Presenting a selection of outrageous canapes on what appears to be a miniature double divan, the waitress proudly raises a curtain on our show-stopping meal.

"We start with a fusion of flavours that form the basis of Peruvian cuisine," she proclaims, pointing to fried pork balls and alfajores filled with crab paste.

Opening a small drawer beneath the mattress to reveal several dainty, bite-sized empanadas, she adds: "Because this is where everything begins — on the bed."

She's right. Mixing gasket-blowing African spices with earthy Andean flavours and fragrant Japanese finesse, cooking in this South American country truly is a melting pot of influences.

Advertisement
Food from Astrid y Gaston, Lima.
Food from Astrid y Gaston, Lima.

In recent years, Peru's chefs have earned worldwide recognition and capital city Lima is bubbling with creative restaurants.

Spearheading that foodie revolution was chef Gaston Acurio, who runs the immensely successful Astrid & Gaston with his German-born wife, pastry chef Astrid Gutsche. A 10-course tasting menu will set you back about $170.

Gaston Acurio, executive chef at Astrid y Gaston, Lima.
Gaston Acurio, executive chef at Astrid y Gaston, Lima.

Dispersed between carefully curated book cabinets and elegant balconies, large wooden tables are scattered across the floors of palatial 17th-century mansion Casa Moreyra. The other diners are so far away, it's enjoyably easy to believe we are alone.

Our 13-course taster menu is an endless adventure: ceviche made from an old, "endangered" recipe (where lemon and lime juices are replaced with orange), tender flakes of guinea pig set sail in the hull of a mermaid's tail, and a defiantly different dessert of cheesecake icecream with olives (it shouldn't work, but it does).

When the Candy Shop eventually arrives — a multi-drawer treasure chest of gold- dusted chocolates and a full flavour spectrum of truffles — we're pleasurably destroyed.

"We used to have a 30-course menu," reminisces the waitress, rebuffing our gentle (and temporary) protests of "no more".

"People would take naps in between courses on daybeds. Those meals would last all day."

IF YOU GO

Eating isn't a bad way to spend 24 hours in Lima. But if you want to squeeze in a few additional activities, here's how . . .

WHERE TO STAY
Atemporal, Miraflores: Just like its cuisine, Lima's architecture is a mish-mash of styles. A survivor from the 1940s, this proud mansion mixes turrets with a mock Tudor facade and lattice windows, and even bears the original owner's coat of arms.

Opened as a hotelito (small hotel) last year, the nine-room property sits on a leafy residential street in upmarket Miraflores, a 10-minute walk from Astrid y Gaston and even closer to grand pre-Inca pyramid Huaca Pucllana.

Jazz streams through internet radio in rooms and tea in china cups is available all day in a mezzanine lounge. Exploring the city is incredibly easy: the hotel offers a free chauffeur service around the local area and guests have access to a Wi-Fi hotspot for the duration of their stay.

If booked in advance, the hotel can arrange special food tours (minimum three-night stay), with tastings and reservations at top restaurants.

Atemporal Hotel, Lima. Photo / @atemporal_lima, Instagram
Atemporal Hotel, Lima. Photo / @atemporal_lima, Instagram

WHERE TO DRINK

Hotel B, Barranco:

Also housed in a grand mansion, this was the first boutique hotel to open in Lima a few years ago. Corridors are filled with modern art and daring sculptures.

Once the art tour is over, retreat to the densely dark, clandestine bar where minutes become hours and one pisco sour easily segues into another. A mixture of modern European and Peruvian, the food is also respectable.

Located at the gateway to the trendy Barranco district, next door to Miraflores, the hotel is a short walk from photographer Mario Testino's gallery.

WHERE TO LUNCH
La Mar Cebicheria, Miraflores: This casual ceviche restaurant does a roaring lunchtime trade beneath a roof of bamboo and palms. Arrive early however (before 1pm), and you'll get a table without a reservation.

Fresh fish options are scrawled daily on a chalkboard, although it's worth opting for the speciality — ceviche. Start with a moreish snack of warm, salted fried corn, and choose from a seasonally changing menu. Service is sharp and snappy.

WHERE TO GO (WHEN NOT EATING)
Larco Museum, Pueblo Libre: If you can manage to take a break between meals, head to Lima's triumphant museum of pre-Colombian archaeological treasures. From Miraflores, it's a 40-minute taxi ride across town but well worth the journey.

Housed within a bougainvillea-draped, whitewashed mansion, the collection includes sophisticated pottery from the Moche people and some conversation-sparking erotic pieces in a separate gallery.

- AAP