Welcome to The London Foodie
Reviews of London's Restaurants, Supper Clubs and Hotels, Wine Tastings, Travel Writing, and Home to the Japanese and French Supper Clubs in Islington
For the latest food events, restaurant openings, product launches and other food and drink related news, visit the sister site The London Foodie News
Wednesday, 14 October 2015
Below is a fun article I wrote on how to host a great dinner party for Heathrow Express for their 15-minute series, some useful tips (I hope!) on how to be the host(ess) with the most(ess)!
If you enjoy entertaining, having friends round for dinner is perhaps one of the best ways to spend an evening. But for the uninitiated, what starts as a bit of fun can quickly turn into a logistical nightmare. We asked chef and supper club expert Luiz Hara to dish up his secrets.
15 minutes – that's all it takes to get between Heathrow and central London on our high speed train services. It got us thinking… what else can you do in 15 minutes? This issue: Host a great dinner party
Continue to read here:
Friday, 9 October 2015
During the second part of our visit to Lima, we stayed in Miraflores. To learn more about Lima’s other boroughs including Barranco and San Isidro, and hotel and restaurant recommendations in these areas, read Part 1 here.
Miraflores is close to Barranco in northern Lima, and is the destination of choice for international visitors to the capital as well as well-heeled locals.
This is hardly surprising given its extensive Pacific coastline, the excellent hotels and restaurants in the area, the buzz from its many shops, bars and cafes, and its safety in comparison to older and more central parts of the capital.
Where to Stay
JW Marriott Hotel Lima
The JW Marriott Group is one of my favourite international hotel collections, and one I always seek out when travelling. It’s a group that I know has a real focus on providing excellent service and strives to stay ahead of the game – I recently did some consultancy for the group helping them design a hotel room for the future, leading the ‘foodie financials’, along with four other influencers representing their own ‘tribes’ –fashion, IT, sports and luxury. The best attributes of each tribe were subject to a public vote to create ideas for the perfect Marriott hotel room. You can read more about that in this article on the Daily Mail here.
|The Marriott Hotel Lima, Peru|
The JW Marriott Hotel Lima is a modern 5 star hotel, spectacularly situated on a cliff-top overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It had all the comfort and luxury expected of this top international hotel brand, as well as impeccable service.
The hotel affords great views of the ocean and is very well located in front of the Larcomar, a busy waterfront shopping and restaurant complex built into the cliff in Miraflores. The extensive promenade (known as the Malecón) is a lovely spot to stroll along, watching the many locals going about their daily lives, skating, jogging and cycling.
|View of our room of the Pacific coast from the Marriott Hotel Lima|
Our room had an ocean-front view, was spacious and elegant if a tad corporate in feel. It was the perfect spot to go back to after a day of eating, shopping and visiting the capital.
What made it even better for us was that I am a member of the Marriott’s Rewards Club Scheme and so had access to the Executive Lounge on the top floor of the hotel.
The Executive Lounge is available to those staying on certain room rates and members of the Executive Club Scheme. It offers food, coffee and drinks 24 hours a day all inclusive in the room rate at no extra charge, and a concierge service which is a great help for restaurant reservations and flight check-ins. The staff at the Executive Lounge (as well as in other parts of the hotel) were super-helpful to us during our stay, making numerous calls on our behalf to arrange meetings and reservations. We had breakfast and various snacks during the day as well as cheese, charcuterie and wine at sunset each day.
The hotel has a very well equipped gym and an open-air swimming pool which, though it looked quite tempting, sadly we did not have time to make use of during our short stay.
On our first morning we had breakfast at the hotel’s main restaurant. With various cooking stations serving an array of hot dishes including pancakes, waffles and local dishes cooked to order (the eggs Benedict with crumbled chorizo was delicious) as well as fresh tropical fruit and everything else you might expect, breakfast was a real feast.
The JW Marriott in Lima is a well-appointed hotel in a great location, with spacious rooms and stunning public areas. In addition, with great food and service, it is a good and convenient place to stay in Miraflores, either for pleasure or business.
Where to Eat
Central Restaurant by Virgilio Martinez is just around the corner from the JW Marriott Hotel. We had an epic 17-course tasting menu there which will be featured in a separate blog post.
Fiesta is one of the top restaurants in Lima, and in 2015 was placed at number 31 of the San Pelligrino Best 50 Restaurants in South America. Its Head Chef, Hector Solis, aims to present gourmet food from the Chiclayo region of Northern Peru.
We started with grilled ceviche over corn leaves (£15). The ceviche had a delectably charred flavour having been grilled on corn-husks over hot coals, and it was served with a well flavoured cream of aji amarillo, and topped with chopped coriander, aji limo (the red chilli used for ceviches), and chicha de jora (a Peruvian beer made of corn).
Next came grilled baby goat ribs, served with on a bed of tacu-tacu rice (£13), with white beans. Tacu-tacu is a national dish of rice usually mixed with black or brown beans, to accompany meats. The ribs were meltingly tender, and served with a delicious salsa of Seco Norteño made from northern Peruvian squash and coriander.
The piece de resistance was undoubtedly the main course, and the dish for which Fiesta is most famous: Arroz con Pato (£13). A classic Peruvian-Chiclayo dish, Fiesta’s version was beautifully presented in its own cooking pot and featured black duck from the El Conde hacienda in northern Peru, fed on a diet of fresh vegetables and yellow corn. The meat was tender, richly flavoured and succulent. The accompanying rice was fragrant with coriander and Peruvian squash, laced with duck stock, and served with a refreshing salad of radish, red onions and red chilli, and a cream of aji amarillo.
For dessert, we shared a well-made Suspiro de Lúcuma. This was a custard made from the delicious eponymous Amazonian fruit native to Peru, topped with soft meringue and lime zest.
Our meal at Fiesta was delicious, with hearty home-style Peruvian food cooked to Michelin standards. This is the kind of food and cooking I love. Fiesta was one of my favourite restaurants during this trip, and I would highly recommend it for a taste of authentic, regional Chiclayo cooking.
Saqra is an unusual restaurant for a number of reasons, and the literal translation of its Quechua name is 'little devil'. Set in a building that dates from 1971, it was opened in 2011 by its current owner Joaquin de la Piedra after thorough renovation.
It is a quirky, colourful restaurant in the heart of Miraflores, with outdoor seating, making it a great place to hang out for a few drinks and some food. Unusually, everything in the restaurant is for sale – not just the food and drink, but also everything from the marble-topped tables to the artwork and lights, crockery and cutlery.
We kicked off with a refreshing Chiclano aperitif made from Pisco and ginger ale, while the owner explained that he aimed to serve Peruvian food as it had long been enjoyed- simple, made on the premises and served without frills.
Our first dish was a beautifully presented bonito tataki (£6) – tataki referring to the Japanese method of searing the outside of the fish while keeping the inside raw. The bonito had been covered with burnt sugar and flamed, and was served with leche de tigre (ceviche marinade) and huacatay oil.
Next we had a platter of black pudding squares (£6), coated in panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Served over a sweet potato crunch and covered with Saqra’s interpretation of chimichurri sauce, made with aji amarillo, red onion and lime, it offered a mouth-tingling contrast to the richness of the black pudding.
We also had a dish of pansotti (£7), similar to ravioli, these were filled with a ratatouille made from Andean roots, peppers, ulluco (a tuber vegetable from the Andes similar to potato), maca (a powdered root aka ‘Peruvian viagra’ or ‘superfood’), white onion, parsley, huacatay and muña herbs. Served in a creamy goats cheese sauce with dehydrated beetroot, this was delicious, and one of the best dishes of the evening.
The osso bucco de seco (£10) was tender and succulent, having been cooked sous vide for 24 hours. The meat came with a flavoursome Peruvian ‘seco’ (a Northern Peruvian sauce) of coriander, loche squash and chicha de jora, garnished with creamy mashed yucca, loche squash foam and salsa criolla.
The escabeche with chickpea tacu tacu (£8.50) followed. This was a fillet of bonito, marinated in vinegar, red onion and white chilli for 3 days, served over a creamy chickpea tacu tacu (a Peruvian dish normally made from rice and beans topped with roasted meat).
For dessert, we tried the pineapple picarones with fig syrup and coconut ice cream £6. Picarones are Peruvian doughnuts made from a dough of pumpkin and sweet potato. I fell in love with picarones during my stay in Peru, so was happy to see them on the menu at Saqra. Here, they were stuffed with pineapple, covered with fig and chancaca (molasses) syrup and served with a smooth coconut ice cream and an air-dried pineapple slice.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Saqra. I loved the bold flavours, the beautiful presentation of the dishes, and the tongue-in-cheek, quirky feel of the restaurant. A great, fun dining spot in Miraflores.
What to Do
Paragliding on the Malecón & Bike Tour
Besides strolling, jogging, cycling or people watching along the extensive beach-front avenue known as the Malecón, it is also the taking-off point for paragliders. A few minutes north of Parque del Amor (Love Park), you will see the taking-off point for paragliders.
The Malecón is the prime spot for paragliding in Lima — gliders jump off the cliffs and ride the winds whipping off the ocean below. For $50, you can take a 10-minute flight with a trained paragliding guide; buy tickets at the small kiosk at Block 2 of the Malecón. Rides are available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, winds permitting.
If you want more than 10 minutes of fun, rent a bike and cruise the Malecón and other sites in Lima. A good place for rentals is Bike Tours of Lima at Bolivar 150 in Miraflores. The daily rate, which includes lock and helmet, is $15.
Hanging out and people watching at the Larcomar
Along the Malecón in the Miraflores district is Larcomar, a multilevel entertainment, food and shopping complex. The first thing you'll notice about Larcomar is that you cannot see it. The entire complex is built into the cliffside, underneath Miraflores — the entrance is on Block 6 of Malecón de la Reserva, across the street from the JW Marriott hotel; take the stairs down just before you get to the cliff's edge.
Larcomar has breathtaking ocean views, which you can enjoy from numerous restaurants offering Peruvian food, as well as several American franchises serving everything from doughnuts to ribs. Try Peruvian chargrilled chicken — or pollo a la brasa (literally, chicken over coals) — at Pardo's Chicken or have a cone of homemade ice cream from Gelateria Laritza D', while watching the sun set on the Pacific. There's also a cinema, bowling alley and pool hall here, and plenty of shops. Larcomar is a great place to while away your last few hours in Lima before catching a cab to the airport.
Visit historical ruins
You don't have to trek into the Andes to see vestiges of Peru's ancient civilizations. Lima has a large number of historical ruins, known locally as huacas, which can be spotted in many neighborhoods.
The Pucllana Temple, or Huaca Pucllana, is an adobe ceremonial center that was built around 500 A.D. Much of the site has been restored and excavations continue to uncover artifacts and the occasional mummy.
The ruins are accessible Wednesday to Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the last tour starts 30 minutes before closing. Admission is $2.50 for adults, and half off for children and students.
JW Marriott Hotel Lima
Malecon De La Reserva 615
Av. Reducto 1278
Av. La Paz 646
Lima. LIMA 18
Block 6 of Malecón de la Reserva
Parque del Amor
El Malecón, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Bike Tours of Lima
Bolivar 150, Miraflores, Lima, Peru; 51-(0)1-445-3172 or 51-(0)1-99916-64223 (mobile) biketoursoflima.com
Block 8 of General Borgoño, Miraflores, Lima, Peru;
51-(0)1-445-8695 or 51-(0)1-440-8276
Wednesday, 7 October 2015
A sprawling place, founded in 1535 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, Lima is a curious mix of a sleek modern city with large shantytowns, and a smattering of colonial architecture thrown in. The most fashionable and upmarket districts in Lima are Barranco, Miraflores and San Isidro. They are also the most policed areas of the capital, and visitors can therefore walk unhindered.
|Sprawling Lima, Peru|
The heart of a bohemian revival neighbourhood, Barranco is now home to many of Peru’s best-known artists, musicians, designers and photographers. It first emerged in the 19th-century as a fashionable seaside retreat for the Limeño aristocracy. They summered here amidst the salty air and a drier, warmer microclimate, as the high cliffs of Chorrillos shield Barranco from Lima’s cold and humid southern winds.
Wealthy families built grand Belle Époque houses around the area’s landscaped parks and along elegant avenues. When 20th century urban expansion encroached upon this elite enclave, those wealthy Limeñans moved out and squatters took up residence in the abandoned, decaying mansions.
|Sunset in Barranco, Lima|
Barranco’s fortunes shifted again in the 21st century thanks to a migration of Lima’s arts community, including fashion photographer Mario Testino and the Nobel Prize winning author Mario Vargas Llosa. Fresh coats of paint on many of the area’s most charming colonial houses signal this vibrant revival, and today it is a very good place to spend a few days in Lima.
Where to Stay
Built in the Belle Époque style in 1914, the original mansion which now houses Hotel B was designed by the French architect Claude Sahut, who also remodelled many of Lima's public buildings and parks.
The house was owned by the wealthy Garcia Bedoya family, and was luxuriously furnished with imported Italian marble and tiles, very high ceilings and open balconies in the bedrooms.
After decades of neglect, the building's restoration successfully preserved the original structure while introducing a three-storey annex. Today, it is a gorgeous looking boutique hotel in the heart of Barranco.
The public rooms of the hotel are strikingly beautiful, with 'La Sala' serving as a reception and gathering area. The space faces the main street and features two large sitting areas and also a bar.
Adjacent to the lobby, La Biblioteca is a quiet room on the main floor, with doors opening onto the hotel’s enclosed central patio, and abundant greenery.
On the first floor, there is a lounge reserved for hotel guests, in an open, airy setting, with international newspapers, magazines, along with light snacks, coffee and tea.
On the rooftop, there is a private outdoor lounge overlooking Barranco and the Pacific Ocean, with a full bar and a light menu, available during the summer months.
Our room was elegantly laid out with many original features, including shuttered doors, and a comfortable king-sized bed. There was a private balcony overlooking the tree-lined street below. Despite its venerable appearance, it had all the modern conveniences one might wish for.
Breakfast is taken in an open-air central patio, which separates the old house from the contemporary annex, and is surrounded with jasmine and fig trees.
There was a stunningly presented buffet of fresh fruit, cheeses and salami, as well as tasty little cakes set out on elaborate silverware and crockery, and hot dishes made to order in the patio.
Hotel B is a haven of elegance and tranquility in Peru’s hectic capital city. It evokes the beauty and glamour of a bygone age, and I cannot think of a more fitting place to stay when in Lima.
Where to Eat
Lima is by far the best place to try Peruvian cuisine in the country. As the capital city, the shear concentration of excellent restaurants mean that in addition to fierce competition, the best Peruvian chefs are to be found there. The high demand pushes the quality standards higher than elsewhere in the country. We didn’t have a bad meal in Lima, but found that standards were patchy in other towns.
This makes Lima the ideal place to savour the huge variety of ingredients Peru has to offer from its coastal, Andean mountain and Amazon regions. Furthermore, the cold Humboldt current from the Antarctic at Lima’s Pacific coast makes the sea very rich. Fish and seafood restaurants are therefore a must when visiting the city, and as affordable as any other.
Virgilio Martinez’ restaurant Central is one of the top dining destinations in Lima, and I have written a feature on the epic 17 courses we enjoyed there, which will be posted separately.
Maras at The Westin Hotel, San Isidro
Perhaps one of the best meals we had during our entire trip in Peru, Chef Rafael Piqueras’ cooking was faultless, blending Peru’s finest produce in a creative and highly sophisticated menu. Chef Piqueras worked in Italy and Spain for a number of years, but returned to Lima to head the kitchen at Maras in The Westin Hotel, in the upmarket district of San Isidro.
|Maras Restaurant at the Westin Hotel|
Maras is a town in the Sacred Valley near Cuzco, from where the country’s finest salt is produced. His 10-course tasting menu (US $65, £40), started with three small ‘abre bocas’ or amuse bouche. Firstly, crispy dehydrated pork skin topped with foie gras, shaved chocolate and Maras salt. This was followed by a thin sliver of house cured tuna topped with ‘tears’ (tiny lobules) of mandarin. The most exciting amuse bouche in my opinion was the gazpacho bonbon – this was a little sphere of cocoa butter filled with tomato gazpacho that burst in the mouth releasing thrillingly intense flavours.
The starters began with a salad of quinoa, tomatoes, with a refreshing artichoke ice cream, topped with chilli and peanuts and served with three sauces, made from rocoto peppers, huacatay, peanuts and fresh cream.
Delectable Paracas scallops were next (Paracas is a coastal town south of Lima, renowned for its fish and seafood, reviewed here), served with crunchy tapioca and yellow cocona fruit sauce.
To follow we had Chef Piquera’s Nikkei grilled octopus with miso, orange, lentils and chorizo - accompanied by intense little spots of flavour – the orange from chorizo, the green from ocopa from Arequipa (Ocopa is a sauce made from fresh cheese, aji amarillo and huacatay or black mint among other ingredients), and the black being squid ink.
Then, onto the mains - our first was roasted seabass served with cauliflower purée, a sautéed slice of cauliflower, a complex duck reduction and black truffle ‘pearls’.
The second main was an exquisite dish of veal cheek - braised for 40 hours, the meat was wrapped in ham and bread, baked until crunchy, then served with a beef reduction and mushrooms, along with a risotto of orzo pasta.
For pre-dessert, we had a sandwich of lúcuma ice cream (lúcuma is one of Peru’s most popular fruits from the Amazon, it tastes very much like butterscotch), with meringue, cappuccino foam, chocolate biscuit and praline. Dessert proper was a lovely pumpkin brioche brûlée served with caramelized fig, lemon sorbet and an unusual but totally delicious lemongrass custard.
Chef Rafael Piquera’s Maras Restaurant is a must for anyone visiting Lima – for a 10-course tasting menu at this level of skill and sophistication, £40 is outstanding value. Highly recommended.
Another fantastic meal was at Cala Restaurant in Barranco. This is an ocean front restaurant with magnificent views of the sea. Cala is a fashionable place, so don’t be put off by the party crowd or the slightly intrusive music – this is a serious restaurant with excellent food.
Our lunch kicked off with a platter of maki sushi– the ‘Cala’ with avocado and cream cheese, and another maki of salmon ‘acevichado’ (£7). Maki acevichado is the Peruvian version of California rolls – an inside out maki-sushi roll, filled with deep fried prawn, cream cheese and avocado, topped with either tuna or salmon thinly sliced, and a drizzle of creamy leche de tigre. Hence the name acevichado, meaning ‘ceviche-style’.
Next came a tiradito of scallop and octopus (£8). Tiradito is Peru’s answer to Japanese sashimi -thin slices of fish are served sashimi-style, but seasoned with a leche de tigre dressing. Here, thin slices of octopus and scallop were beautifully presented on a black glass plater, served with a delicious leche de tigre, Parmesan crisps, tomato, aji rocoto jam and edible flowers.
The Cala ceviche had sole, baby octopus, a jumbo prawn, avocado, choclo corn and crispy calamari (£9.25). This was a great dish, with fish and seafood of outstanding quality and flavour.
We also had a risotto of grouper and king prawns, crustacea and aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow chilli), that was rich and full of flavour (£9.70).
Every dish we ate at Cala was spot-on, and the setting is spectacular. If there is only one seafood restaurant you have time to visit in Lima, make Cala your choice!
Opened in 2004, Malabar is the number 20 restaurant in the San Pelligrino list of the 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America in 2015. The five course menu we sampled cost £44 per person. Malabar is considered one of the top restaurants in Lima, and on the evening we were there it was packed.
The amuse bouche was ‘false stones’ – actually a variety of cooked Peruvian potatoes, covered in edible chaco clay from Puno near Lake Titicaca, giving them a grey appearance very similar to stones. This was a clever, tongue-in-cheek kind of dish to start the evening off.
Our first dish was a plate of brazilnut cheese, served with a tomato confit, ginger flowers, and the Andean peperomia herb, all marinated with chestnut oil. The cheese was a tad salty and contrasted nicely with the tomato confit.
Our next dish, ‘3,000 metres above sea level’, was a delicate creation including wild cucumber, cushuro (a high Andean spherical fungus that tastes a little like seaweed), maca emulsion with leche de tigre. This was deliciously savoury, with a crunchy texture and a tangy dressing.
The dish described as ‘Judas’ ear’, had tropical fresh mushrooms from Chachapoas in Amazonas, with peach palm and fresh hearts of palm. With dry lemon, and pijuayo purée (a nut), this dish featured fresh, earthy flavours, and contrasting smooth and crunchy textures.
Escolar (a Peruvian white fish) adobo style had roasted, crispy sweet potato, and marinated onion pearls. The fish was cooked in a pork-based sauce. I really enjoyed this dish, with tender meaty fish, sweet potato that was crunchy on the outside while very tender inside, and a richly flavoured sauce, all enlivened by crispy onion pearls.
Roasted cabrito (kid), baked for 24 hours, was served with smoked corn purée, corn sprouts, slices of baby corn, corn flavours, carob sauce and fennel. This was very good, with delicious and tender kid, a richly concentrated flavoursome sauce, and a medley of types of corn.
For dessert we had lucuma and white chocolate mousse, coffee ‘seeds’, and bitter chocolate leaves.
I enjoyed Malabar - the dishes were sophisticated and brilliantly executed, and the setting elegant. However, the portions were on the small side, and wished there had been a little more of it, or at least more carbs on the menu.
What to Do
Barranco is now a district for art, and there are many private galleries in the area that are worth a visit. With its squares and gardens, and an extensive front on the Pacific coast, it is also a good place for wandering and people watching.
There are many public and private museums in Lima, but few as pleasing as the Larco Museum.
Housed in a former mansion, itself built on the site of a pre-Columbian temple, the museum offers a varied collection of 3,000 years of ceramic, textile and precious metal artifacts. There are also mummies that show the different ways ancient cultures, including the Incas, preserved their dead.
Visitors are allowed into the museum's store rooms to see what's not on display: a vast array of ceramic objects crafted by ancient Peruvians; there are tens of thousands of pots in the shapes of animals, plants and people.
|A 2000 year-old Moche head scupture - George Bush?|
San Martín 301
Maras at The Westin Hotel
Las Begonias with Amador Merino Reyna
San Isidro, Lima, Peru
Phones 201-5023 / 201-5000
Cto. De Playas
Avenida Camino Real 101
San Isidro 15073
Av. Bolívar 1515