Things to do in Lima

Dining at Central, eating through Lima's iconic food, going for a food tour and saying hi to Paddington Bear (2 - 4 September 2017)
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Lima was our first exciting destination into South America, a part of the world that Y and I have never been to and we were so stoked to be here with R, as part of Y’s celebratory 40th birthday trip. We flew from Singapore to Los Angeles to chill for a few days before making our way to Lima via Latam Airlines, not the cheapest airfare I must say, since they are the only airlines that fly direct from Los Angeles to Lima. Anyhow, the flight experience was pretty decent, and we caught the most amazing views as the pilot told us to observe the views as we arrived into Lima. It was so surreal seeing the tips of the Andes mountain ranges peeping through the clouds, it only goes to show how high they are! See my video below.

Catching 40 winks in the Business Class of Latam Airlines from Los Angeles to Lima.

Lima, Peru’s capital city earned its latest appellation last year as the Gastronomic Capital of South America and for many good reasons. Lima’s gastronomic culture is diverse due to its rich culture and geographic location. This country has the advantage of enjoying amazing fresh seafood from the Amazon Basin as well as the most exotic fruits and vegetables, you will be shocked to know how many type of potatoes they have in this country! The key pillars of its cuisine are centered in Spanish and Andean, and has a predominant Asian influence giving rise to what they call the Nikkei food experience – a combination of Japanese and Peruvian food, which is due partly to the large Japanese population it has (it has the 2nd largest after Brazil). And not forgetting what is unique to this culinary city is Amazonian food with restaurants like Amaz that has given a contemporary spin on what is the typical traditional Peruvian food. Lima is also home to top restaurants such as Central, Maido and Astrid Y Gaston in the World’s 50 Best list of restaurants. It was tough making a decision on where to go, but I definitely ate like there’s no tomorrow in my 3 days in Lima, with some key sightseeing spots here and there, so here’s my recommendations of the best things to do in Lima!

Ceviche and Pisco Sour at La Mar (Av Mariscal La Mar 770, Miraflores 15074, Peru, no reservations, open Mon – Thurs: 12 to 5 pm, Fri – Sun: 12 to 5.30 pm)

Ceviche is  pretty much the national dish here and the dish that Peruvians likely eat the most. Out of the 2 places in this trip (the other being El Mercado), I preferred La Mar in terms of its offerings. Other than the classic ceviches, definitely try the Tiraditos with Andean trout, avocado, toasted corn and artichoke leche de Tigre. This is heaven for seafood lovers, as they also have a great selection of seafood platters and grilled seafood. Don’t forget to get a pisco sour when you are here too, another must have cocktail!

Munching on snacks while waiting, and the Tiraditos I mentioned to order! 

Central Restaurant – have a one of a kind culinary journey celebrating Peru’s biodiversity (Calle Santa Isabel 376, Miraflores, Lima, Tel: +51 1 242 8515)

Bookings at Central are definitely not easy given it’s No. 5 position in the 2017 World’s 50 Best Restaurant, and Central has been pretty much pivotal in helping Lima to become one of the world’s top culinary destinations. Thanks to our journalist friend Sylvester from Icon Magazine Singapore, we were introduced to Ingrid, the head of Reservations, who kindly helped to arrange a lunch reservation for us, yeah! Having watched Virgilio Martinez on Netflix Chef’s Table, it was really exciting for us to finally be here to see here and taste the cuisine. Virgilio Martínez runs Central’s kitchen with his wife, Pia León and developed this unique altitude-based menu concept together and he brought on his sister Malena who has a science background, to help him search for ingredients at different terrains that can be used in the restaurant. Dining at Central takes diners on a unique journey through every altitude of the country – from 20 metres below sea level to 4,100 metres above it, in 17 courses, reflecting the Andes, Amazon and the sea – and it’s aptly titled Mater Elevations.

The courses were superbly presented, artistic and some dishes really looked like miniature examples of the landscape one might see here in Peru. I loved in particular the plant based dishes (surprisingly), which was a super discovery of local Peruvian plants for me, much to my delight. The Lofty Andes allowed me to enjoy their local potato Huayro baked in Maras salt, served with a super punchy sauce.  The most iconic visual dish had to be the “The Waters of Nanay”, a crisp made from the skin of piranhas, served with coco leave and piranha flesh. It looked scary and beautiful at the same time, and was delicious! My favourite seafood dish had to be the sea urchin paired with the local Pepino melon, which paired so well together! At the end of the meal, we received a really nice handmade notebook with beautiful sketches of plants, and flowers used in Central, and took a tour around their beautiful herb garden. I was so stuffed and happy! And the 17-course meal priced at 510 Peruvian Neuvo Sol per head is amazingly reasonable given the type of experience we had.

Course 1 – 9

Course 10 – 17

Taking a tour around their herb and vegetable garden. Very organised as expected! 

Pic with Central dream team and Chef Virgilio Martinez

Nikkei Experience at Maido (399 San Martin Street, Miraflores, Lima, Tel: +51 1 447 7554. Reservations a must.)

Look no further than at Maido to experience one of the true classic Nikkei experiences in Lima. We opted for the 13-course Nikkei experience – Chef’s recommended degustation menu. Some of the favourite dishes I enjoyed included the Shrimp and Seaweed tempura served with chawanmushi on the side, the popular humble hotdog reinterpreted using an octopus and fish sausage which tasted amazingly like a meat sausage! A shrimp dumpling, with skin from cactus served with a prawn reduction was my favourite main courses. Personally, out of the fusion methods with Japanese food, this is still my least favourite, as compared to Jap-Italian, Jap-French, but it’s all very personal and just boils down to taste preferences. Still worth a shot to try if you want a taste of Nikkei.

Shrimp and seaweed tempura, sherry cracker with avocado and pork belly, with chawanmushi

Toro nigiri with black chilli 

Food Culinary Tour with Penelope Alzamora

We wanted to do a culinary tour to visit the markets and learn to whip up some classic Peruvian dishes. Thanks to Lightfoot Travel’s arrangement, on our last day in Lima, we met with Penelope Alzamora, a Peruvian chef who studied and worked in Boston and San Francisco before settling back in Lima. She was super personable and friendly, and took us on a tour around the San Isidoro Mercado Market, to buy some of the ingredients she would be using later in the cooking demo, and also to show us some of the interesting stalls around. The most remarkable to me, were definitely the fruit stall – Fruiteria Ortiz, the mecca of all fruit stalls. If not for the fact, Lima was just our first stop, I would have loved to buy these fruits and bring back to Singapore, especially my favourite Cherimoya (similar to our soursop but even yummier). There was an interested natural remedy store to cure everything from headaches, to arthritis, with everything made from herbs, including coca leaves which is used commonly here to cure altitude sickness. We didn’t dare buy the coca leaves of course (might get stopped at customs), but bought some natural creams for muscle aches to try out. And oh oh, they had the most amazing nuts stall, definitely worth buying some back home, especially the caramelised ones are just yums!

Penelope with the store owner of the herbal remedies.

Fruteria Ortiz fruit stall – amazing can I buy them all? 

After the fun market shopping, we headed back to Penelope’s apartment in Barranco (sidenote to myself, I said that I probably won’t mind staying in this area if I lived in Lima, heh heh), to learn how to make some mean Pisco Sour, grilled scallops and ceviche. It was a pretty fun experience and we had good time chatting before having to head off for our other meal plans after this. My big furry brain can’t seem to remember all of the ingredients so thank god for the pictures I took to document it, definitely a lot of lime went into seasoning the ceviche, it’s probably their national fruit!

Enjoying the grilled scallops and pisco sour.

Penelope prepping the fish for ceviche.

Hanging out in the dining room with Penelope, enjoying her ceviche.

Meat fest at Osso (I visited the more central location at Av Santo Toribio 173 and Av Central 172, Torre Real 6 San Isidro, Opposite the Swisshotel, Tel: +511 469-7438. Original shop at Calle Tahiti 175 La Molina, Lima, Peru, Tel: +51 1 352 9915)

If at some point, you do get “ceviched-out”, this is an amazing place to enjoy some serious meats. Thanks to our other Singapore journalist friend Geoffrey Eu who recommended this to us, I was so glad I came to this place, except that I wish we had a larger group of people to try more meats. This place is worth a visit for any meat lovers, who love quality meats. Their blood sausage was so oh my gosh delicious, the osso prime was tender, juicy and just perfectly cooked, and the apple cheddar pie was just to die for!!

The classic “Osso Prime”

Blood sausage – oh so good! 

Behind the scenes in the kitchen

Apple Cheddar Pie

Visit to MATE Museo (T +511 200 5400, Av. Pedro de Osma 409, Barranco Lima 15063, Open Tues – Sun 10 am – 7 pm, Closed on Mon)
For me, this is the top museum to visit in Lima over the others that I went this trip. I have always enjoyed Mario Testino’s works and it’s so nice to visit a museum that showcases the best of his works in fashion photography, it also had a room dedicated to Princess Diana featuring some of the beautiful portraits he did of her, I couldn’t help but sigh as I was in there taking it all in! He’s also done some interesting photography of the local Peruvian women and culture, and it makes sense given this museum was founded by him to promote Peruvian culture and tourism. There’s a beautiful adjoining shop that is superbly well-curated with the best of Peruvian fashion, but a little on the pricey side.

Remembering Diana!

Had to be included in this bear shot!

Neon Pink!

Only you have time – other museums

Amano Pre-Columbian Textile Museum (Calle Retiro 160, Miraflores, Lima, Perú, Open daily 10 am to 5 pm)

Amano is known for its pre-Columbian artefacts and textiles, and if you enjoy looking at ancient archaeological stuff, this might be up your alley. I personally don’t as much, but I have to admit the textile works were very impressive!

Museo Covento San Francisco (Jirón Lampa, Cercado de Lima 15001, Peru, Tel: +51 1 4267377)

This is a 17th-century church of Spanish Baroque design in the center of Lima, incorporating a convent, a temple and two separate churches called La Soledad and El Milagro, and also contains a library and an underground cemetery known as the catacombs. The tour is not for the faint hearted. I felt rather creeped out walking around the underground cemeteries, some areas which were rather tight and claustrophobic, where many of the dead bodies are now just skeletons, exposed for all to see. So hence, this is in my “if you got free time left list”.

Outside Monastery San Francisco

STAY AT VILLA BARRANCO (Calle Carlos Zegarra 274, Barranco 15063, Peru)

I loved the boutique hotel Villa Barranco located in the Barranco area, lovingly restored from a 1920s Republican house, I like it’s homey feel, tasteful design and personal service. The breakfast every morning though simple is so good due to the amazing fruits displayed including my favourite Cherimoya fruit, plus others which we don’t even get to enjoy back in Singapore. Highly recommend it if you are a traveller looking more for just a typical city hotel. It’s also got a great location near to the coast, which is perfect for nice morning and evening walks!

Inside the dining room.

Tasteful interiors old meets new.

Breakfast on the garden terrace.

Favourite Cherimoya

Chilling out in my junior suite.

And don’t forget to say hi and bye to Paddington Bear when you are in Lima, one of the world’s most loved bears along with the Care Bears! He takes centerstage at Parque Salazar along the Miraflores Boardwalk, looking out over the Bay of Santander. After all, I first learnt about a country called Peru thanks to Paddington Bear who came from here!

Travel Notes:

I arrived in Lima first before leaving for Bolivia, after which I continued on to Cusco from La Paz via Peruvian Airlines, then trained to Machu Picchu and trained to Sacred Valley to end of my time in Peru.

Chatting with Paddington Bear about his favourite things in Peru.

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