Peruvian food is one of my top 3 cuisines in the world and finally, after a failed attempt to go there in early 2020 (because of covid), I managed it and experienced Peruvian food and culture at its roots. This wasn’t my first time in Peru, but it was my first time as a proper grown-up on holidays, with the primary aim to delve into the magical flavours of Peruvian cuisine, which I’m so familiar with and in love with.
Having dealt with that previous disappointment and coming back to this trip, when thinking of Peru, most people will instinctively think of Machu Picchu and perhaps Pisco sour. But what about its mouth watering cuisine? Exactly. For me, Peruvian food ranks at the top due to its ample variety of flavours and influences. In London, it’s not easy to find places that can start generating that craving for Peruvian food unless you surround yourself with a community of locals and know where to go. I have the joy and privilege to be exposed to the culture of this fascinating country regularly, and this trip to Peru simply closed the loop.
The only small caveat or bummer was that I visited Peru in the first week of January when most of the top-notch restaurants were closed due to holidays, including Central (currently the world's number 1 restaurant in the world), Maido, and Kjolle. But that didn’t stop me from experiencing the authentic flavours of Peruvian cuisine in Lima and Cusco.
And why am I saying this? Because on every trip I take with my partner, we treat ourselves to a few of the best restaurants in the countries to get the entire show, from cheap and traditional eats, to restaurants that are experimenting with new flavours and techniques. Even though we didn’t get the chance to experience ‘experimental cuisine’, we indulged in Peruvian cuisine, and with zero disappointment.
We learned this lesson from a previous trip that not always in countries where you eat well in every corner should you feel disappointed if you don’t get the chance to go to high-end restaurants. There was this situation in Bangkok where we booked a newly awarded Michelin star restaurant which was the biggest let down of the trip and at a high price tag.
Indulging in Peruvian cuisine in Lima
Similar to the climate conditions and geographical location of my home country Chile, Peru enjoys access to a large coastline, valleys, jungle, and mountains, allowing for extravagant and diverse food to grow from 0 to more than 4000 metres above sea level. No wonder today’s number one restaurant in the world is in Peru, Central, the meticulous and hard work of Virgilio Martinez, who finally climbed to the top in last year's 50 Best ranking. Among Central, there are more Peruvian restaurants that made the entry to the top 50, and that tells you a lot.
Peruvian chefs are pushing the boundaries and have started experimenting with the incredible arrays of ingredients and heights to deliver reinvented flavours of classic Peruvian cuisine.
When someone asks me about my ‘devotion’ to this delicious cuisine, it has also to do with the variety and the Asian influence that brings the Nikkei world into play. With Peruvian food you can go from staple and fresh dishes such as ceviche or tiraditos to earthy flavours from alpaca or guinea pig meat.
Therefore, choosing the right restaurants in the Mecca for foodies these days wasn't an easy task but lucky us, we were pointed in the right direction. A few of my Peruvian friends shared stunning places that might not appear in prestigious culinary rankings but should and will definitely be there in no time.
Our mission again ‘was simple’ - to try every single staple dish from their cuisine as well as experiencing a few new heights and twists to their classics, and to try as many Pisco sours as possible. That meant maximising our lunches and dinners in the 5 days we spent in Lima. We managed to taste classic Peruvian flavours and new heights in Piedra, Isolina, Cumpa, Osaka, and Cosme.
Pictures: Classic dishes we tried in Lima, i.e., Lomo saltado, Tiradito, Ceviche, Aji de Gallina, Leche Volteada, Alpaca Anticuchos, Causa, Arroz con Pato y Conchitas.
What about Peru's staple cocktail, the pisco sour? This ‘hyped’ drink in London has little resemblance to a real pisco sour. This cocktail was always prepared as it should be and not to the English standards of using 2cl / 4cl measures and the wrong limes. We had the chance to try the most delicious pisco sours and even a few variations with corn, all absolutely stunning. But on the topic of drinks and sours, there are a few bars in London that do prepare almost the real thing and of course amazing sours, which I wrote about last year.
Pictures: pisco sour and chicha sour
All of the preamble above serves as recommendations for those thinking of travelling to Peru, but also for those who live in London and want to try Peruvian food at its best as well as a few twists on classics. Below you can find my recommendations to deep dive into this delicious cuisine in London.
Where to eat Peruvian food in London
MrLobo | Islington
This restaurant only opened last year, and in its short existence, they’ve been able to captivate diners with delightful Peruvian classics and some modern interpretations of them. This has become my favourite and go-to place for me when craving Peruvian food. Plus service by both owners is spot on, making you feel you're entering to a friend's house.
Lima | Fitzrovia
This restaurant is well known for having been the only Peruvian restaurant in London with a Michelin star, which they’re intending to regain. What you can find in this restaurant are those classic Peruvian dishes but prepared with some modern techniques and twists to present guests with a whole new dimension of flavours.
Crudo | Various locations
While most of the dishes are Peruvian-inspired, both co-founders also pay tribute to Latin food, making this a great choice for exploring more flavours around Peruvian and Latin cuisine. What started as a grab-and-go idea became a full-service restaurant with a few locations around London.
Pisco | Dalston
This comes as a bonus track, as it seems to have opened sometime in 2023, offering proper classic Peruvian dishes. I haven’t tried it yet, but having looked at what they offer and other reviews, it looks like a good option for comfort Peruvian food in a simple setting. Will try it very soon!
Pachamama East | Shoreditch
This isn’t your traditional Peruvian restaurant, as it brings those Chinese influences that are so famous in Peru under the name of chifas. At Pachama, you can expect a marriage of both cuisines and go from a classic ceviche to Sichuan fried chicken.
Chakana | London Fields
Former Michelin star chef Roberto Ortiz, previously head chef at Lima London, opened this cool Peruvian restaurant in the heart of trendy London Fields in 2019. Following his journey at Chakana is the evolution of his previous work in Lima, bringing classic and new Peruvian flavours to life.
Pictures: Lima London, Crudo, Pachamama East, Chakana, Mr Lobo
Whether you're acquainted with Peruvian food or haven't tried it yet, these recommendations should leave you raving about this rich and delicious cuisine - cheers!