The Gastronomic Delights of Peru
When most people think of Peru, they think of majestic ruins, epic landscapes and Andean culture and heritage. What they might not be aware of is the explosion of culinary delights now awaiting visitors. Lima has been touted as the gastronomic centre of South America for some time, but smaller restaurants – which have gone somewhat unnoticed – have now popped up in the towns and villages of this extraordinary land. Having eaten our way around the country, we felt that this was a great injustice and a light should be shone on some of the best places to treat the taste buds beyond the capital.
It would be madness for an article on food in Peru not to at least run through the many wonderful experiences on offer in the capital city. Mention Lima and you must first speak of its trump cards: Maido and Central. Both in the top 10 on ‘The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list, they are famed for their original use of local produce and flavours. If you are going for a lifetime memory, these two will not disappoint. Astrid & GastÃ³n is another one that should be spoken of in the same breath and delivers a similarly special culinary experience. But these three are no secrets.
A restaurant that doesn’t get the same hype is Huaca Pucllana, named after the 1,500-year-old adobe ruin it overlooks. This unique backdrop is the perfect accompaniment to your feast of ceviche and sea bass stew, washed down with a fine glass of white wine. Similarly, Rafael often slips under the radar, with the attention going to its flashier neighbours. This excellent spot is wholly unpretentious and focuses on the food and flavours. A nice, intimate atmosphere makes every visit a delight.
Finally, on the more local side of things, there is Costazul Seafood Restaurant. This low-key offering serves up a thoroughly tasty slice of traditional Peruvian food. With fresh produce, simple presentation and thoroughly delicious fare, it makes a good contrast to the smarter options in town.
Nearly all of our clients will spend some time in Cuzco on a visit to Peru, and most will experience some superlative dinners recommended by our experts. In many ways, the city is the equal of Lima for range and depth when it comes to food. Though maybe not quite matching it for world-class establishments, it nonetheless has fabulous eateries in abundance.
Our personal favourite has always been Cicciolina. With its lovely tapas and welcoming décor, it is the perfect place for a long lunch, a quick snack or an epic dinner. The beetroot ravioli is our favourite, but time and time again, the dishes deliver intense flavours from all over the country. We always book far in advance for clients wishing to eat here, as it fills up fast during peak hours.
There are also some excellent fine-dining restaurants in Cuzco, with Qespi and Le Soleil both bringing a tasty and elegant option to the table. Peruvian cuisine isn’t traditionally lavish and the heartier fare available at UCHU Peruvian Steakhouse or Morena Peruvian Kitchen is every bit as fabulous but without the fanfare. Amazing for families and those looking for a scrumptious and substantial meal, both have varied menus for all but with a few unique platefuls thrown in. Similarly, local takes on fine dining, such as Faustina and Inkazuela, dish up some wonderful creations and flavours, but with a great price and a more Andean feel.
Not far from Cuzco is one of Peru’s crown jewels: the Sacred Valley. This unimaginably stunning region will take your breath away with its natural beauty and ancient history. Most of our clients stay in hotels that are so fantastic that they might not feel the need to go out, but it is quite fun to spend one night at MIL, sister to Central in Lima. It is, by all accounts, exceptional.
One restaurant that has been a long-time favourite is 3 Keros. Originally very basic, this gem flourished in the small town of Urubamba due to its uncomplicated yet tasty regional dishes and its convivial and charming host, Ricardo Behar – a winning combination. It is simple in décor yet the food presentation has improved dramatically. Now visitors can expect exceptional and unusual food that is also beautiful and appealing.
Just up the road in Ollantaytambo is the excellent El Albergue. This quaint hotel and organic farm also boasts a fantastic little restaurant. They grow much of the produce themselves and the variety and originality are noteworthy. A bonus for those interested in authenticity is the pachamanca here. Eating food cooked in a traditional Peruvian ‘earth oven’ is a great cultural experience – and tastes fantastic too.
Leaving the rolling hills of the Sacred Valley behind and moving south-east, right to the border with Bolivia, we come to Puno. This little town is not distinctive in itself but it lies on the shores of the spectacular Lake Titicaca. There were very few good food options here until 2015, when a group of French friends decided to remedy this and created the sublime La Table del’ Inca. The fusion of French and Peruvian really comes together here and if you wish to try cuy (or ‘guinea pig’) anywhere, this would be the place. From ambience to presentation and flavour, La Table is light years ahead of the competition. For clients spending just one night in Puno, we strongly suggest that you eat here. If you have two, you should eat here twice.