13 Mar 2013

Spirits: Guillaume Glipa

IN THE aftermath of International Pisco Sour Day, Douglas Blyde talks to Guillaume Glipa, General Manager of Coya, London’s latest Peruvian restaurant. 
What is your background?
I was born in Bordeaux, where my grandparents worked among vines. My cousin, Dimitri, has an estate in the Cotes du Roussillon – Mas Mudigliza (www.masmudigliza.fr). We stock his Maury at Coya, which we partner with our dessert, Fortunato Fondant with roasted white chocolate ice cream, almond, and coconut biscuit.
Where did you work before?
It seems like I’ve always been surrounded by wines, spirits and food. After managing Japanese restaurant, Jewel Bako in New York (where I lived for nine years), I landed in London in 2004, to help open Michelin-starred Kyoto restaurant, Umu. The owner Marlon Abela, was interested in my sommelier background and knowledge of Sake. Then I looked after the bar and restaurant at The Sanderson, buying beverages for this and sister hotel, St. Martin’s Lane. I subsequently managed Zuma, Knightsbridge for two years, and helped open Massimo’s at The Corinthia.
What inspired a Peruvian Restaurant? 
Arjun Waney (co-owner of Zuma, Roka, La Petit Maison, Aurelia and the Arts Club) wanted to open a Latin American restaurant for some time. Along with head chef, Sanjay Dwivedi, we spent an intensive month travelling in Latin America, tasting relentlessly – up to three lunches and dinners a day! Having completely fallen under its’ spell, we wanted to embrace and celebrate the whole continent: Brazilian music, Peruvian food, Havana music in the members bar, and an extensive tequila, mezcal, rum and Pisco list. Both Chile and Peru claim to have invented the latter, a muscat brandy. The rivalry is similar to Ecuador and Peru, who each claim to have invented Ceviche, a dish of marinated raw fish or seafood, which we serve and personalise, sometimes with truffle.
What is Pisco Sour Day? 
In 2003, then president of Peru, Alejandro Toledo declared the first Saturday in February would become Pisco Sour Day. It was also decided that the Pisco Sour would be used for official toasts at the presidential palace. To further underline the importance of the drink, a Pisco Sour museum even exists in Paracas. To celebrate the spirit of Pisco, we created special shots, served on crushed ice. We infused these with mango, pineapple, raspberry, passion fruit, pear and strawberry. Our bar manager, Jun Nartia, who used to be at Shochu Lounge (beneath Zuma), is keen to try his hands at herbs next. But it’s not an easy process – herbs can bring bitterness to the spirit.
Can you drink Pisco with the dishes? 
We recommend a Pisco Sour (Pisco, lime juice, egg whites, simple syrup, and bitters) as an aperitif. There is a saying in Peru that “every conversation starts with Pisco”. It also works with Ceviche – the sharpness and acidity of lime in the dish works with the sourness and freshness of Pisco.
From where do you source your Pisco?
We work with Amathus, as well as small suppliers such as Peruvian Enterprises (www.peruvianenterprises.com).
How has Coya been received? 
Since we opened three months ago, we’ve received outstanding feedback. After working for almost 20 years in the restaurant business, I’ve never seen guests return so fast. Some come on Monday with friends; the friends return on Wednesday, and by Friday, the original guests are back...
What is the background of the chef, Sanjay Dwivedi? 
As well as spending considerable time researching and touring South America, Sanjay has cooked at Zaika, The Ivy, Le Caprice and the Greenhouse in London, and Astrid Y Gaston in Madrid. He was also a touring chef for the Rolling Stones! Sanjay took time to discover suppliers, some of whom weren’t used to working with a 100-cover restaurant, to bring us the best staples of Peruvian cuisine, including corn, potatoes and chillies.
What else is special about Coya? 
Katy Prado, a former opera singer, is one of my favourite acts in our ground floor members bar. We’re about popular music and ever positive imagery - the sun, beach and sea. We also run exhibitions, including one by Peruvian photographer, Martin Chambi. In the club, as in the restaurant and bar, we strive to attract a young, vibrant, clientele from different backgrounds - not just hedge funders and bankers, but people working in the fashion and restaurant industries.
For Harper's Wine & Spirit magazine