When news broke that Central Restaurant Peru has been awarded 1st place in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, we at Aracari were bowled over with pride. For almost three decades, we have delighted in connecting our guests with the flavors of Peru, a journey that began long before the country made its name on the culinary world stage.
Over the years, we’ve witnessed Peru bloom from an untapped treasure to one of the most sought-after foodie tours in South America, – and indeed the planet. Being part of that story from the very start has meant that our connections to the country’s culinary connoisseurs extend from the most famous kitchens to the more hidden heroes. Farming, fishing, and harvesting the award-winning produce that lands on the plates of acclaimed dining destinations such as Central Restaurant, Maido, Kjolle, and Mayta. All of which, might we add – earned a coveted callout in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Making Peru’s coastal metropolis the city with the most mentions in the top 50 for 2023.
Commemorating such a momentous milestone in Peru’s foodie evolution, of course, deserves more than our voice alone. And so, in this very special edition of our travel stories, we’ve leafed through our contacts to speak directly to our friends in the kitchens of Lima. People who have not only showcased the brilliance of Peruvian cuisine to our clients but who have themselves played a role in propelling Peru to the top of the foodie world stage.
What do those who know Virgilio Martínez personally and professionally think of the accolade, and about why Peru – as a country – is such a deserving champion? And as you might imagine, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask each of these foodie gurus to share their ideal day meandering the eateries of Lima. How would they start the day and where, and with what? That’s the kind of ultimate insider knowledge you can’t find anywhere else. A taste trail through the world’s newest foodie apogee.
Central Restaurant Peru: Reactions from Kitchens of Lima
Pedro Miguel Schiaffino is a chef that barely needs an introduction. Recognized as the man to put Amazonian cuisine on the map, Pedro is an extraordinary ambassador for Peru’s unmatched biodiversity, especially in the culturally rich region of the Amazon. Pedro Miguel is also a longtime friend of Aracari, and has led some of the most unique foodie experiences for our clients.
«Central Restaurant Peru being awarded first place is super,” explained Pedro Miguel. “They have been pursuing this goal for a long time – it’s taken consistency and teamwork – because the award is not only for Virgilio Martínez but of course, the whole team who do an incredible job.”
Unsurprisingly, Pedro Miguel is not alone in his delight. “Central Restaurant winning first place in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list will focus the world’s eyes on Peruvian gastronomy – and that’s fantastic for our country,” says James Berckemeyer of COSME restaurant Lima. Another of our most trusted foodie voices in the city, James trained at Le Cordon Bleu Peru, interning at the world-renowned Astrid y Gaston before going on to work at the three Michelin-star El Celler de Can Roca.
The bigger picture is the focus of Marilu Madueno too, whose incredible restaurant can be found at the archeological site of Huaca Pucllana. “It’s great news for Virgilio, Pia, Malena, and their team – whose hard work and investigation are being recognized on a world stage – but also for Peruvian cooks and Peruvian gastronomy in general,” she concurred.
Marilu Madueno has been a friend of Aracari for many years, a talented chef supporting the meteoric rise of Peruvian food. Dinners at her tables sample her original take on traditional Peruvian gastronomy set against the backdrop of a site built more than 1,500 years ago by Pre-Incan civilizations – an experience much-loved by our guests as part of our foodie itineraries.
Of course, it’s not only the chefs of Lima feeling the reverberations of Central being awarded world’s best restaurant. Tammy Gordon is the owner of Cicciolina in Cusco – a charming tapas bar and restaurant and our absolute favourite in this lovely town, the gateway to Machu Picchu. “When I heard that Central won 1st place in the 50 Best Restaurants, our reaction was of euphoria in Cusco,” Tammy delighted. “Firstly, I felt that this incredible Peruvian [Virgilio Martínez] with a vision that he shares with his wife, has achieved a dream, not only for themselves and their team with so much hard work, but for a country that is a quiet achiever, always against the odds. They made Peru shine with their impeccable and profound work. The consequences of this award are phenomenal for the whole industry. We all need to be grateful and proud for this incredible recognition of Central.”
World’s 50 Best Restaurants List has put Peru in the spotlight.
Gastronomy is of course only one part of Peru’s magnetic pull – and the success of Central Restaurant will bring more of our magnificent country into world focus. “Peru is not only Machu Picchu, not only Cusco but it’s a whole country to discover and I think putting that in the eyes of the world is a great start but there is still a lot of work to do,” says James Berckemeyer. “Arequipa, Paracas, the North – I hope people will get to know a little more of our country and our people. To learn more about us, not only our restaurants but everything – so it’s incredibly positive for Peru to be in the thoughts of so many people around the world.”
Marilu too reflected on the global influence of the world’s 50 best, “the eyes of the world are set on our country and our food!” she told us. “We have to make the most of that! Perú has it all – our ancient culture mixed with different migrations and extraordinary ingredients make our gastronomy something so special.”
“You see the flavours of Peru are just being discovered in the world,” explains Tammy. “Its new for the international community who know very well the Asian flavours, Mediterranean flavors, etc. but Peru’s intensity, combinations, and the quality of its produce are unique. This is what people are looking for now, real, new true flavours that have history, it’s part of the culture,” she says, touching on the global reach Peruvian food may come to have in the future. Might people in Europe or the US one day be calling their local Peruvian take out, rather than a Chinese or Indian?
For Pedro Miguel Schiaffino though, the reverberations of Central Restaurants’ success feel closer to home. “Nowadays Peru’s food scene is getting better and better, and a new generation is coming up. This award embraces a new generation of chefs in Peru, and it’s a big injection of energy – young people are going to feel enthused and inspired to follow the same path – to me that’s incredible. Both Central and Virgilio Martínez are iconic for Peru and South America – I think a lot of young people will now want to follow the same path.”
So, what is that makes Peru a breeding ground for such influential chefs? “Lima is a foodie city because a lot of the chefs and restaurants work with their own products and style, they are elevating the food scene, so it is gastronomic, very diverse, unique, and delicious!” explains Pedro Miguel. “But now, around the rest of Peru, I think we need to work harder [to showcase the food of the different regions].” Part of the reason we created Travel with Taste: Peru’s Spellbinding South and our Ultimate Foodie Guide to Peru – designed to bring travelers closer to regions that are lesser known for their food, despite being just as deserving of celebration.
A Foodie Tour of Lima: How would our chefs eat their way through the city?
An audience with Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, James Berckemeyer, and Marilu Madueno is of course a luxury and privilege. So, as well as asking each for their reactions to the news and their reflections on Peru’s culinary explosion, we also wanted to get under the skin of their personal favorite foodie haunts. How, with a full day stretched ahead of them – would they eat their way through the city, breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
“That is difficult,” laughed Pedro Miguel. “Start with a good coffee, very early. They have very good coffee in Peru, there is a bunch of amazing roasters that are buying from small producers and creating a great quality cup of coffee. Then I’ll go to the market – I think if you’re going to Lima you have to visit the market – Magdalena Market is one of the most authentic markets in Lima. Local people buy here for their daily produce, the stalls are great with excellent diversity. It’s the best market for me, so I’d grab a snack from there.”
Marilu too joked about the impossibility of our question; “A perfect foodie day in Lima does not consist exclusively of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but as trying as many things as possible!” Pitching her early morning with a caffeine hit too, she told us “Start with a rich coffee at Neira café with a delicious butifarra sandwich from Mercattino!”
It was the lunch pit stop, however, that united all three of our chefs in their answers. “For lunch, it has to be ceviche,” says Pedro Miguel. “Grab some good ceviche at Cebicheria, El Mercado, La Mar, Picanteria, La Capitana, – those are a few of my favorites for fresh delicious ceviche.”
“At noon sit down at one of our many cevicherias to try a fresh ceviche or causa with a cold beer!” lauded Marilu. “Ceviche in the city is a must,” agreed James, “you can try La Mar or Maido – rated 6th in this year’s world’s best 50 list.”
In the lull of the afternoon, post-lunch and pre-dinner, Pedro Miguel recommends sampling the city’s unmissable bars. “The cocktail scene is super interesting here in Lima, we have good bars that have made it into the world’s best 50 bars list too. If you stay around Magdalena Market, Queirolo Bar is a classic – then you have Carnaval, Sastreria, and Ribeiro – some of my favorites. So, I would bar hop between say 5pm and 9 pm, then onto dinner.”
And for the crescendo? “I recommend you come to my restaurant: COSME, or our new venture – Alado – a concept entirely focused on cooking with charcoal and fire,” James told us. “But of course, it depends on what you like, if you want to have a late lunch you can go to Panguche – a delicious local sandwich place, or if its pasta you like opt for Pasta Restaurant – that’s my favorite for quality and price. Or, if you fancy something more traditional Panchita or Isolina are also excellent.”
“Of course, you have the big names, Central Restaurant, Maido, Mayta – but there are so many great smaller restaurants too,” says Pedro Miguel. “I would choose either one of the most famous, or Merito or Siete – local restaurants with amazing food.”
For Marilu, it’s a case of occasion and courses. “Isolina is great for sharing some traditional Peruvian dishes, and then don’t miss COSME for its decadent desserts! And make room for something special trying Mayta’s tasting menu or having dinner in front of pre-Incan ruins at Huaca Pucllana!”
Our overall takeaway? When you come to Lima – come hungry.
Since many of our food tours begin in Lima, Aracari clients can take the opportunity to include dining reservations at Central Restaurant during their stay. Whether you have 48 hours in Lima or have the luxury of longer in the coastal capital, our travel experts will curate a bespoke itinerary for the perfect afternoon or evening at Central Restaurant.
Away from – the world’s number one restaurant – we of course have many other exclusive experiences that offer our guests a chance to get closer to the world of Virgilio Martínez and interactions with the three leading Lima chefs mentioned in this very story.
Explore our bespoke foodie itineraries now, along with our comprehensive guide on Central Restaurant Peru – and whether you want to discover Peru as a single destination or springboard onto more of our fascinating South American region, book a one-to-one call with one of our travel designers today and begin your bespoke Aracari adventure.
And last but not least, please stay tuned for more details about the hosted departure with Pedro Miguel Schiaffino on the Aqua Nera cruising the Amazon from 10th to 14th October 2023. For more details ask our travel designers!