Picanteria-style Peruvian fare is the new face of this subterranean city space.
Strachan Lane's La Chinesca was but a short-lived operation, and already we're welcoming a newcomer in its place. Unveiled a couple of months ago, Peruvian-inspired Harley House comes courtesy of the same four owners (including noted artist, Vincent Fantauzzo) yet charges in an entirely different direction — dishing up modern Peruvian fare in a edgy New York-style basement setting.
Decor-wise, the moody, subterranean space makes all the right noises, combining generous Chesterfield-style booths, polished concrete and exposed brickwork with a selection of Fantauzzo's artwork, evoking just the right amount of darkness.
While the picanteria-style Peruvian dishes being plated up by the kitchen are a touch more light-hearted, they're every bit as well executed, full of bold South American flavours and begging to be shared. They're also surprisingly friendly on the hip pocket.
Navigate the menu on your own terms, or relinquish $49 (along with all responsibility) and let the native chef send out the highlight reel collection. You'll get a delicious introduction to the food and flavours of Peru — and you definitely won't leave hungry.
Warm bread rolls made from tapioca flour and cheese ($9 for four) are an addictive opening note, sided by grassy pisco olive oil and a crunchy popped corn that goes by the name of canchita chulpi. Follow them with sweet and tender grilled scallops — served in a saltado sauce and dolloped with mayonnaise ($21 for four) — and you're off to a salivating start.
In true Peru style, the seafood options here are bountiful. For a flavour and texture hit, try the ceviche of local white fish, which pulls together tender, barely-battered squid, crisp cos lettuce and that same crunchy corn, all bathing in a lime and chilli-infused sauce ($22).
The traditional grill, or parilla, gets a serious workout, between various cuts of beef, a whole spatchcock and some Peruvian skewers called anticuchos. But if it's meat you're after, don't overlook the so-called burgers ($16): these housemade Asian-style steamed buns filled with clever flavours are deserving of a far more exciting name. Get your mouth around the pork belly option, a perfectly balanced creation that teams succulent meat with slivers of red onion, thinly sliced sweet potato and a punchy yellow pepper paste called aji amarillo.
As well as a global selection of beer and wine, the bar offers a solid cocktail lineup (featuring plenty of pisco and rum, mind you), and it's not hard to imagine the space transforming effortlessly into hip, late-night drinking den.
Bring your crew, take advantage of those big, comfy booths and dig into Harley House's menu — even if it's your first taste, it won't be long before you're hooked on Peruvian cuisine.