This funny little pattern has developed regarding my dining habits at classy restaurants here in Lima.  As I mentioned last time, I am dedicating this final Peru post to the best overall dining experiences I have had here.  Incidentally, these instances have coincided with my most ridiculous wardrobe choices, which I will recount for entertainment’s sake.  If there is one thing I am sure of in life, it is that Peru was not prepared for a trendsetter of my caliber. After spending over five years living in Peru, I have lots of recommendations for the best restaurants in Lima, and places to avoid.

Speaking of my undeniable fashion sense, check out my new cupcake kicks!

Dear Converse, Did you make these just for me?

Don’t you just want to eat them up???  Me too!!!

I digress.  Back to our theme of fine dining in not-so-fine attire.  I didn’t invest in gourmet restaurants during my first couple of years in Peru for a few reasons.  1. I was a Peace Corps volunteer and was only making $300 dollars a month.  2. I had no real incentive to expend much money on food since Peru’s most appealing creations can be found at food carts on the street (Why hello there, intestinal parasite!).  3. Most nice restaurants in Lima are pretentious and I didn’t want to buy into the startling divide between the upper and lower class (particularly since I moved here to help underprivileged communities).  For all of the above reasons, my first visit to a fancy restaurant here happened quite by accident.

In 2008, I was headed to Lima from my rustic Andean abode for a four day vacation.  My main objectives were ridding myself of two weeks of grime with a long, hot shower, and (as always), eating as much as possible.  My friend Joseph (another volunteer) had just spent a week in Lima, so I asked him if he had stumbled upon any decent restaurants.  His eyes lit up as he spoke of La Gloria, a Peruvian-Italian eatery that he depicted as a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria.  At some point during our conversation, I evidently forgot that Joseph (a retired businessman who had sold his house before moving to Peru) had different budgetary confines than me and probably 99% of Peru.  I took his recommendation to heart, and after a full day spent meandering through the grubby streets of downtown Lima, my friend and I headed to La Gloria for dinner.

“Should we stop at the hotel to change?  Nah, Joseph didn’t say anything about dressing up.”  Famous.  Last.  Words.

What were we wearing, you might ask?  Well, my friend had on tattered jeans, plastic flip-flops, and a fluorescent t-shirt with “BOOTY HUNTER” stamped across it.  As if those words weren’t “special” enough, a giant skull and sparkling pirates booty were sprinkled about the chest and sleeves.  While my outfit was a bit more subdued, it still wasn’t anything to write home about.  I was sporting a ripped jean skirt and a thin misshapen t-shirt that I had washed on a rock in a river for two years.  The most tasteful detail of my outfit was the brown syrup I had spilled down the front of it hours before while eating picarones, my favorite street dessert.  I hope I don’t interfere with the visual I just created for you by elaborating a bit about picarones, because it would be a severe disservice on my part to leave you in the dark about this nectarous treat.  Picarones are fried rings of sweet potato or squash dough (Peruvian donuts, essentially) that are served with rich molasses syrup.  These babies have accounted for about 90% of my vegetable intake over the last few years, and now that I think about it, probably account for 90% of my happiness as well.  When I bite into their fluffy perfection, I lose all inhibitions.  This makes it possible for the paparazzi (aka my crafty friends) to capture me in compromising poses that only Velociraptors lacerating their prey with their sickle-shaped toe claws could replicate.


Alright, back to the point.  My friend and I naively headed to La Gloria adorned in our glorified dishrags.  When we finally located the restaurant, we were put at ease by its non-descript exterior.  Upon our entrance, we were immediately encompassed by friendly wait staff.  “Do you have a reservation?  Would you like a drink from the bar?  Can we take your coats?”  Whoa.  We looked past them to see an immaculately decorated space: crisp white linens and fresh flowers on each table, full place settings, original art lining the walls, and giant antique mirrors hanging above the tables (Who are those uncultured brutes that just walked in?  Oh, that’s just our reflection).  The restaurant was tiny and we were in too deep to back out, so we took the seat the hostess offered us, which naturally happened to be smack dab in the center of the restaurant.  We promptly shielded our embarrassed faces with our menus as we whispered a few ground rules to each other.  1. No going to the bathroom, as that would only draw more attention to us.  2. Eat as quickly as possible to eschew the dinner rush.  3. Sit up straight to make ourselves look more sophisticated than our outfits were conveying (good posture is so very underrated).  We would be okay.

Laying low worked for about 20 seconds, until the four waiters that were assigned to our table paid us a visit.  The most notable thing about these particular waiters was that they were psychic.  I was considering the kir royale, one of the 30-some drinks that La Gloria’s bar offers, when one of them said, “Perhaps I can interest you in a kir royale?”  Uh, yeah, you most certainly can.  Then I shifted my attention to the toasted foie gras drizzled with black currant liqueur when another waiter said, “I highly recommend the foie gras appetizer.”  WTF?!  Alright, I’ll take it.  Apparently I was an open book to these guys, or we were best friends in another life, which is why I felt comfortable interpreting the rest of the menu as I pleased.  Their flawless service made my deplorable outfit a distant memory, and I soon had them huddling around me to help me decide between three main dishes.  “You see, I really love the idea of this creamy seafood sauce, but I’m not a big fan of risotto.  I’d prefer it over pappardelle, which isn’t on the menu.  What are the chances the chef can whip some up?  You’ll check?  Excellent.  I’d also like my sauce sans mussels, and could I get some asparagus mixed in there?  Or should I add capers instead?  Hmmmm…you guys decide.”  The waiters smiled at me and disappeared, only to reappear five minutes later with the dish we had just invented together.  Anyone who has lived in Peru will tell you that making changes to a menu is not received very kindly, in fact, it would probably be easier to open your own restaurant.  La Gloria made all of my dreams come true, and here is what my friend had to say about that: “Stellar job laying low, Lindsay.”

I highly recommend La Gloria for its homemade pastas, fresh fish dishes, exceptional ambiance, and clairvoyant and accommodating staff.  It is also rumored to serve one of Lima’s best pisco sours (Peru’s national cocktail made with brandy, limes, and sugar), so it’s probably worth visiting for that alone.

pisco sour, pic taken from

I searched high and low for a dining experience that could compete with La Gloria, and up until recently, it was a lost cause.  I was wracking my brain a few weeks ago to find a new restaurant where I could celebrate a special occasion, when one of my coworkers mentioned Central.  She spoke of meats cooked at low temperatures for days on end, fascinating drink combinations, and heavenly desserts.  She told me it was currently the most expensive restaurant in Lima, but that it was worth every cent.  I made a reservation.  I forgot about the reservation, and the next day when I was getting dressed, I wiggled into my favorite wool poncho.  I picked this jazzy piece up in the countryside for 4 dollars, and it is the best 4 dollars I’ve ever spent.  I love everything about it, including the fact that no matter how often I wash it, it still retains the little twigs that were stuck to it when I bought it.  It really makes me feel like I am one with nature.  Unfortunately, no one, and I mean NO ONE seems to share my fondness for said poncho, and people have even been heard uttering atrocities such as, “My blind grandma wears nicer sweaters than that,” and, “Does it hurt your back to lug around a rotting lamb carcass like that?”  Hardy.  Har.  Har.  I resent both of these comments, but at the same time, I realize that my beloved poncho probably isn’t acceptable for every setting (such as the most expensive restaurant in Lima).  The thing is, there was no time to change.

My date and I pulled up to Central on a motorcycle, he in a tacky baby blue fleece that looks like something a drug company would give out for free, and me, dressed like an indigenous peasant.  The doorman immediately approached us and told us that we couldn’t park there, that this space was for the valued customers of Central.  “Yes, we know.  We have a reservation.”  He responded with a blank stare, which I took to mean, “No, I doubt that’s true.  Our restaurant doesn’t cater to homeless people.”  Someone should let this guy know that there’s a first time for everything.

Best Restaurants in Lima | Central Named One of Conde Nast Travelers World Best Restaurants

Fortunately, we were treated with less discrimination inside.  The hostess greeted my date with a warm, “Happy Birthday,” as she accompanied us to our seats, which were promptly pulled out for us.  Initially, I wasn’t too impressed with the restaurant’s atmosphere as it seemed a little generic, but then I realized that the entire back wall was a window that gave us a full view of the clean, sleek kitchen.  There were multiple chefs meticulously placing the final touches on their plates, and they all looked so happy while doing so.  It wouldn’t be long before I would look equally happy with every single thing they served us.

First, our waiter came out with our menus and a sample tray of petite breads and homemade chips made from all different colors of Peruvian potatoes.  On the bread tray, there was coca bread (made from the same plant that cocaine comes from), spicy yellow pepper bread, peanut bread, and regular white bread.  The tray was served with a tomato goat cheese spread, olive oil, and two types of homemade butter (one infused with red wine, and the other that they called “mantequilla quemada” (burnt butter), as it was heated until it became darker and a bit crystallized, which gave it a pleasant nutty flavor).

Best Restaurants in Lima | Central Named One of Conde Nast Travelers World Best Restaurants

I don’t love bread, so I decided to abstain to save room for my meal.  Much to my chagrin, the bread had a unique aroma that seduced me away from my abstinence, and soon I was begging the waiter for another tray.  I have a theory that the bread was laced with opium because even the simple white bread fell under the category of “too ridiculously good.”  It didn’t make sense to me, and I honestly could have left the restaurant a satisfied customer after only eating this complimentary plate.  When I say “complimentary”, I actually mean that it was mysteriously added to our bill without our having ordered it, but I didn’t care because I was high on bread opiates.

Luckily we stuck around for a bit, because Central was full of more scrumptious surprises.  For appetizers, we ordered the cashew shrimp and tuna confit.  The shrimp was grilled and accompanied by a salad of hearts of palm, mango, caramelized hazelnut, and edible flowers from Central’s garden, along with a small cake of potatoes and avocado, drizzled with a light calamari sauce.

Best Restaurants in Lima | Central Named One of Conde Nast Travelers World Best Restaurants

The tuna confit was was my MVP (most valuable plate) of the night.  It was mixed with capers and served with an oil of citrus and chili pepper.  On the plate’s rim were goat cheese, sweet pepper paste, and a radish salad to complement the confit on toasted baguette.  The flavor mixed with the different textures was so intense and interesting that I was almost tempted to cancel my main dish order to order another plate of this.

As I sat there sipping on my yellow grape, ginger, and basil soda (yeah, they make their own sodas too…and the amalgamations might seem wacky, but they are sublime!) and waiting for my next plate of food, I realized that I was completely overstimulated.  This fusion restaurant was blowing me away with its innovative take on Peruvian ingredients.  Additionally, their service was outstanding.  I was so taken aback by each dish that I had to call the waiter over three times to re-explain how everything was made, until I realized it might just be easier to record his descriptions on my date’s phone.  He was patient and good-humored about it all, especially considering he probably wasn’t sure from our clothing if we’d be able to pay the full bill.

Soon enough, our main dishes came out.  We ordered one plate of pato a cuatro cortes (duck of four cuts) and another of jarrete de ternera (which I thought meant venison when I ordered it, but it actually means veal shank.  Excellent job learning Spanish over the last five years, Lindsay).  The first plate was served with different duck variations such as a savory corn cake topped with duck liver, a caramelized duck thigh, and crispy duck served over a grape salad.  Duck is normally too fatty for me, but this dish was an exception.  My veal shank was marinated in a sweet and sour sauce and served with tiny potato towers that I got a kick out of.  I could have eaten the meat with a spoon it was so tender.

It just kept getting better and better.  For dessert, we were served a complimentary tray (this was actually free, unlike the bread) of pisco sour and piña colada-flavored marshmallows, Baileys truffles, and rich dark chocolates, all of which had been made onsite.  We were also treated to chocolate mousse and cotton candy bedecked with more edible flowers.  At this point, I was a goner.  If trauma were a good thing, I’d have post traumatic stress disorder from this meal.

Best Restaurants in Lima | Central Named One of Conde Nast Travelers World Best Restaurants

In case you’re not catching my drift, Central is a spectacular place to dine, one that I feel confident could compete in the realm of world class restaurants.  How much did this world class meal cost us?  Well, the most expensive plate on the menu was around 25 dollars.  Yeah, you should probably move to Peru.

To wrap this up, here are my final votes for the very best overall dining experiences in Lima, making this The Glutton’s Digest list of Best Restaurants in Lima.  Visit all of them and prepare to be swept away!  We’ve listed them in alphabetical order below.

  1. Central Restaurante (Santa Isabel 376, Miraflores)
  2. Danica (Emilio Cavenecia 170, San Isidro)- Cozy atmosphere with an awesome owner and great Peruvian fusion dishes.
  3. El Bolivariano (Paisaje Santa Rosa 291, Pueblo Libre) and La Bistecca (Avenida Conquistadores 1048, San Isidro) are excellent buffets, the first one for Peruvian creole food and the second for Peruvian-Argentine dishes.
  4. El Grifo (Avenida Colonial 2703, Cercado de Lima)- Order the fettucini huancaína con lomo saltado (which won for best main dish in my last Lima entry), or the gnocchi anticuchero.  Be sure to follow whatever you order with El Grifo’s famous cheesecake de Toblerone.  Here is what our last meal at El Grifo looked like. {See below for photos.}
  5. La Isla Escondida (Marie Curie 108, Surquillo)- Order the ceviche a los tres ajies.
  6. La Gloria (Atahualpa 201, Miraflores)
  7. Punto Azul– always a good, cheap place to get ceviche in groups.  Their tacu tacu con mariscos is also divine.
  8. Rafael (San Martin 300, Miraflores)- Order the lobster and the goat cheese cheesecake.
  9. Trattoria Mamma Lola’s (Diez Canseco 119, Miraflores)- This place looks like a tourist trap, but I have been consistently pleased with their pasta dishes and warm ambiance.  I am also addicted to the complimentary marinated eggplant they give you each time.

In case you missed our Lima recommendations for the best sandwich, ceviche, anticucho, and appetizer, don’t miss that list.

Best Restaurants in Lima | El Grifo Causa

Best Restaurants in Lima | El Grifo Gnocchi Anticuchero

Best Restaurants in Lima | El Grifo Cheesecake de Toblerone

It’s also important for you to know the most overrated restaurants in Lima.  I don’t care how many praises you hear about these places, take my word for it and do NOT grace them with your presence.

Patagonia (you’ll be promised pasta that was made that day, and served pasta that is still half frozen), El Hawaiano (the food at this buffet is not fresh, and the prices will startle you), Astrid y Gaston (only worth visiting if you order the tasting menu, otherwise, it is stuffy and overpriced), and La Rosa Nautica (for a restaurant that has one of the best locations in Lima, this place is gross.  Their drinks are okay, but don’t bother eating there).

In the last three entries, we have covered the best ceviche, appetizers, sandwiches, anticucho, breakfasts, main dishes, desserts, beverages, and overall dining experiences that can be found in Lima.  Follow my advice and you’ll be sure to get a comprehensive taste of everything that makes Peru’s cuisine so unparalleled.  Thanks to all of these restaurants, my face and tummy have been smiling for five years.  Now it’s your turn to come here and smile too!


Best Restaurants in Lima Peru