Test Driving Paladar - tour South America without leaving South London

guacTaquero guacamole with plantain crisps

So what do we need to know about Paladar?

It's a Latin American restaurant - so if you love food from anywhere in that part of the world, you're in luck. Owner and local resident, Charles Tyler used to run Champor-Champor. He's brought in Colombian chef Jose Rubio-Guevara (who's worked for Soho House and the top floor restaurant in Smiths of Smithfield) and Rafael Cabezas-Castro - former sommelier at Sushi Samba - to run the drinks side of things.

The space itself is split into a wine bar and bodega (which opens for coffees during the day in partnership with Colombian coffee producers El Cafecito) and the main dining room. And there's a massive courtyard garden which is due to open later this month, which could be great when the British summer finally hits.

Where exactly is it?

Just off St George's Circus in Southwark - your nearest tube station is Elephant & Castle, although Lambeth North's pretty close too.

Where should we meet friends for a drink first?

You're not that far from the various bars at Mercato Metropolitano - but the nearest decent pub is The Albert Arms, just a few minutes walk away.

eggplantRoast aubergine; fried beans with black sauce and Maya hummus 

So what's on the menu?

The menu's split into four sections - a very large nibbles offer, The Sea, The Farm and The Land - so fish, meat and veg. Obviously, we had to test their guacamole which is a taquero version (£6) so think salsa meets guac. This is served smoother than the usual chunky guacamole you might be used to, and came served with huge green plaintain crisps rather than the usual tortilla chips. Perfect empanadas (£6.50) were stuffed with slow cooked beef brisket and served with a coriander and chilli sauce.

For our mains, we tried to roam around every section of the menu. Everything we tried was great and pretty spectacular to look at as well, but the highlights were:

  • Fried Colombian baby potatoes with huacatay butter (£4.90) - super consistency to these little potatoes which you can only get in Colombia
  • Roast aubergine with fried beans, black sauce and Maya hummus (£11) - maybe our favourite aubergine dish since the fried one at Chick n Sours which is high praise.
  • Cuban confit pork with tortillas; habanero chilli and pineapple salsa £16 - a superior take on tacos al pastor

Although everything sounds delicious, you're going to want to rein in your ordering a bit because desserts are worth saving room for. Blue corn churros (£6.70) look odd, but taste fabulous particularly when you dunk them into the coffee dulce de leche sauce. But when we heard there was a guacamole ice-cream we had to try that too and it was definitely worth having. Weirdly compelling to eat.

pork2Cuban confit pork with tortillas; habanero chilli and pineapple salsa

A good place to go if you're veggie?

With a large section of veggie-based dishes to choose from, vegetarians would do very well here. There were 10 vegan dishes on the menu and 7 vegetarian ones.

What about the drink?

Sommelier Rafael knows his stuff and helped us pick out something lovely from an exclusively South American wine selection including a particularly good couple of dessert wines. And it's a well-priced list too, with most bottles in the 20s and 30s. There's also a cracking cocktail selection - with various spirits they say you'll struggle to find in any other bar in London.

Overall thoughts:

From its location, we were probably expecting a nice neighbourhood joint. What we got was food that would stand up to anything in central London without the attendant price hike. Everyone here from the mixologist to sommelier is just lovely. It's clearly a home from home for a lot of London's South American expats, but the rest of you need to check it out too. 100% worth the trip across town.

Hot Dinners dined as guests of Paladar. Prices correct at time of publication.

churrosBlue corn churros with coffee dulce de leche


More about Paladar

Where is it? 4-5 London Rd, London SE1 6JZ

How to book: Book online or call 020 7186 5555

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Twitter @paladarlondon


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