Ayllu Restaurant in Paddington Review – Luxury Set Menus For Under £50

My first taste of sushi was not from Japan – but from Pret. 

This was 20 years ago in the early noughties – when sushi was exotic, and Pret was the first place I’d laid eyes upon the bite-sized morsels of fish, rice and wasabi. 

The box of seaweed-wrapped rolled rice encasing pink salmon slivers stood amongst the pedestrian tuna mayo baguettes in the fridge shelves, and I was curious.

Did I enjoy that first bite of Japan’s best-loved food exports? I have to admit, initially, I wasn’t convinced. The flavours and textures were too niche for my underdeveloped palette. The rice was unusually sweet, the vibrant green wasabi was ferociously spicy, and the slippery sashimi was unlike anything I’d encountered growing up in middle England. 

Fast forward to the present day and I’d never have expected that sushi would be a strong contender for a course in my fantasy last supper. It has become my al-desko lunch of choice, my hungover Sunday craving and my ultimate date night dinner. Likely because my taste buds have evolved, and the sushi on offer in the UK has vastly improved in quality.

So, these days, like so many others, I’m a fully-blown Japanese foodie fan. But Ayllu restaurant in Paddington was about to take sushi to another level – by fusing it with a cuisine that has its roots almost 10,000 miles from Tokyo.  

Ayllu specialises in Peruvian and Japanese sharing plates of sushi, ceviche and tacos. There’s also a selection of crowd-pleasing larger dishes – think slow-cooked short rib beef, miso marinated black cod and Peruvian barbecued meats, all washed down with delicately-balanced Japanese and Peruvian cocktails. 

We were invited to review Ayllu on a balmy early Summer evening, when Paddington’s city workers spilled out of the bars lining the canal, Aperol spritzes in hand. With reports of London’s nightlife industry struggling, it’s encouraging to see the after work punters bolstering trade in the capital’s bars and pubs. However, I was in the mood for something more sedate, and was delighted to discover Ayllu is tucked away in a peaceful basement, away from the frenetic city energy.

The zen-like mood lit interiors at Ayllu represent the jungle of the Amazonas, a mythical place in South America. Contemporary hanging lights at the back of the restaurant illustrate that the raindrops are never far away in the wilderness of Peru, whilst exotic floral arrangements nod to the flora and fauna of warmer climes. We were seated in an intimate booth with comfortable leather seating – an ideal nook for a romantic evening. 

If you’re new to Ayllu, the tasting menus are good place to start. Not only are they impeccable value, they also take the decision making out of your hands, which can be overwhelming with a small plates menu. We chose the ‘Tasting Cuzco’ menu which featured a mixture of nine meat and fish plates, all coming in at a well-priced £49 per person. There’s also a vegetarian option and an entry level 8-plate tasting menu for £39 per person.

To prelude the tasting menu, we also ordered a side of Ayllu’s signature guacamole, which was served in fusion style with prawn crackers and corn tortillas. This girl loves a good bowl of guac and this Peruvian iteration was sublime: super smooth and creamy, topped with finely diced chili and red onion all served up in a pool of citrus dressing. 

This was followed by rock-salted dusted edamame, which my other half described as the ‘best he’d ever eaten’; and two more plates of crisp bite-sized taco shells stuffed with the freshest diced tuna and salmon tartare.

Now it was time for some sushi, with generous portions of Uramaki California rolls and seared tuna tataki arriving at the table, plus skewers of chicken cooked ‘Robata style’ – which is the Japanese method of grilling over hot charcoal. 

Prettily plated up with decorative dots of ginger and garlic sauce, the tuna tataki was a highlight of the meal. The slivers of fish were perfectly seared, proffering tender mouthful upon mouthful of tuna, all bathed in a moreish sesame and bonito dressing.

One of my tasting menu anxieties is that portion size can be on the mean side, and can often lead to a late night trip to McDonalds for sustenance. I’m not a fan of this style of dining when style forgoes substance, there is an art to ensuring a diner is both satiated and pleasantly full. 

Thankfully Ayllu’s portions were just right, with the platter of small plates being followed up with the generously sized mains of melt in your mouth miso cod, tender and delicate short beef rib and grilled aubergine skewers. 

Just when we thought we’d finish, a plate of diminutive cinnamon-dusted churros and molten chocolate dipping sauce arrived at the table for a final sugary frisson. 

Next time you’re Japanese food, don’t hesitate to reserve a table at Ayllu, the food is sublime. That tuna tataki might just have earned a place on my fantasy last supper menu. 


Sophie Green

Sophie Green is PR Manager for a designer flash sale website and part-time fashion blogger, having founded her fashion and shopping blog Lafashionfolie.com in 2012. Finding a passion for the industry at a young age, Sophie studied Fashion Communications at university and has worked in the industry for over a decade, heading up the PR departments of several fashion and fine jewellery brands. Through her fashion blog she has worked on campaigns with brands including UGG Australia, La Redoute and Headmasters and counts sitting opposite Anna Wintour at the Topshop Unique LFW show as a career highlight! Outside of work Sophie likes to unwind by hitting the gym for a boxing class or ‘researching’ the best G&T’s the capital has to offer. Her fashion obsession is sequins, with an entire section of her wardrobe dedicated to all things-sparkly!