I visited Lima earlier this year to write a story for Destinations of the World News, a luxury travel and lifestyle magazine based in Dubai. Below is an excerpt from the article, which was published in September, and some of the unpublished photographs I took of the chefs interviewed for the story.
When I first visited Lima, there was just one standout local dish – ceviche: chunks of fresh fish or seafood bathed in the juice of lemons with liberal sprinklings of sea salt, cilantro and sliced red onion. The dish was ubiquitous throughout coastal South America, but in Peru it had found perfection. That was, however, the extent of the Peruvian culinary repertoire as I saw it.
Today, things couldn’t be more different. Lima is now home to a collective of entrepreneurial chefs; pioneers who instigated a culinary revolution in the mid-1990s and helped see it through to its glorious present. Eight Lima restaurants were listed in the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in 2014, and accolades continue to pour in from all over the world.
While the first wave of what would become Peru’s gourmet revolutionaries were learning their craft in the kitchens of Europe, Japan and the US, chefs and restaurateurs in Lima were rediscovering the riches of their own back-garden: native potatoes (of which there are more than 3,000 varieties), Pacific fish and seafood such as succulent octopus, scallop and mahi mahi, myriad varieties of chilli and an abundance of fruits, fish and other ingredients never before used outside the Amazon Basin.
Instead of passing quickly through the Peruvian capital en route to Machu Picchu, tourists and foodies now flock to Lima to eat at restaurants like Astrid & Gastón, Maido and Central, whose epic tasting menus have created a paradigm shift in the way people see Peruvian food; or to rub shoulders with Lima’s beautiful people in places like Bravo Restobar, El Mercado and Fiesta, where chefs have elevated the fine-casual concept to new heights. Armed with this knowledge, it was with a light head and rumbling stomach that I headed to Lima to join the revolution.
The first step on any gourmet adventure in Lima begins with a suitable abode. I found mine at Hotel B in the upmarket Barranco neighbourhood, a charming colonial home turned into a boutique, art- filled hotel. The signature dining and bar concept in the 17-suite luxury hideaway was created by restaurateur Oscar Velarde, owner of the fabled Peruvian/Mediterranean restaurant La Gloria, (Calle Atahualpa 201; +51 1 445 5705; www.lagloriarestaurant. com), which has been catering to Lima’s affluent citizens, politicians and VIPs since 1994.
The intimate dining room at Hotel B, now under the accomplished gaze of executive chef Rose Forbes, bustles with a mixture of hotel guests and locals; Barranco’s increasingly discerning residents are part of a growing middle class in Lima that has fanned the flames of culinary innovation since the mid-1990s.
“I wanted this to be a very relaxed place,” explains Oscar Velarde, as a bartender pours us a Chilcano cocktail: a mixture of Peruvian pisco (distilled grape brandy), lemon juice, ginger ale and Amargo Chuncho bitters. “Five years ago, Barranco was already a bohemian district, but it was only filled with bars. Now, it is changing.”
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