Lima is the country’s gastronomic hub. It’s home to Surquillo Market, famed for the variety of its produce, from the Andes to the Amazon – both only an hour’s flight away. It also has restaurants run by an increasing number of celebrity chefs in the upscale barrios of Miraflores and San Isidro.
“We Limeños love to eat and we like to take our time,” a Peruvian friend told me. “Eating is like making love – it shouldn’t be rushed. Lunch can easily take two, three, four hours.”
You’ll need at least four hours for the 30-course tasting menu at Astrid y Gastón, Acurio’s flagship establishment, which makes regular appearances on ‘world’s best restaurant’ lists. He’s known for his innovative use of traditional ingredients: he’s elevated the humble causa (cold mashed potato layered with avocado and seafood) to an art form, reconstructed ceviche, and recreated staples such as mazamorra morada (purple corn pudding) in gourmet form.
Rising star Virgilio Martínez worked at restaurants around the globe before returning home to open Central. His creative ten-course tasting menu combined the finest produce from around the country and it was a revelation: suckling pig came smoked over palo santo wood; desserts came infused with eucalyptus dry ice; herbs came from the restaurant’s mezzanine-floor garden, as well as high-altitude slopes.
But it isn’t all about haute cuisine. In the huariques – small, inexpensive traditional restaurants – you’ll find dishes such as papas a la Huancaína (slices of boiled potato in a spicy, cheesy sauce) and caldo de gallina (a chicken, noodle broth that’s a popular hangover cure).
At hole-in-the-wall sandwich joint, La Lucha Sangucheria Criolla, there’s always a queue for its traditional roast pork and crackling doorsteps.
I bought picarones – a kind of deep-fried doughnut made from squash and flavoured with cinnamon and anise – from a street stall and joined the crowd that gathers for the nightly arrival of Grimanesa Vargas and her grill-on-wheels. For more than 30 years she’s cooked her anticuchos – Peruvian kebabs, made with beef heart marinated in vinegar, garlic, cumin and smoky chilli – to perfection. They were worth the wait.
Photography: El Comercio newspaper, Living in Peru portal, Lima esta de moda portal