I was almost annoyed, knowing that in a matter of hours I would be handing over hundreds of dollars to this establishment, yet they’re making me wait… I’m happy waiting for a coffee shop to open, but I knew there was a team of people inside, why couldn’t they just open the damn doors so I could get out of the heat, I mean it’s sweltering at the moment in Lima don’t they go outside? Is this even the right place? There’s no sign… It looks like someone’s house. I guess there are a few other people standing around like idiots too, they’re probably here for the same reason. Is this really the number 1 restaurant in the whole of Latin America?
Ok, my reaction may have been a little over the top, but at the time I felt like it was detracting from the experience that was to come. We were exactly 5 minutes early and that’s exactly how long we waited. As soon as it hit 12.45pm the doors of the conservative, unmarked building flung open revealing what was to be the setting of the most memorable culinary experience of my life to date. All was instantly forgiven as we were warmly welcomed by a diligent front of house team kindly directing us to a table only separated from the kitchen by a thin pane of glass. The real superstars were on show; it was like having front row seats at a sporting match (for me anyway).
It was decided long before we arrived that the 17-course ‘Mater Elevations’ degustation menu was an absolute must. The shorter 11-course option just wouldn’t cut it. To our surprise we were the only people in the entire restaurant that opted for this degustation menu. Most were foreigners and likely weren’t backpackers trying to live on a budget so why not go all out? How often does one travel to Peru or South America for that matter? Sure fine dining is an experience, the service alone can be memorable, however a meticulously crafted sequence of food designed to bring your taste buds to a place they’ve never travelled – how could that experience be missed? So please if you find yourself in Lima make a reservation at Central Restaurant and do yourself a favour by taking part in the distinctively unique ‘Mater Elevations’ degustation menu. Don’t worry if you didn’t pack your nicest clothes, it’s not a prerequisite here. Both Jana and I felt totally underdressed with our limited backpacker’s wardrobe at hand. We had to settle on Havianas and sneakers and we felt relieved when there were no smirks or raised eyebrows (even though we kind of expected it).
Things started moving very quickly, without feeling rushed (we did have to get through 17 courses after all). The first few courses were served without cutlery so you didn’t have to fiddle around trying to handle these delicate morsels. I really liked this detail, it made me feel more relaxed and I felt like I was experiencing each dish as a whole, like chef Virgilio Martinez would have intended.
Next to each dish on the exhaustive menu was an elevation that corresponded to the location of where the ingredient(s) were sourced. This in itself signifies how impressive and meticulously sources the produce used at Central Restaurant is; ranging from frogfish and deepwater algae originating -25m off the coast of Paita, to the Andean Isco Potato grown at 4200m.
As to the ins and outs of each course, I thought it would be best not to spoil the surprise – you should try it for yourself! Instead here are a few of my favourite shots from the day; I had a lot of fun capturing this vibrant, unforgettable experience.
Overall, Central Restaurant exceeded all my expectations. The flavours, concepts, ambience and customer service were all 5-star. The degustation and drink pairing were both great value and it should definitely be on your ‘must-do’ list while in Lima!