Some people might tell you that there is not that much to do in Lima in terms of culture. There may not be the abundance of architecture, museums and galleries that frequent other cities in South America, but thankfully there is something you can do in Lima.
And that, my friends, is to eat. Lima is emerging as a bonafide food capital of the world and now boasts many of the best restaurants in Latin America. Peru itself is becoming well-known for its traditional cuisine and its glamorous capital is becoming a true showcase for it. You will quickly discover this as you start to travel in Peru, but foodie’s will really come into their own upon exploring the culinary variety in Lima.
The only problem for visitors is where to start? With the whole city bursting with fantastic restaurants and cafes, the choice can seem overwhelming at first (but it is a good predicament to be in). Whether you want to try honest street food, get a great feed or looking for a bit of a culinary experience, there is something for everyone in terms of food in Lima.
Try out local fusion
The most popular type of fusion cuisine in Peru is Japanese and Chinese food fused with Peruvian. Thanks to the multi-cultural nature of Peru, even the country’s national dishes tend to have obvious influences from all over the world.
Lomo saltado, beef and vegetables served with rice and a soy based sauce, plays on Japanese flavours and so does ceviche, a cold dish of raw sea food and lime dressing not completely alien from sushi. Chaufa, fried rice with vegetables and sea food, has obvious connections to China. So perhaps it is no surprise that some of the top restaurants in Lima are fusion restaurants.
For a budget friendly version of local fusion, head to Chifa Chung Yion in Barranco, a Chinese-Peruvian favourite. You can expect queues of locals outside the door ten minutes before it opens for dinner service which is a great endorsement of its food.
The menu is huge and you will get an excellent lomo saltado here. Imagine succulent beef sizzling on a hotplate of soy sauce complimented by tower of delicious fried rice with shrimp. You can get a family sized version of this (could feed up to five or six people) for a bargain.
If you are interested in a more high-end fusion experience, the most popular Japanese fusion restaurant in Lima is the top-rated Michelin-star restaurant, Nikkei.
However, if you are on more of a budget, Osaka is a sleek fusion restaurant near San Isidro in Lima that offers fantastic food that will not break the bank.
With a truly unique sushi offering and fried rice worth crying over (no seriously get the fried rice), this place is a real treat that will not leave you feeling guilty once the bill comes. The cocktails are nothing short of delicious and if you don’t finish with the chocolate lava cake, you are missing out.
Where to do brunch
La Pannetteria is a small, busy and stylish coffeeshop situated in the heart of Barranco. The offering may seem basic but the destination is perfect for grabbing a coffee and lunch. The sandwiches are extremely tasty but the stars of the show are the desserts.
The cakes in this unassuming little coffeeshop (as the name would suggest) are truly stunning so we recommend you don’t skip out on dessert.
Whether a chocolate mousse or a carrot cake is your weak spot, the brownie is a particular highlight. Topped with chocolate icing, this is melt in your mouth stuff. Bring your book, grab a table by the window, do some people-watching and enjoy mouth-watering cake.
For a more upmarket brunch option, Pan Sal Aire is an attractive little restaurant and coffeeshop also located in Lima’s effortlessly stylish Barranco district. The interior is eye-catching with geometric flooring and modern shelving lined with flowering plants and pretty coffee-table style books.
The airy interior reflects nicely on the menu which boasts flat breads, gnocchi and eggs benedict (also known as the perfect brunch menu). If you are just in need of a good coffee in a cool location, this is also a great spot for it.
A filling meal on a shoestring budget
Tarboush is always packed with tables that pour out onto the street beside Miraflores’ main square, Plaza de las Armas. And it’s not shocking why. Here you can enjoy absolutely delicious Turkish food whether you are a falafel and hummus kind of person or would rather a full-on Shawarma or shish kebab.
For a good feed, get the ‘sandwiches’ as they are called on the menu, which are in fact large wraps stuffed with hummus, vegetables, garlic mayo and your choice of falafel or spiced meat.
However if you require even more food, I would suggest going for one of the ‘plates’. I recommend the falafel plate; four big balls of deliciously spiced falafel, a side salad, arabic rice (really yummy) a pitta bread as well as a big lump of hummus. You will not be hungry for the rest of the day, I promise you.
All you can eat buffet? Yes, please.
Larcomar is an upmarket, luxury shopping centre located on the sea front of Miraflores. And the restaurants here are designed to match.
Mangos restaurant offers a stunning, modern terrace looking out over the Pacific. While going a la carte can be pricey the buffet lunch is quite the spread and will give you a great feed in a luxury location at reasonable price.
With an endless supply of delicious food and a dessert table that will literally take your breath away, we think the price is worth the experience. Go check it out.
A local sweet treat
Something you need to try while in Lima are picarones. Made from sweet potato and butternut squash, these ring shaped pastries taste just like donuts.
They are then drizzled in a sauce made from sugarcane that gives a very similar flavour to maple syrup. You can get these at stalls in any of the main squares in Lima and in most small cafes, bakeries and restaurants.
For example, I spotted them in the centre of Miraflores’ main plaza as well as at the food stalls in Barranco’s main square that appear every second week or so. Keep your eyes peeled and you will definitely come across them. They will only set you back a couple of soles (mere cents).
Overwhelmed? Why not do a food tour?
Tour companies in Lima are taking advantage of the city’s emerging reputation for fantastic food. So instead of going on a run-of-the-mill walking tour, why not get to know the best thing about Lima on a food tour!
Focused in Barranco, these tours will introduce you to a variety of dishes from Peru as well as street food and fusion dishes. Enjoy everything from ceviche, chaufa-style rice, picarones, local fruit juices and much more.
It really is the perfect way to get to grips with the vast array of culinary options available to you in Lima.