Food review: Pedigree food from Ortiz
You can eat in 26 different countries without leaving Birmingham.
The Second City has one of the most diverse and eclectic dining scenes in the UK with restaurants featuring food from around the globe. From Brazil to Afghanistan, from Argentina to Jamaica, from China to Ethiopia and from the whole of Europe to the Middle East and North America, there are delicacies for all. More accurately, Birmingham is the best and most exciting destination in the UK other than London.
Diverse and inclusive, bohemian and hipster: Moseley is Birmingham’s coolest suburb, a happening Second City destination that is as outward-looking and internationalist as the United Nations. On this corner, a brilliant Japanese restaurant offering great katsu and sushi, further on a walk-in offering delicious pizza by the slice, across the way a fabulous Mediterranean offering stunning seafood and around the corner great Thai, Moroccan, modern British, Indian, American and much, much more.
It’s the perfect destination, therefore, for the debut restaurant from highly-regarded Peruvian chef Robert Ortiz, latterly Head Chef at the Virgilio Martinez’s Michelin-starred restaurant Lima London.
While Ortiz retains his role as culinary director of the Lima Group, he is fully focused on his perfectly-formed and fully-realised Chakana.
Ortiz had previously worked at the Costa Verde restaurant in Peru’s capital city, before taking positions at the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone and the Four Seasons Canary Wharf.
Ortiz is one of Peruvian cuisine’s great pioneers who has brought the heady flavours and bright colours of his native country to an appreciative European audience. With a penchant for traditional Peruvian ingredients and rare, ancient edibles from the country’s mountain regions, coast and rainforest, his cuisine is characterised by wholesome and beautifully-flavoured plates with vibrant, artistic flair.
The chef was inspired to cook by his mother’s food. He particularly remembers her escabeche, a pickle made from onions, garlic, chilli, tomatoes and coriander. Those early tastes have influenced the food that has won him so many plaudits.
Michelin conferred a coveted star because of his use of “punchy, invigorating flavours” when it made Lima the first Peruvian restaurant in Europe to be recognised by the Guide. In 2014, Lima Floral – a new sister restaurant in Covent Garden – opened, with Robert Ortiz positioned as Executive Chef of both that new branch and the original Lima London.
And now he’s moved to the West Midlands to open his first restaurant. Lucky us.
Bright and colourful, vibrant and daring; his restaurant dazzles with exciting food, a lively dining area and engaging service.
A vivid blue bar offers citrusy cocktails that kick like a mule on DMT while the clean, open-plan restaurant features wall hangings more colourful than Joseph’s Dreamcoat.
Peruvian classics dominate, so a mixed seafood ceviche features tender octopus and yielding sea bream alongside small squares of sweet potato and lightly puffed, lime-drenched corn crisps. Delicious.
Scallops a la Parmesana features gently cooked sweet-salty molluscs still in the shell with an umami melt of parmesan, spicy achiote, fava beans fatter than giant’s fingers and hot, piquant yellow chilli.
Ortiz’s pedigree shines through. Precision cooking and masterly seasoning provide for a high-kicking gourmand experience. The chef brings together a symphony of flavours with the skill and gentle confidence of former Birmingham conductor Sir Simon Rattle.
Lightly acidulated fish and peppery dressings are a highlight. Picturesque dishes are as striking as a Sérvulo Gutiérrez painting.
Desserts are heavenly; particularly an indulgent, dreamlike dulce de leche encased between two gossamer thin shortbreads with sweetly acidic raspberries cutting through.
Local diners can expect Ortiz to offer challenging and charming tastes that seduce their palates over a long period of time.
The chef is renowned for developing his menus around an ever-changing supply of fascinating, native food stuffs and his talent lies in the ability to make complete sense of a fantastically diverse and wide-reaching cuisine.
Ortiz, more than any other chef working in Europe, is able to distil rather than distort the unique flavours of Peru.
Peruvian food is enjoying its place in the sun. One of the most fashionable and up-coming cuisines of recent years, it is finding a welcome in discerning European cities.
Peruvian cuisine has made a mark on contemporary food trends, though its origins extend back to more than a thousand years.
At Chakana, diners can feast on dishes from seaside, mountain and rainforest. Ortiz’s new restaurant provides a masterclass. His ceviche is freshest and zesty, healthy and flavourful. At Chakana, street foods are refined and reimagined for fine dining palates.
Birmingham boasts many big-hitting chefs, not least Moseley’s fire-cracking Michelin star-holder Brad Carter, whose award-winning restaurant is less than a mile away. Carter, at Carter’s of Moseley, managed to direct the spotlight away from the impressive city centre onto B13. His contemporary and innovative food has made him one of the most celebrated chefs in the region – and Ortiz will only bolster Moseley’s reputation for culinary innovation and brilliance.
It is remarkable to think that one generation ago Birmingham had a reputation for some of the UK’s dreariest food. Such critics as Jeremy Clarkson visited the area to bemoan the lack of talent and gastronomic choice.
Things have changed, not least because of the influence of the city’s Yummy Brummy, Glynn Purnell, who is a two-time Michelin star winner and regular presenter on BBC 1’s Saturday Kitchen.
Chakana will be a hit. Ortiz has the right pedigree and the correct experience to make a go of his restaurant. And the B13 clientele served by his restaurant are well suited to something new and exciting.
He brings a touch of class and style to the area’s dining scene – meaning devotees no longer have to travel to London to get their fix.
In a city full of Galaticos, new signing Ortiz is a Champions League signing.