Surrey’s Premier Lifestyle Magazine

My month in food

Stephanie Brookes, BBC Radio London food expert, offers her pick of an eating establishment for this month, COYA in Mayfair. I’ve always been greedy with food, which certainly comes as no surprise to anyone, and sharing was never especially high on my agenda, particularly as a child. I would place both arms outstretched and create a kind of barrier to prevent my brother (or anyone else for that matter) getting anywhere near my dinner: a rather comical side of children’s often territorial nature with food. Thankfully, I’ve matured (a little) since then and certainly no further tantrums in restaurants to be had, last I can remember.

Sharing food, or ‘sharing plates’ as many restaurants now popularly advertise, is a subject that divides many of us, generally because our inner child seeks to have a meal all to itself.

In more recent years, I have come to appreciate and enjoy the sharing experience, obtaining enjoyment seeing how my fellow dining companions feel about the food. It’s also reassuring to know that you feel the exact same way about a dish, or indeed feel so differently towards something which can spark plenty of interesting discussion. And so, when I heard COYA was all about the sharing, my grown-up self was more than onboard.
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Photo copyright: COYA
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COYA, located in the heart of Mayfair, has a distinctly sexy, mature vibe which positively emanates as you’re escorted downstairs to what feels like an intimate, private members’ club. You are met by another greeter who suggests a cocktail at the bar before heading to the table. It feels like a rather elaborate way of getting to the actual eating, but on casual Fridays I’m more than happy to be led astray. On the subject of drinks, COYA does cocktails particularly well: try the Pisco Punch which is a potent yet refreshing blend of homemade pineapple sugar, Pisco Italia, fresh orange and lime juice.

As you will eventually discover, post cocktails that is, COYA’s menu is a vibrant array of modern Peruvian sharing dishes with a particularly attractive choice of ceviche – an immediate no-brainer for me. I leapt on an order of the sea bass, presented in a generous silky mound with a mixture of red onion, sweet potato and white corn. The clean, citrus notes of the milky juices are balanced well with the crunchy vegetables that offer some satisfying texture. The second offering of yellowfin tuna, soy and sesame seeds was a more meaty, salty experience with a great umami taste from the soy and delicate sweetness from the tuna. The only downside to sharing these dishes is you only get a few precious mouthfuls, yet, when the quality of the fish is this good, it’s just a joy to eat.
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Photo copyright: COYA
We quickly moved on from the sweet simplicity of the ceviche to an altogether heartier offering with a plate of spicy beef fillet, crispy shallots and star anise. The perfectly charred sear of the beef was a promising visual, and the rich velvety meat was exceptionally tender with a sweet and spicy addition from the star anise, lending a slight liquorice note which worked well. The accompaniment of salty shallots gave the dish that much needed crunch. And no quicker were we mourning this over-too-soon dish than two garlicky-chicken skewers quelled our voracious appetites. The skewers were given a moreish, spicy kick courtesy of the aji amarillo pepper.

The only thing I would say about the sharing plate experience is that it can get rather addictive seeing these tempting little dishes arrive at your table in ten-minute intervals. Excitement was definitely in the air with the arrival of Chilean sea bass. Unlike the ceviche, this sea bass was cooked through in a rich, creamy sauce which seemed to thicken almost by magic as our waitress gently stirred the bubbling pot. The dish was a soothing, comforting stew which had a gentle heat running through from the aji amarillo, yet never veered into uncomfortably hot territory.

At this point it’s fair to say our lunch reservation had surreptitiously moved into early dinner, but it’s a very easy thing to do in a place like COYA; the cocktails, the tempting plates and good conversation keep you wanting that little bit more.
essence info
118 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7NW
Telephone: 020 7042 7118