Restaurant Review: Falling for Cusco’s Fallen Angel
May 27, 2014
Judging by the name alone, you could be forgiven for thinking that The Fallen Angel is some den of iniquity where only the brave or the foolhardy would dare to enter. In fact a Peruvian TV programme once wrongly described it as a gay night club, much to the annoyance of Andrés Zuñiga, the Cusco-born owner of this rather surprising and justifiably popular restaurant, who succinctly pointed out in an interview, “we are not a discoteque, we are a restaurant.”
It’s a restaurant, not a discotheque, obviously
The Fallen Angel is located in a grand colonial building at one of Cusco’s swishiest addresses – the utterly delightful Plaza Nazarenas – and entering into the fantasy world of this absolutely fabulous restaurant, it is easy to see why the more parochial and unworldly might jump to all the wrong conclusions as to just what goes on here.
A Very Visual Feast
Stone arches link a series of rooms where red, black and intense sky-blue walls are adorned with fantastical original artworks by local contemporary artists; flying pigs with enormous, staring eyes and luxuriantly curled eye lashes hang from a vast expanse of faux-stalactites – a ceiling resembling the fluffy peaks of a giant upturned meringue; diners perch on soft stools covered in leopard, zebra and tiger prints, or lounge on seas of scarlet and black vinyl-covered love-heart cushions on brass-framed day beds; and glass-topped bath-tubs doubling as illuminated aquaria, some even with resident goldfish serve as suitably quirky dining tables.
Step into my world: The Fallen Angel’s welcoming entrance
Standing resplendently in the central covered patio, above which resident guests (yes, you can stay here too) can survey all the goings-on beneath from a traditional wooden balcony, is an imposing silvery angel, complete with giant, outstretched wings. In the bar area, soft red and violet lighting reflects off the tiny twinkling mirrors of no less than seventeen disco glitter balls of assorted sizes, as relaxing chill-out sounds waft through the air.
It sounds like high camp, and in truth you wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Liza Minelli descended from the patio balcony singing Life is Cabaret, but the overall ambiance is also welcoming, romantic, decadent and unique – certainly in Cusco.
More Than Just A Meal
But it’s a restaurant, right? Not a Baz Lurhmann film set, so who cares about the décor? To be fair if you go with that attitude you may be disappointed as the menu is not cheap – in fact it is definitely at the pricey end of Cusco’s diverse restaurant scale – and if you are one of those people who remains unmoved by art and interior design, you might feel short-changed. But if you can think of it as a restaurant-cum-gallery, and of that bit extra you are paying to eat here as your admission to a private art collection, then you’ll probably love it.
Reviews of the food at The Fallen Angel are certainly mixed, particularly of the “signature” beef tenderloin dishes. In my view, Peruvian cuisine has so much more to offer than steak but if you are determined to have one, maybe you should try Uchu, just down the road. Now, I may have only eaten here once so maybe we just struck it lucky with our choices, but my experience was definitely positive. For me a good meal is about more than just the food anyway, and on balance everything here worked very well together, rather like the individual parts of a harmony which are pleasant enough on their own but together become much more memorable.
ENTERTAINMENT TIP: If looking for fun at night, or to watch sports during the day, or even a taste of home, visit the Wild Rover Hostel Cusco for great food, sports and beer! Entrance to their bar is free even for non-guests
The English-Spanish speaking staff were professional and unobtrusive, sporting Fallen Angel T-shirts embroidered with cute gold lame wings – available for purchase at 70 Soles each. We were particularly impressed that our waitress managed to remember almost our entire order without actually writing it down – risky but it paid off, just. She did forget our mineral water, but to be honest we had only ordered it to assuage the guilt of drinking cocktails – a great cosmopolitan and very dry gin martini – and a bottle of chilled Peruvian white wine, served correctly in a huge ice bucket.
Inventive Takes on Classic Peruvian
Starters were served promptly and proved exciting to both the eye and the palate. The chicharron consisted of five stacks of tender deep fried pork belly on a crispy slice of sweet potato with a topping of marinated slice red onion. And the Andean trout ceviche was beautifully presented in a white bowl on ice with a topping of crispy strips of sweet potato. The ceviche marinade was slightly on the salty side, but the portion was generous, with at least a dozen good-sized cubes of fresh trout so I really shouldn’t have needed to drain the bowl.
Softly-lit starter: chicharron of pork belly
Mains were equally well presented and the flavours of our pork loin and magret of duck more than lived up to expectations. Described as pork medallions on the menu, what actually appeared was a huge pork loin chop with a sublime physallis sauce – reminiscent of a sweet and sour fig jam. The duck, whilst on first glance looked on the small side, was resting on a very generous bed of smooth sweet potato mash. It was perfectly cooked – rare but still tender – and all the better for being something that you don’t see too often in Cusco.
Piggin out on pork: Main course chop with physallis sauce
Apologies to dessert fans but once again I was too full to even attempt a sweet finale, but for the purposes of this review that may be all rather academic as our after-meal discussion with the charming Maitre d’ revealed that the entire menu is to change imminently.
The Bottom Line
Starters are currently priced from 30 to 36 Soles while our chicharron and ceviche were 32 Soles (£7 or US$11.50) and 36 Soles (£7.75 or US$13) respectively. Main course pasta dishes start at 40 Soles (£8.50 or US$15) and those beef tenderloins with various sauces start at 45 Soles (£9.50 or US$17). Other mains which currently include trout, swordfish and mahi-mahi start at 42 Soles (£9 or US$15) and our pork and duck main courses were 45 Soles (£9.50 or US$17) and 49 Soles respectively (£10.50 or US$18.50).
The extensive and very tempting cocktail list, including a range of local Chilcanos and Pisco sours starts at 18 Soles (£1.75 or US$6.50) and the list of South American, South African and Spanish wines are priced from 85 Soles (£18.25 or US$30.50)a bottle or 18 Soles by the glass.
If you like the idea of eating in a restaurant, the style and ambience of which you are unlikely to have seen before – and certainly not likely to find anywhere else in Cusco – then The Fallen Angel would be a great choice for one of those more off-the-wall nights out in Cusco.
It is popular with couples and groups so despite the excellent chill-out music and generally relaxed ambiance, it can get noisy at times. And although the large patio area is covered, and there are space-heaters outside, the open archways between the indoor and outdoor areas mean, bizarrely, that it can get chilly in the inside area where there are no heaters. We ended up putting our coats across our knees and keeping our sweaters on. Finally, if you don’t like cigarette smoke you will not be happy that smoking is tolerated in the “outside” area – mainly because it’s not really outside and the smoke can quickly permeate the whole restaurant. At least it did when we were there. Still, I guess it’s in keeping with the whole decadent vibe that makes The Angel Fallen.
Would I go back? Well, given that the new menu is out soon, and based on the quality of what we ate on our recent visit I will just have to. Only this time I will try to leave room for a dessert. Oh, and I need to try and get some better pictures of the food too!
Monday to Saturday 11am to 11pm
Sunday 2pm to 11pm