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Peru on a Plate: A Culinary Guide to Lima

Chef’s Table star Virgilio Martínez takes Luxury Defined on a tour of the coastal capital’s top tables

Home to countless food markets, three establishments ranked on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 list, and a unique cuisine reflecting both the Amazon rainforest and Andes mountain range, Lima is a dream destination for gastronomy lovers. Add its property investment opportunities, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Here, Virgilio Martínez, owner of Michelin-starred Central, guides Luxury Defined around Lima’s top tables.

Lima’s food scene

Lima’s fine-dining scene has always been buoyant, but it only recently started to be recognized on the world stage, thanks in large part to Virgilio Martínez, who featured in Series 3 of the popular Netflix Chef’s Table. His restaurant Central is currently ranked sixth on the 2018 list, and a reservation there is still the hottest in town.

Martínez rates other high-ranking institutions Maido (No. 7) and Astrid & Gastón (No. 39) as equals, and, with a fresh perspective after moving premises to trendy Barranco earlier this year, the Peruvian is optimistic about his city’s food future.

Chef Virgilio Martínez at work in the mountains outside of Lima, Peru. Photograph: MIL. Banner image: Banner image: Ocean-facing Miraflores. Photograph: Getty Images

“It’s taken a long time for we Peruvians to embrace our culinary traditions and regional cuisines, but we can now talk about Lima as a dining destination,” he says. “My generation trained in Europe’s kitchens but the next generation has only ever worked in Lima’s high-end restaurants, which adds a highly Peruvian perspective.”

Exploring Barranco

At the start of the 20th century, the coastal district of Barranco was the destination for upper-class limeños to vacation, with many owning distinctive Republican-style summer houses facing the Pacific Ocean. Fast-forward 100 years, Barranco is back in fashion, and property investors should take a closer look, says María José Borquez of Borquez & Asociados, the exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in Peru.

“It’s a bohemian and artistic district that’s been transformed over the past decade, and luxurious buildings have been built on piers to offer exclusive waterfront views,” she says. “Home to Museo Mario Testino (MATE) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC), Barranco is attracting young property buyers thanks to its medium-rise buildings and loft-style apartments, as well as properties along the Miraflores boardwalk offering Pacific Ocean views.” Boutique hotels such Casa República and Hotel B, as well as art galleries, have also seized the opportunity to revamp the beautiful former summer homes and bring them up to date, adding to the district’s regeneration.

In Barranco colorful colonial architecture reflects the neighborhood's bohemian feel. Photograph: Shutterstock

After working 10 years in the Miraflores district, Martínez moved Central to Barranco in June 2018—and he’s thrilled with the change. “Barranco is Lima’s most cultural district and a lot of artisans—such as ceramicists with whom we’ve worked with at the restaurant—are based here. That bohemian and cultural spirit is very much in line with Central and our biological and cultural research center Mater Iniciativa. Barranco is small, pretty, and everybody knows everybody. On Sundays, we walk around the picturesque plazas, and wander from artisan baker to cheesemaker to carpenter. I love it.”

One of Martínez’s favorite dining spots is Isolina, whose hearty limeño classics such as chicken gizzard stew created by chef José del Castillo have put it firmly on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018. As for the next generation, in August Pía León—Central’s former head chef and Martínez’s wife—opened Kjolle, which takes a more casual dining approach with family-style dishes. Mérito, a 20-seat space which gives Venezuelan staples such as arepas a luxurious twist, is another newcomer to the district.

Isolina restaurant Barranco Lima Peru
Virgilio Martinez calls Isolina Restaurant, located in Lima's Barranco neighborhood, an institution.
Founded by renowned fashion photographer Mario Testino in 2012, MATE is a not-for-profit contemporary art gallery that celebrates Peru's contribution to global arts and culture, through exhibitions, residencies, and events, alongside a permanent display of works by Testino. Photograph: MATE

The Magic of Miraflores

Ocean-facing Miraflores was Martínez’s stomping ground for 10 years, beyond its abundance of restaurants, it also makes a great family base thanks to its green spaces. “Like Barranco, Miraflores has also been rejuvenated, attracting young families looking for high-standard apartments in medium-rise developments overlooking parks, and offering amenities such as gyms and swimming-pools, says Borquez.

Maido Miraflores Lima Peru restaurant fine dining
The snacks menu at Lima's Maido restaurant, located in Miraflores, is a creative fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine, known as Nikkei. Photograph: Maido

When it comes to fine dining, Miraflores is home to Maido. Its elaborate Nikkei (Peruvian-Japanese) tasting menu is designed by chef Mitsuharu Tsumura, and incorporates traditional ingredients such as cuy (guinea pig) with nigiri.  Other dining musts include ámaZ, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s establishment, which features giant snails on the menu. At Tia Grimanesa, a former street-food vendor specializing in anticuchos, diners now queue around the block for classic beef-heart skewers.

One Miraflores must, according to Martínez, is La Mar Cebichería, which only opens for lunch to ensure it serves the freshest seafood, including huge bowls of sole cebiche swimming in spicy leche de tigre salsa.

The neighborhood is also the culinary playground for young chefs of Lima, who honed their skills at the city’s top kitchens before flying solo. André Patsias, who trained at Central, opened sustainably minded Statera earlier this year, and following a spell at Astrid & Gastón, Bolivian chef María Paula Baldiviezo Peredo serves elegant comfort food such as a squid-ink bao at Alinea Bistró. Mó Bistró and La Niña are also welcome additions for their excellent brunches and a tasting menu paired with natural wines, respectively.

San Isidro Peru Ocean Neighborhood Property
Amenities in high-rises in the San Isidro neighborhood of Lima, Peru, stand out from those in Miraflores and Barranco to include home cinemas, personal wine cellars, play rooms, and staff quarters such as resting spaces and kitchen facilities for drivers.

Luxury San Isidro

Lima’s financial district San Isidro houses both banks and luxury high-rise apartment blocks, making it a convenient location for business travelers. “San Isidro is a mixed neighborhood where top financial HQs are located, and it also has an exclusive residential sector in front of Lima Golf Club whose luxurious apartments vary in size between 3,229 square feet (300 sq m) and 10,764 square feet (1,000 sq m),” says Borquez.

Astrid & Gastón San Isidro
Astrid & Gastón is housed in a colonial mansion in Lima's San Isidro, the history of which dates back to the 17th Century.

San Isidro’s top restaurant is Astrid & Gastón. Housed in Casa Moreyra—a stunning colonial-era mansion—pastry chef Astrid Gutsche and husband Gastón Acurio kickstarted Lima’s ascension to the global food stage 24 years ago, albeit with French cuisine. These days, however, their tasting menu focuses on Peruvian ingredients, interpreted by international styles, such as guinea pig dim sum.

Other San Isidro dining hotspots include Cosme, which specializes in Peruvian comfort food with Asian touches, and newcomer 500 grados, where delectable goodies—ideal for a leisurely brunch—are baked in two super-hot wood ovens.

Dishes at Cosme in Lima's San Isidro neighborhood focus on sustainability and local, seasonal produce

On the market

With all that it has to offer, Lima is an exciting location for a vacation or second home. Read on for details of properties now available through Borquez & Asociados, the exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in Peru.

Neo-Baroque mansion
This exquisite 14-bedroom, eight-bath Neo-Baroque mansion in Miraflores was built in 1931 and took seven years to construct. Inside, the French influence is apparent in the original wood floors, high carved ceilings, and deeply pigmented walls.

This stunning 14-bedroom Neo-baroque mansion has original wood floors, and high-carved ceilings. On the market with Borquez & Asociados Limitada, the exclusive affiliate of Christie's International Real Estate in the region