Housed in a palatial Piccadilly building, Coya is a stalwart of the Mayfair brunch scene. Born from the spirit of adventure, Coya’s culinary chef Sanjay Dwivedi took a yearlong tour of Latin America in search of the most exciting flavours in contemporary cuisine, before developing a menu over 11 months ahead of Coya’s launch in 2012. ‘Peruvian food is the original fusion food,’ says Dwivedi. ‘It takes in flavours from Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and African cuisines. Ceviche is the new sushi. It’s very healthy, fresh and delicious.’
When we were welcomed outside 118 Piccadilly by Latin dancers adorned with jewels and giant feathers, we knew this would be no ordinary brunch. After sanitising our hands, we descended the stairs, surrounded by antique gilded mirrors and exotic plants, to the low-lit downstairs Pisco Bar and Lounge for canapés. A corridor leads guests to the spacious and inviting dining room, where plush velvet seating in rich blues and yellows, and eclectically tiled walls add a warm exotic, night-time vibe to the space – and that’s even before the Latin tunes have started up. If our table had not been by the window, we could have easily forgotten it was 1pm on a Saturday afternoon and not 1am, such was the buzz and excitement in the room.
First up was a delicious ceviche platter, served on ice. We were instructed to eat each one in a particular order to savour the rich flavours of each dish. The selection of kingfish, salmon and sea bass was a fresh and tangy citrusy treat, and perfect washed down with a traditionally fluffy pisco sour. Veuve Clicquot champagne is free-flowing throughout brunch and there is an inspired selection of cocktails for those looking to match the exotic atmosphere.
After the platter, came the moreish Croquetas de Lubina (Chilean sea bass croquettes with red chilli); a tiny dish that packs so much punch, we’d eat them for breakfast every day if we knew how to recreate them at home. The upbeat music turned up a notch for the next course as a live band took to ‘the stage’. As dancing was discouraged (for Covid safety), the Inca dancers entertained us with their moves, shimmying and enchufla-ing between tables.
Our mains more than made up for the lack of dancing. We opted for the Arroz Nikkei – Chilean sea bass with rice, chilli and lime – and the salmon a la brasa, with stir-fry quinoa, soy and green vegetables – both succulent, flavoursome and oh-so filling. It would have been a crime to let any go to waste. As the salsa vibes continued, our waiter hinted at an exciting climax to the Inca Trail brunch. Before long we heard the sound of heavy beats – courtesy of a moustached, poncho-wearing musician thumping a giant bongo furnished with flashing LEDs – and high-pitched R-rolling gritos, and our dessert platters arrived, complete with fizzing sparklers. It took every ounce of our beings not to leap up and dance. Luckily, the mouthwatering selection of sweet treats was distraction enough as we tucked into chocolate cream choux buns, brownies, mochi, churros, fresh fruits and a mini lulo crème brûlée. Oh, what a treat, oh, what excitement.
The Coya Inca Trail brunch experience is £150 per person
Not only does Coya serve an exquisite selection of Peruvian fare and delicious cocktails, this Inca Trail brunch provided a true ray of Peruvian sunshine out of the lockdown darkness. We enjoyed a lot of very unexpected and happy moments. It is a feeling of pure indulgence and crazy exotic excitement – and wishing you hadn’t eaten breakfast beforehand.
Coya Mayfair, 118 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7NW; coyarestaurant.com