Piqueos Carlton North is a restaurant and bar that offers food that is a fusion of Peruvian and Argentinean dishes, flavours and styles. Co-owners Shaun Burke and Dave Mills were inspired to open a South American restaurant in Melbourne after working in Gaucho and Floradita respectively in London. The space is very casual and lends itself to either a full meal, or a drink and some snacks.
Piqueos offers a good selection of Argentinean wines (in fact the wine list is exclusively Argentinean , as well as a very extensive selection of pisco. A decent selection of craft beers and other spirits is also available.
Pisco Sour ($19 each)
Pisco is a grape brandy produced in the wine-making regions of Peru and Chile. A pisco sour (or to be more precise the Peruvian pisco sour, which differs slightly from the Chilean version) contains pisco, lime (or lemon) juice, syrup, ice, egg white and Angostura bitters. The pisco sour was created by an American expat, Victor Vaughn Morris, in Lima in 1921. It is considered the “national drink” of Peru.
Our waiter for the night was co-owner Dave, who was, as you would expect, very knowledgeable about everything on the menu, and very friendly, chatty and enthusiastic.
He made each of our pisco sours with a different pisco. He explained what differentiated each one and we all tried them. You really could taste the difference between some of them. My favourite was the 4th one.
“Cebiche” Locally caught fresh fish, red onion, aji amarillo, sweet potato, sweet corn and lime ($15.00)
The cebiche was very tasty, the locally caught fish being Kingfish. The aji amarillo, which is a type of Peruvian yellow chilli pepper really added a surprising kick to the dish.
“Vieira” Grilled scallop with aji rocoto ($5.50)
The scallops were tasty and grilled just right. Aji rocoto is a red chili that is one of the hottest in Peru. Whenever it was used, there was a noticeable kick.
The empanadas were available in 3 varieties. “Carne” which was beef, olive and egg, “Pollo” which was chicken and char grilled corn, or “Queso” which was cheese, potato and char grilled onion.
They were all tasty, the pastry was not too heavy and the ratio of filling to pastry was perfect. The Queso was the highlight of the three.
“Pulpo” Char grilled octopus, grapefruit and olive ($16.00)
Octopus can often be a hit and miss affair, with many restaurants seeming unable to cook it properly. Thankfully the octopus at Piqueos was cooked perfectly. I’m not generally a fan of grapefruit however it really did add a nice balance to this dish.
“Picada” Pigs head terrine, serrano jamon, bresaola, pickled zucchini and panca olives ($19.00)
I’m a big fan of charcuterie plates so ordering this was a no brainer. It was all very tasty and provided a good mid point to the meal. I love proper jamon so that was, for me, the highlight of this plate.
The bar table extends around the entire bar, which is in the middle of the restaurant. I like the exposed brick used in a context that’s more homely than the usual industrial type environment in which you see it.
“Anticucho de Corazon” Grilled beef heart with red onion and aji rocoto mayonaise ($16.00)
Beef heart in general has a more rubbery texture than beef itself and is very easy to turn into a rubbery “thing” that you don’t want to eat. As with the octopus, the beef heart at Piqueos is cooked just right with a level of sponginess that successfully adds to the dish.
The mussels were the special of the night, and I cannot remember how much they cost or what exactly was added to them (apart from the obvious toast). They were, as with everything else we ate on the night, brilliant, fresh and full of flavour.
“Churrasco” 300g Little Creek grass fed sirloin, 24 hour chimmichurri marinated ($32.00)
After we were done with the piqeuos (the small dishes) and the raciones (the medium sized dishes), we moved onto the food that had been cooked on the parrilla, which is a type of charcoal grill.
The steak was delicious. Charred with a beautiful crust on the outside and melt in your mouth tender on the inside. I only discovered chimmichurri recently and have become a big fan, and the Piqueos version is very tasty.
“Papitas Fritas” Potato chips with aji amarillo mayonnaise ($9.00)
Chunky chips, soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, just the way that chips should be.
“Zanahoria” Blackened carrots and goats curd ($9.00)
I really liked the carrots. A few of my friends commented that the carrots weren’t charred enough, however I thought the char taste was very clearly present.
“Pollito” Peruvian spiced baby chicken ($28.00)
It was a close call between the steak and the chicken, but the general consensus was that this was the highlight of the night. The chicken was super tender and the flavours were something else. An extremely tasty dish.
“Alfajore” Honey, almond spiced biscuit with dulce de leche and roasted coconut ($4.00)
I did not try this one, but the friend who ordered it seemed very happy with it.
“Picarones” Fermented pumpkin doughnut with purple corn jam ($4.00)
With a description like that, there was really no option for me but to choose the picarones. I couldn’t really pick the fermented pumpkin taste wise, however it was obvious that this doughnut was denser than a normal doughnut. I really enjoyed it.
I had heard of Piqueos a few months earlier and was looking forward to visiting for a while. Thankfully when I did visit, I was not disappointed. The food really lends itself to sharing, and as a table of 6 it was perfect. I’ve not had much experience of Peruvian or Argentinean food so cannot comment on how authentic Piqueos is, but what I can tell you is that the ingredients are authentic and of the highest quality and the food is delicious.
A lively neighbourhood vibe, friendly, enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable staff and the chance to try some food and drinks which you may not have tried before makes Piqueos and easy place to recommend.
298 Rathdowne Street
Tue – Thu: 5:30pm to 10:00am
Fri – Sun: 12:00pm to 10:00pm