Lonely Planet Writer

South America's best restaurant has moved to Lima's artistic quarter

There’s a new kid on the block in Barranco, one of Lima’s most incredible neighbourhoods. A stone’s throw away from haute haunts like the Museo Mario Testino and around the corner from barranquino classics like Bar PiselliSouth America’s best restaurant, Central, has moved into Lima’s artsy district.

The new Central restaurant location. Image by César del Rio

What was once a cultural centre known as Casa Tupac, now stands Chef Virgilio Martinez and team’s gleaming version of a cultural centre with a culinary twist. Counting with a large (in Lima’s terms) garden, research lab, bar and fermentation area, and even a water plant, the new location proves that Central, and all of the players behind it, has become something larger than fine dining.

Sample some unique foods at the restaurant. Image by César del Rio

“We moved here [to Barranco] not only for a larger physical space but because we wanted to feel something else. There’s a lot of creativity and artistry here but there’s also a stronger sense of freedom. Freedom to experiment and to create,” Malena Martinez told Lonely Planet. Co-director of Mater Iniciativa, the biological research team and backbone to Central (and all associated restaurants), Malena estimates that the new location, which opened to the public this past 25 June, is at least four times as big as the Miraflores location that housed Central for the past decade. “We had grown into something else, something beyond ‘Central the restaurant’ and needed a building to reflect that.”

The world-renowned restaurant is showcasing s a community of projects devoted to research, conservation and experimentation. Image by Agnes Rivera

Full of sliding glass panes and transparent walls, the new building reflects that and much more. However, it’s not until one steps inside does the immensity of the two-storey building, designed by architect Rafael Freyre, become clear.

Sample some unique foods at the restaurant. Image by César del Rio

Much like Central’s tasting menu which highlights diverse and rare ingredients sourced from all around Peru, every detail of the space is a showcase of Peruvian craftsmanship. As guests snake through the garden’s winding path, they pass mini ecosystems mimicking those found in Peru and even a demonstrative structure of the earthen stove huatia, a cooking technique that dates back to the Incas. In the middle of the outdoor area is a solar powered dehydrator, whose finished work hangs from the ceilings of the Mater Iniciativa lab. As eyes trail upwards to admire the delicate studies of diversity in national flora, visitors to the dining area will finally realise that what they assumed to be supportive beams are in fact trees that were incorporated into the space rather than chopped down. There’s a lot to take in and that’s just Central’s part of the building. Better sit down and sip some of Central’s own reverse osmosis water!

Though they are related, the other projects in the building are independent from Central. The bar, Mayo, similarly uses rediscovered ingredients from Peru but focuses on incorporating them into cocktails and fermentations. Pia Leon, previously head of Central’s kitchen, will open her own restaurant on the second floor this 10 August. Named Kjolle, it will feature an a la carte menu incorporating seasonal products served upon ceramic plates handcrafted by Barranco’s own Taller Dos Rios.

The world-renowned restaurant is showcasing a community of projects devoted to research, conservation and experimentation. Image by Agnes Rivera

Guests are welcome to walk around or ask for short tours, and the staff is well prepared to answer questions related to the food, design and concept of each project.

“One of the main reasons we moved here to Barranco was because we wanted to be very open. If people want to come and ask what we’re doing, they can do that,” explains Malena, who also acts as manager to Central, Mayo and Kjolle. “We connect people through ingredients. Cooking is a very good excuse to approach different people and cultures.”

Learn more about the ultimate foodie experiences in Peru here.

By: Agnes Rivera