Peruvian, it’s just like another Spanish restaurant? Right? Or is it……
I think the choice to dine at La Hacienda was a done deal from the get go, considering Peruvian food was the talk of the week after the Peruvian girls smashed it out on MKR; and we later found out that our dining companions were off to Peru at the end of the year, so it was serendipitous that it was going to be Peruvian tonight!
A couple of weeks ago I was in the mood for Spanish food, and being a Saturday night and not having made a table reservation I presumed it was going to be hard to be a walk-up at one of the popular Liverpool and Pitt street establishments, and prepared myself that the Peruvian restaurant around the corner was our back-up option as they also serve Spanish food right? Same same? Then I caught myself, it was a light bulb moment where I realised that Spain and Peru ain’t like Spain and Portugal (neighbouring countries), but they’re 8,800Km apart (according to Siri). *Smacks hand on forehead*. So in short, you can say I didn’t know what to expect from Peruvian food.
La Hacienda is located on the corner of Bathurst and Sussex streets. If you drive into the city or head to the Eastern suburbs from the West, I’m sure you’ve seen it before on the right hand side as you accelerate up Bathurst St. On this Saturday evening, it was packed-out. The first thing which greets the senses is the glorious smell of frying food, and spices! It made me so hungry. And next comes along like a sauntering Salma Hayek, the body-moving Latin music! No wonder Ricky sings of ‘Shake your bon-bon’! As its hard not to! Although we didn’t have a table reservation, but the proprietor quickly (in less than 5 shakes of the hips) made room for our table of 4.
A jug of Chicha Morada- traditional Peruvian beverage made from purple corn
Beef empanadas- minced meat wrapped in pastry
Ceviche Mixto- Mixed seafood marinated in lime juice with red onions served with sweet potato and corn ($30)
Bisteck a lo Pobre- Scotch Fillet, fried egg, fries, rice, fried banana and salad ($25)
Chicken Arroz Chaufa- Peruvian style fried rice ($20)
After our orders were made, we took in our surroundings. I think it’s so refreshing to experience something completely new and different! Considering we’re down here in South CBD, it’s so cool to experience an authentic Peruvian family run business, who are ‘making it’ in this part of town! And I think they’re a literal family run business- there’s dad working the tables who exudes character and nothing is too difficult for him, ‘okey dokey’ and he’s off and he’s back again with whatever you’ve asked him for. There’s the son, who responds immediately to the ‘Service-up’ bell, bringing out the fragrant food to tables. And I’m sure it’s a family affair in the kitchen as well! The restaurant is decorated with what I presume to be Peruvian tapestries; fresh produce (chillies, limes and dragon fruit) placed out as decoration until they’re eventually needed in the kitchen; a TV broadcasting the Peruvian cable channel; and just little touches which may or may not be traditional elements of a casual Peruvian diner. It was just all so quaint and exciting to experience something new for us. And everyone around us were also having a great time, the place buzzed with happy diners.
The first to arrive was the Chicha Morada, a dark purple coloured drink with a complex flavour, which was hard to put a finger on the exact taste. It’s non-carbonated, so it goes down smooth like a Powerade sports drink; it’s quite sweet so you’d probably don’t want to drink this all the time; the best description of the taste, is its like a cross between bubble-gum and blueberry?; and floating on top are little bits of freshly diced green apple, which gives you something to chew on after each mouthful of drink. It was nice, a must-try if you want the authentic Peruvian experience!
Then our empanada entry were served up, I think empanadas are one of the South American dishes people are more familiar with. These Peruvian ones were mostly filled with minced meat with some spices mixed through it. If you haven’t tried one before, think of a Curry puff, but with Mexican flavours?
After the empanadas, there was a bit of a pause before the mains arrived. But it was perfect as it gave us a chance to chat with our dining companions unencumbered by mouthfuls of food. The Latin music was played loud enough that we had to lean in a bit to hear each other. But our table was round and wasn’t that large, so it actually facilitated our table conversations, but it didn’t help later when all the dishes arrived and available table space became hard to come by.
When the food started up again, they all arrived in a flurry!
We first tried the Bisteck a lo Pobre, which was an interesting eclectic dish. As essentially it was steak and fries, but it had a whole bunch of other elements served up as well. There was a fried egg which we didn’t really know what to do with (perhaps you broke the yoke onto the steak?); it came with a bed of spiced rice; some side salad; and best-of-all was the fried banana! I do love cooked fruit with savoury foods! If you were going to dine alone here, $25 for the Bisteck a lo Pobre would be a good dish to order, as you’d get so much variety on a single plate. The scotch fillet was quite thin and cooked well done, so perhaps if you order this dish see if you can specify how you like your steak to be cooked (they don’t ask when you order).
The Ceviche Mixto was the stand-out dish for us, the flavours were what you’d associate with Latin American food. The spices, the acidity, the fresh herbs, it was really tasty! The mixed seafood was fish, prawns, and calamari. The fish was properly ceviche-d, but methinks the shell-fish were pre-boiled and then ceviche-d (which isn’t a problem, as it ensures that it’s cooked through – better safe than sorry).
And lastly was the Chicken Arroz Chaufa, which was essentially a Chinese style fried rice that was on the simpler/fewer ingredients side. It was okay, but you’re talking to a bunch of Chinese here- so I guess this dish was always going to be evaluated harsher (as you can say that we’ve eaten a fair few Fried Rices in our time). Maybe next time we’ll stick to the more quintessential Peruvian dishes. BTW, this dish was my contribution to the group table order. Sorry guys. Hehehe
And to end the night we ordered 2 slices Tres Leches, a sponge cake which is doused with 3 types of dairy products (condensed milk, cream, and evaporated milk). This Peruvian version tasted like it also had a coconut cream, which made it even more moreish and delectable!
Our score for the entire experience, 4.0 stars from 5! (2.5 from 3 for Food (it’s never going to win awards, but it’s the uniqueness which makes it a stand-out!); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (Dad’s positive vibes were infectious); 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (with the Latin music playing, and with the majority of clientele around us speaking Spanish, it felt like you’d stepped into a whole other world. The music was so body-movin’ a couple actually got up and started to salsa); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money (the cost was probably on the higher end for casual dining, but that isn’t a problem if you’re prepared for it)).
La Hacienda in Spanish means a large dwelling house on a plantation, and I think that’s a very apt name for the restaurant here on the corner of Bathurst and Sussex. Tonight has felt like we’ve been welcomed to an affluent Peruvians home, served with the best and the freshest produce the family could possibly offer their guests from the family farm, and it’s this type of variety and cultural diversity we long for in Sydney’s dining scene! We’ll definitely be back, as there are so many other uniquely Peruvian dishes on the menu which we’d like to try. And in principle we’re all for supporting restaurateurs who are staying true to their roots and serving up something authentic to their culture! La Hacienda is definitely worth trying, if you haven’t tried Peruvian food before.
**Note: La Hacienda is only open for evening trade one night a week (Saturday nights), so table reservations are advised. While during the day time La Hacienda is a pretty solid café, serving up all of your usual café foods.
**Thanks(s): We’d also like to thank our dining companions, dining with others enabled us to try more different dishes and thanks for sharing with us your expertise with the dishes from your previous travels to South America. And thanks so much for always reminding us and arranging the dishes so we could take web-worthy pics before we tucked in. Thanks Ron and Stace!
La Hacienda- Saturday 9 February (4.0 Stars)
PH: (02) 8077 8069
Shop 210, 298 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW
Mon – Fri 7am – 4pm
Sat 7am – 9pm
Sun 8am – 5pm
**Accepts cash only