If you're not familiar, Cotton Factory opened last summer by first hosting taco and tequila purveyors El Camino.
It’s a fantastic little venue, that feels at once modern and classic, and they’re offering pop up kitchens the chance to make a real mark in Manchester.
Next in line, and taking on a six month residency, Peru Perdu have set up shop with a South American inspired concept, offering a smorgasbord of food and drink which portrays the diversity of a continent of contrasting landscapes and cultures.
Pisco is probably the most intoxicating beverage Peru has to offer, apart from the stuff you drink to meet Pachamama in the jungle, and it forms the majority of the cocktails list. The locally-brewed brandy is absolutely lethal stuff and a few glasses is pretty much guaranteed to set you on a collision course with getting just a little bit carried away.
The preferred method of mixology is a Pisco Sour, which combines lime, syrup, bitters and egg white to produce a deliciously innocuous tasting, fruity and foamy result. We try a classic and the bizarrely named Montezuma’s headdress, which references an Aztec ruler who lived many thousands of miles from Peru, and also sounds like the sort of thing you might have ordered in a sticky-floored, small town night club in the early 80s. Still it had a pretty feather in it and they both tasted legit.
Aside from the Pisco, I was also here in order to sample another of Peru’s best exports, ceviche – which is essentially raw seafood cured in citrus. We settled on the Ceviche Sampler which comes with three matching wines produced from Torrentes, a grape grown primarily in the deserts of the Salta province in Northern Argentina. The result is an intriguing white which smells sweet but tastes dry and they worked well across the board.
First tuna, in a light marinade of chilli and coriander, was nicely fresh-tasting but under-seasoned and a little bland. Meaty pieces of spiced crab with crisp fried noodles and sweet potato was more impressive and probably the best of the bunch. Finally seabass with asparagus and samphire worked quite nicely although the addition of macadamia nuts didn’t do anything for me. To my mind there was too much experimentation of flavour, stick to the traditional salt, lime and chilli and if you get the balance right you’ll get better results.
That classic marinade used on ceviche is called leche de tigre, or tiger milk, we try the Tiger Milk Fried Chicken next. It packs all the punchy flavour missing from our fish. Crunchy breaded little fillets all spiced and succulent with a fresh Asian-style slaw, it’s a clever little fusion dish which, with its eastern influence, perhaps speaks more of the Peruvian food scene than anything else on offer.
The beef is the other big draw here and, before the main event, we try the Picanha and turtle bean rolls. It’s another playful bit of culinary synthesis, borrowing Vietnamese summer rolls to create a sort of beef and black bean baby burrito. There’s a tempting selection of well thought out small plates to pick through at Peru Perdu and whilst the menu is by no means overbearing, it definitely leaves more than enough reasons to warrant a return trip to try more.
That said, many will just come for the beef- and why the hell not? Steaks here are Uruguayan Wet Aged which, as you might imagine, means the meat comes from Argentina’s similarly cow-mad neighbours and it’s left to mature in its own juices, rather than drying out first. All I can say is if you’re in to this sort of thing, you need come and try one for yourself, seriously. Bife de ribeye is what you can see in the picture above, do you need any more convincing?
A side of fries is available but we try the Humita instead, a soupy concoction of sweet corn, maize flour and mozzarella. It tastes like it came from a can, and I mean that in the best way possible- if you could buy this in tins you’d have a cupboard full. It’s the cheesy, savoury porridge you didn’t know your life was missing.
Getting pudding carved out of a big dish is always a good sign, it means you can blag a bit extra too. The Sweet potato and apple crumble with custard is interesting and worth trying but could do with more apple and less potato for me.
Dulce de leche is like Marmite to Argentinians, except EVERYONE likes it, they spread that caramel nectar on toast in the morning and find a way to work it into most sweet things too. Give the Dulce de leche cheesecake a go and you’ll start to understand why.
South American cuisine is criminally under represented in Manchester, aside from all-you-can-eat-meat, and Peru Perdu is a long overdue addition. Unfortunately you’ve only got six months to go and try something a bit different, get that table booked below:
Peru Perdu at The Cotton Factory
74 Princess St, Manchester M1 6JD