Lima is the capital of Peru and the third largest city in South America. Due to its geostrategic importance, Lima has seen a variety of inhabitants throughout the centuries, which has resulted in an explosion of gastronomical choices. Enticing spices, characteristic ingredients, and friendly environments define Lima’s culinary experience. From carts stationed on sidewalks selling wallet-friendly deep-fried morsels to high-end establishments serving roasted meat, any foodie can find the ultimate meal during their visit to Lima. For some suggestions on the best of Lima’s culinary offerings, read my picks below.
Breakfast in Lima is an elaborate affair, or at least, it can be made to be one. Las Vecinas in the colorful Barranco neighborhood has plant-based outdoor seating with a menu ranging from Peruvian to Turkish offerings. Peruvian superfoods such as quinoa, chia, goji berries and maca feature predominantly on the menu along with refreshing juices and coffees. If a sit-down breakfast is not what you are looking for, I highly recommend Café Negro situated in a small market. They make all their offerings in house along with roasting coffee beans, which they sell by the bag. Once again, they have superfoods, exotic fruit juices and acai bowls along with a variety of tortes and sandwiches on the menu.
Head over to Malabar in Lima’s upscale San Isidro neighborhood to get acquainted with Amazonian cuisine presented in the most refreshing and stimulating manner. There is no dearth of vegan or vegetarian dishes here. In fact, the bread service had three gluten free bread options, all made from root vegetables, locally grown and paired with charcoal infused butter. Everything on the menu uses local ingredients and is gorgeously plated. All dishes pair well with pisco based cocktails and the staff is extremely knowledgeable about both the food and the pairing options.
This food court in Lima is probably one of the most gastronomical food hall experiences anywhere. Mercado 28 is a modern food market in the populous Miraflores neighborhood consisting of 18 permanent vendors, with traditional and fusion foods from Lima and Peru as well as international favorites from the world, and a large selection of Peruvian craft beers, wine and cocktails. Find Peruvian hors d’oeuvres, locally caught scallops and oysters, Nikkei cuisine, poke bowls and decadent pastries made from Peruvian chocolate, mangoes and dulce de leche.
It is relatively easy to find good quality ceviche in Lima, but Juanito de Barranco is a hidden spot where you can get the best Lomo saltado (beef cooked in Peruvian-Asian style) paired with a classic Pisco sour or Inca cola, the bubblegum-flavored cola of the south. The restaurant, with a long bar, has a 90’s feel and with request, patrons are allowed in the kitchen to watch their dish being prepared. It is a vision to see the food being cooked on extremely high heat in a wok in a kitchen that is an absolute local favorite.
Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro are the three most popular neighborhoods in Lima. But, to see the Spanish colonial Lima, one has to venture to old Lima, about half an hour away from the coast. Old Lima houses a variety of bars that specialize in Pisco, the national drink of Peru. For a classic Pisco sour, head to Hotel Maury where the drink was invented. The hotel bar has regal architecture, beautiful artwork, an intricate ceiling and bartenders dressed in three-piece suits. One of the oldest bartenders has worked at this bar for 55 years! The award-winning Pisco sour is strong here and the drink only gets stronger by the sip.
Bars such as Museo Del Pisco specialize in cocktails made only with Pisco. The most popular drink here goes by the name of La Sarita, named after a saint from Callao, Peru. A refreshing drink combining strawberry-macerated pisco, orange, pineapple and cranberry juice along with mint and bitters, it’s a good option for summertime. The bars always serve conchita or salted corn from the Andes, which pairs beautifully with the sour Pisco drinks. Another cocktail that Peruvians love is Chilcano. It is simply a mix of Pisco, lime and ginger ale with lots of ice. Gran Hotel Bolivar’s open terrace is great for pairing Chilcanos with Peruvian tapas. Fried fish is served here with cassava fries, instead of regular old French fries. Chicken skewers are marinated in creole herbs and served with a spicy & sour sauce along with fresh cucumbers. The smokiness of these tapas helps with the pucker of the tangy Pisco cocktails.
Finally, Peruvian cocoa and chocolate is a thing of wonder. Enroll for a fun chocolate tasting class at El Cacaotal where you learn how to identify the chocolate on your palate. This chocolate shop carries bars, candies and condiments from chocolate growers across the country. This woman-owned chocolate shop also helps the local chocolate growers in research and development, and the staff is exceptionally passionate and knowledgeable about the products. Buy a few bars to nibble on and some as gifts.
Chef Garima, an investment-banker turned baker-chef is the founder & CEO of breakingbread.co, an events & catering company. She is an alumni of Le Cordon Bleu, Paris & has been featured as Top 15 in reality television show- MasterChef. Chef Garima is a culinary innovator who speaks in various institutions, globally about smart & efficient ways to use food as an eradicator of health issues, poverty & induce employment.