The city South America once cruelly dubbed ‘Lima the ugly’ has come a long way in recent decades. True, Lima’s jostling skyscrapers and coastline of craggy, crumbling cliffs might lack the immediate appeal of Buenos Aires or Rio, but beneath the city’s storied alabaster fog (the garua veils the city from June to October), there are rare beauties to discover – from the handsome Art Deco façades of restored colonial seaside quarter Barranco, to stately museums, hip galleries (including local boy Mario Testino’s MATE Museo), and a nightlife that hums with the hedonistic impulse the locals encapsulate in the phrase “cheleando” (the state of being, for an indefinite time, “on the beers”).
However it is Lima’s edible bounties that are the real draw. The capital’s culinary genius has been centuries in the making - from the partridges, grains, stews and roasts of the Andean Incas and later the Iberian and French cuisine brought by invading Spanish conquistadors (which has since become very traditional in Lima), to flavourful additions by Italian, Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Indeed, Lima’s émigrés have left their imprints on a hearty and vibrant creole cuisine that many view as South America’s finest. The nation’s rich larder helps, from a remarkable inland biodiversity – tropical fruits from the Amazon, tubers from the Andes – to the fishy plunders of the Pacific.
Today Lima is the showcase for Peru’s culinary invention, and there’s as much pleasure to be had in an on-the-hoof snack of succulent ceviche or a hasty noodle dish, as dining on the creations of Novoandina, Peru’s nouveau cuisine, in a fine-dining restaurant in upscale Miraflores.