also an extensive section called ‘planta’ devoted to vegan and plant-based dishes which look and sound super tasty too, including the green papaya salad with mango and cashews, black bean dumplings with fruit salsa, and a sweet yam coconut curry with red rice.

have you tried peruvian cuisine before? or even been to peru? let me know your thoughts and experiences below!

 the peru perdu residency is at the cotton factory, whitworth locke, until xxxxx. 74 princess street, manchester m1


our meal was complimentary in return for this review, but all photography and views expressed my own.

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