Perhaps when you think about a holiday in Peru, some of the images that cross your mind will be closer to intriguing ancient artifacts displayed at spacious museums than to its restaurant scene. However, it’s the latter one that is one of South America’s most vibrant and exciting!
The Lima restaurant scene is filled with all types of foodie spots, from award-winning fine dining restaurants where Michellin starred chefs reinterpret Peruvian classics to modest but amazing street taste oasis in which the food is always fresh and the desserts are as sweet as happiness. These are the things you simply must try on your trip to Lima.
1. Try the ceviche
Made with the freshest raw fresh fish cooked only in lime juice and mixed with onions, chilli and sea salt, this is an acquired taste for some, but a local delicacy worth discovering. A good place to try ceviche for the first time is at El Punto Azul, in the very tourist-friendly area of Miraflores. It’s close to parks, shopping centers and many interesting sites to visit after the meal has been enjoyed.
2. Dine at Central
If you want to splurge, try Central, recognized by British Restaurant Magazine as the best in Latin America and the 4th Best Restaurant in the World 2016. Its chef, Virgilio Martínez, has earned global respect by approaching ingredients in a manner that evokes that of ancient Andean populations.
3. Head to Tanta for home cooking
Looking for something more casual? Try any of the eight Tanta in the city (or the one in Arequipa). This chain, inspired by Peruvian home cooking, offers a menu that combines tradition and modernity at a very good price. The breakfasts and cocktails alone are reason enough to eat here.
4. Keep it simple with sangucherias
If you want to keep it simple, and just need something tasty and on-the-go, fuel yourself with a sanguche—local slang for a sandwich. There are many sangucherias to choose from. One of the most popular is La Lucha, a few steps from Parque Kennedy, one of the lovely urban green areas the city has to enjoy.
5. Dare to try anticuchos
If you have already mastered the art of devouring ceviche, dare to taste anticuchos, which are marinated beef hearts grilled on a skewer. Adventurous foodies will be rewarded after trying Anticuchos de la Tía Grimanesa, a stall that sells them Monday to Saturday (5:00pm to 11:00pm) at Jr. Ignacio Medino 466 Miraflores.
6. Experiment with Peruvian and Asian fusion foods
You may not know it, but Peru has a very large and integrated Asian community that has left its print on the local food scene. Some of Lima’s best restaurants are a fusion of Peruvian and Far East cuisines.
An example of this is Maido, located at 399 San Martin Street and named 5th best in Latin America by Restaurant Magazine. Chef Mutsuharu Tsumura will help you to discover Nikkei Cuisine, a subtle and sophisticated style of Japanese Cuisine, which gains new twists in the South American capital.
7. Relax at a seaside restaurant
You can’t miss La Rosa Náutica, a gorgeous upscale restaurant that is literally over the sea. You walk through a pier and enter the restaurant after a short stroll. The huge windows allow lots of natural light in and let you appreciate the marine landscape as you enjoy the fabulous seafood.
8. Chocolate lovers must try
For those with a sweet tooth, don’t leave without indulging in chocotejas, one of the most popular local treats. It consists of a nut or dried fruit covered in manjar blanco (imagine a cross between marzipan and soft toffee), which then is covered in chocolate or fondant. Two of the best and most popular are Helena Chocolatier and Chocotejas Buendia. They make great presents, even if is just from you to yourself!
9. Buy some Pisco as a gift
Speaking of presents, a bottle of Pisco will never go unnoticed. Try this traditional grape spirit comparable to Italian grappa or Spanish Orujo. Some good bottles are: Macchu Pisco Quebranta, Psicología Pisco Acholado, Santiago Quierolo Acholado and La Botija Pisco Italian Style.
10. End your trip with Peru’s signature cocktail
Before you leave, make sure you try at least one Pisco Sour, Peru’s signature cocktail consisting of the aforementioned spirit, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg whites. If the ingredients reminds you of popular dessert suspiro limeño, you’re right as this sweet treat mixes meringue over a base of manjar blanco and, often, a boozy touch. You can enjoy both at La Mar Cebichería Peruana.
If you arrive in Lima with an open mind and a big appetite, you will discover new and exciting flavors, from the simple pleasure of great local coffee and chocolates to luxurious liqueurs and from casual city centre pick me ups to top-of-the-world and boutique restaurants. As a final bonus, here’s an insider tip: the amazing Mistura Food Festival will be taking place from 2-11 September this year. It’s a must for all food lovers. Trust me!
Have you explored the gastric delights of Lima? Let us know what some of your favorites were, and what you would recommend for fellow travelers.