Baranca, on the outskirts of Lima, was once a beach resort for the city’s well-heeled millionaires and their spacious mansions but in the nineties became a bohemian haven. Based on the cliff area of the city’s southeastern Pacific coastline, it has since been reborn as a thriving arts and nightlife district that makes for a pleasurable day’s sightseeing, plus the obligatory sleepless night. Much of Barranco’s charm is in its architecture: grand old Art Deco and Beaux Arts colonial mansions, which today jostle with glassy California Design new-builds commissioned by Lima’s media set. Along with cooking, it does a great job of promoting new concepts and innovative designs.
Spend an idle few hours strolling the casita-lined thoroughfares of San Martin and Ayacucho, allowing an hour for the fabulous Beaux Arts mansion and manicured grounds of Museo Pedro d e Osma; pay homage to Lima’s most famous son, photographer Mario Testino, at his MATE Museo; and, for local colour, drop in to Artesanías Las Pallas, the Art Deco casita of an eccentric British aristocrat, Mari, who’s lived in Barranco for 40 years. Her brightly painted home cum gallery is a treasure trove of traditional carvings and art, given extra colour by her companion, hairless Peruvian orchid dog Ted. Whatever you do, make it to Barranco’s Puente de los Suspiros for sunset. This old wooden bridge, “the bridge of sighs”, has inspired scores of Peruvian folk songs and remains a favourite spot for romancing couples; who come here, hands knitted together, to watch a plump pink sun slip into the Pacific. Only thing to complete the picture? A pisco nightcap at Ayahuasca, a bar and late-night restaurant named for the shamanistic mind-altering narcotic. Here you get to rub sun-kissed shoulders with Lima’s beautiful people, ranged across three floors of a fabulously ornate casita on Avenue Saint Martin. Dress up to stand a chance of making it past the black-clad door staff.
‘Piscoo sooouurrrr!’ is the trilling cry of bar staff throughout Barranco from 6pm on and, whatever your view of firewater aperitifs, it would be criminal not to try the cocktail that sparked a cross -border row between Peru and neighbouring Chile, both of whom claim the lime, egg white and bitters concoction – and its key ingredient, grape brandy – as their own. In 2013 a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) was assigned to Peru for pisco, though the attribution remains hotly contested. Still, the good-humoured enmity some have named the ‘pisco wars’ has upped the ante in cocktail-making finesse. If you’re going to try this Liman tipple, try it on the terrace bar of La Posada del Mirador, an enchanting spot at the end of a little street lined with colourful adobe buildings. Here you can get pisco in various guises:
• served puro (lone pisco in a shot glass with a celery pickle side)
• maracuya (pisco sour with passion fruit)
• laced with cocoa (coca) or
• the brilliant red camu camu (a cherry -like Amazonian fruit) or as a pisco sunrise (with fresh orange juice and grenadine).
All can be taken, if your knees are up to the task, single or with a generous-pour ‘doble’ shot. It’s a great spot for a romantic moment, and particularly unmissable if you’re in the city with your loved one.
The labour of love of socialite and sometime artist Lucía de la Puente, this, her eponymous contemporary art gallery opened in 1995, has since become the leading light of Peru’s contemporary art scene. To may Peruvian artists, if you’ve been exhibited by de la Puente it means you’ve made it: Alberto Borea (mixed media sculpture) and Mariella Agois (eye-warping graphic art) owe their global fame to her magpie eye. Much of the joy of the visit is the beauty of the building itself, a magnificent two-storey casona renovated in a cool pared-back style. When you’ve finished browsing the exhibitions (all temporary and changing seasonally), drop into the onsite café (which serves a fabulously chocolatey Peruvian coffee), or to neighbouring Hotel B, a hip hotel cum art gallery drawn to the quarter by de la Puente’s success.
In a city quarter of pisco joints and hipster restaurants it can be tough to find a simple pep -me-up to keep you going through that long day’s sightseeing (and pisco-fuelled night). Your salvation is Canta Ranita, the wildly popular ceviche and snack stall in Barranco’s unassuming el Capullo market run by Vicente junior, the son of the owner of Canta Rana (see above), also Vicente. Here, for a handful of Peruvian soles, you can get the simple ceviche dishes Canta Rana does so well, (plus voguish ceviche apaltado, with blackened octopus doused with olive oil), but also Vicente’s signature sudado (a fish dish made with lime and tomatoes) and causas (Peruvian sandwiches loaded with country ham, sliced onions, sliced chilli peppers and lime). The crowd – handsome young things grasping cusqueño beers, or jars of corn beer, by the scruff of the bottleneck – is markedly different to Vicente senior’s joint, but just as convivial.
Opening times differ with the market’s hours of operation, but most come for a late afternoon snack before heading on to the bars nearby. Get here soon: Vicente is bound for culinary super-stardom.
This mythologised bodega is iconic in Barranco; run by the 60-something Caususol brothers following the 2010 death of their father and Italian immigrant founder Don Juanito (who was still manning the bar, with brisk efficiency, aged 97) is where many a Barranco barfly ends a night on the tiles. Over its 70-year history it has served as the focal point of Barranco nightlife, playing host to presidents and poets, musicians, students and insomniacs plus, as old Juanito used to wistfully say: “the most beautiful women in Lima”. These days the draw for Lima’s students are the pitchers of beer for 15 Peruvian soles (£3); whereas the attractions for curious travellers and affluent Barrancoans are the famous “cau cau” sandwiches; the bygone setting (a glass-vaulted room flanked by cabinets reminiscent of a nineteenth-century apothecary); the amiable atmosphere (old-timers share tables with young couples and there’s always room to squeeze in a newcomer); and the rib-cladding sánguches (stuffed with secret-recipe jamón del norte, or northern country ham, and guaranteed to absorb those pisco excesses). Pull up a stool, settle in ’til the small hours and toast the old Don with a glass of his favourite poison, sweet, herb-spiked anis de mono.