Friday. The arrival in Lima was a mildly disorienting experience. It was the culmination of a six hour flight from Mexico City and occurred just short of midnight. Collected by our driver-guide for the short visit we were ferried through the fog to our hotel in the beachside district of Miraflores, sleep deprivation and the pervasive mist casting the initial view of Lima in a ethereal pallor, punctuated only by a throbbing rave party spilling onto the road from a park astride the airport freeway.
Breakfast at the hotel La Hacienda was a hurried affair as we’d overslept and our guide waited patiently to commence our familiarisation tour of Lima’s architectural and cultural attractions. Breakfast was made considerably less pleasant by the background tune of Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn – one song that has especially nauseated me since I first heard it around 20 years ago. The horrible piece of drivel remained wedged in my consciousness for most of the day. If I had my way Mr Cohn would have been drowned at birth.
The first daylight view of our neighbourhood revealed barriers restricting street access and a forest of banners proclaiming Lima’s welcome to the APEC delegation. Overall this sight did not bode well for an unharried travel experience, but as always, it was up to us to grin and bear it.
Our private tour took us through the relatively swank ‘burbs of Miraflores and San Isidro and into the Plaza Mayor, the very heart of Lima where the city was founded by the conquistador Pizzaro in 1535. Sporting spectacular colonial architecture, the city block-sized Plaza is one of the finest examples of classical Spanish architecture I’ve ever seen, including in Spain. Despite the un-nerving presence of hundreds of grey-clad police and militia sporting automatic weapons, armoured cars with water cannons, and road barriers at every turn, we were guided through the plaza to soak up the beauty and grandeur of the Government Palace, Cathedral, Archbishop’s palace, City Hall and the Cloisters of San Francisco at Santo Domingo with its remarkable catacombs.
We returned to the hotel via a circuitous route that took us past the pre-Inca pyramid of Huaca Huallamarca dating back to the 4th Century and the Park of Love on the Pacific Ocean clifftops in Miraflores. Later in the afternoon we ambled down to Laromar a rather upmarket shopping and entertainment precinct where we watched the sun set over the Pacific while sipping Pisco Sours and scanning restaurant guides for a suitable taste of Peruvian gastronomy that evening.
Brujas de Cachiche Restaurante
Billing itself as “a must stop during your visit to Lima, America’s capital of gastronomy” Brujas de Cachiche was a revelation in Nuevo Andean Creole cuisine and a showcase of pre-Columbian art. Replicas, I’m guessing. Being a little unsure where to start on the vast carte we opted for a three course”Gourmet” menu at around $70pp, which drastically reduced the options available, but did provide English translations. We chose:
Entrees: Jumbo shrimps wrapped in Serrano ham with asparagus served in passion fruit sauce and Giant clam trilogy, grilled in quebranta pisco Bloody Mary, in pisco sour bisque & passionfruit sour foam.
Mains: Charcoal sea bass in lime butter; on a bed of sautéed spinach & toasted garlic and Lobster Thermidor, (lobster meat cubes served in Half Shell café de Paris style).
Dessert: Alfajor del gran brujo de Cachiche with vanilla ice-cream. (Sweet biscuits with caramel spread filling)
Wine was a Cousiño Macul Antiguas Reservas 2002 – a lusciously ‘plummy’ merlot from Chile
After the gourmet delights of the past few weeks in Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca, I was hardly expecting such a fabulous blend of the traditional and innovative; influences from all quarters and such talented hands in the kitchen. Truly a remarkable meal, and one that opened my eyes to the brilliance of the Creole cuisine that is so typically Peruvian.