Openings

Eat this: Caracas, Venezuelan casual dining

The brothers behind Peruvian restaurant Lima are looking to make another Latin American cuisine more accessible.

22 July 2019
free-fromfood-to-goLatin Americanpersonalisationrestaurant openingstreet food
image credit: Getty Images
  • The Gist: Venezuelan favourites like arepas and ceviche with interesting sides and desserts
  • The Chefs: Gabriel and Jose-Luis Gonzalez
  • Location: Bakery Court Café, Westfield London, White City, London W12 7GF
  • Food in 5 words: Personalised plates and naughty indulgences
  • See more: www.caracasrestaurants.co.uk

How did we get here?

Restaurateurs Gabriel and Jose-Luis Gonzalez launched on to the food scene back in 2012 with their Peruvian restaurant Lima London, introducing South American ingredients and dishes to the capital before the cuisine really started to make its mark on the UK. They followed that up in 2014 with Floral by Lima, adding a contemporary twist.

Now the brothers are branching out into casual dining with a new concept called Caracas, which will feature the flavours and food of their home country, Venezuela – setting up their first site in a shopping centre in October. Westfield London has footfall of 31m and generates £1bn in sales each year, according to Keith Mabbet, director of leasing for Westfield UK & Italy.

What’s different about it?

Inspired by the popular arepa bars across Venezuela, Caracas aims to revitalise London’s lunchtime scene with the fun, casual spirit of these social hubs.

A signature item on the menu will be the arepa – a flat, dish-shaped cornbread that is gluten-free. Caracas will offer diners the option to customise their arepa with a variety of fillings, including shredded chicken with avocado, braised beef with cheese, and braised beef with black beans and plantain, along with a variety garnishes and sauces. There will also be vegan and vegetarian options.

Food Spark explored the arepa’s potential to take over the taco back in 2017. However, the cornbread wrap has lingered on the street food scene since then. The Gonzalez brothers’ push into casual dining could be the vehicle to bring it the mass appeal it’s found hard to capture so far.

Another menu highlight will be the build-your-own ceviche bowls, a South American take on the popular poke bowl. Aimed at those looking for a healthy lunch, guests will be able to choose between a rice or quinoa base, before selecting from a range of fillings and garnishes.

Sides look to deep-fried goodness, like yuca chips with cheese sauce. For dessert, guests can choose sweet treats like tres leches (a sponge cake soaked in three types of milk) and alfajores (bite-sized shortbreads filled with dulche de leche and rolled in coconut). Fresh juices and smoothies will also be on offer, as well as a range of soft drinks, beers and spirits.

“Jose-Luis and I are so excited to be bringing a taste of Venezuela to the UK with the launch of Caracas,” commented Gabriel Gonzalez. “We’re so proud to come from a country with such a rich food culture and can’t wait to introduce dishes from our childhood to visitors to Westfield London – both Londoners and tourists alike. Venezuelan cuisine is increasing in popularity and we hope to see it embraced by the city we love.”

You’ve got to try…

The signature build-your-own ceviche bowl, called the Vuelve a la Vida, meaning ‘come back to life’ in Spanish.

It features ingredients such as quinoa, salmon, avocado, plantain chips, crispy shallots, mango, coriander, cashews, sesame seeds, ponzu and lime mayonnaise.

Variations on ceviche continue to make in-roads in eating out. Kinilaw & Buko introduced a Filipino version of the dish, while Gamma Gamma has put a Thai twist on it.

Sparkie also likes…

Tequenos, a popular meal in Venezuela that has been transformed into a side dishes at Caracas. These crispy cheese pastries are served with homemade mango chutney. You can’t go wrong with deep-fried cheese, right?

Go if…

You’re shopping for a spot of Latin soul food as well as an oversized summer hat.

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