By Baldwin Ho

If you were asked what’s your culinary highlight of Elephant and Castle, most people would struggle to name any; but fear not, there is a shining beacon of light that has recently arrived on the scene in the form of Paladar. It is a Latin-American restaurant that encompasses the many exotic flavours and characters of both the Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries in Southern and Central America as well as some of the islands of the Carribean.

The decor at Paladar is easily one of the most vibrant and welcoming in the area with an impressive wall mural which transports you to the heart of a Latin American jungle. The service here is as exuberant as you would expect with the team coming from all over the region such as head chef Jose Rubio Guevara, from Colombia and worked at places like Oblix and Soho House whilst sommelier Rafael Cabezas-Castro is from Ecuador and worked at great venues like Gordon Ramsay, Jason Atherton’s Maze and Sushisamba.

The menu is a sharing concept and divided into sections like The Sea, The Farm, and The Land. Every dish we tried was faultless and had a degree of flair which you see more often in Michelin-starred restaurants rather than a “neighbourhood” restaurant. Grilled octopus was exquisitely presented and the meat was far from the chewy version people typically expect but resembled more lobster meat and there was a beautiful variation of textures and flavours from the candied lime, red onion pickle, and tempura breadfruit. Whilst sweetcorn, quinoa, chipotle and crumbled home-made cheese salad is the type of vegetarian dish that would give meat-eaters serious food envy.

Roast chicken isn’t a dish I typically order when reviewing a restaurant but the succulent meat here was expertly flavoured with an unusual chocolate-chilli sauce, with the sweetness of the chocolate and the tang of the chilli making this probably the most exciting roast chicken dish I’ve had in many years. With the abundance of cocoa in South America, it’s hardly surprising to see chocolate also appearing in the roast aubergine dish with fried beans, black sauce, and Maya hummus.

However, it isn’t overly used in their dessert section and only as a dip for their blue corn churros. Personally, I would recommend their soursop mousse for a refreshing alternative and something palate-cleansing. It comes with a fresh mango and passionfruit glaze.

I would also recommend staying behind in their bar area to enjoy their extensive list of Latin American wines and spirits.

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