I first came across Lima while trawling the internet for information about Peruvian food in London (as part of my wider research on Peruvian food and culture in general). After reading more about Lima I discovered that it’s executive chef was none other than Chef Virgilio Martinez. If this name is not familiar to you then it about time you familiarized yourself with it.
Virgilio Martinez is the Peruvian chef behind Central in Lima, Peru. According to this year’s S.Pellegrino list of the world’s best restaurants Central comes in at number 50 and is considered to be one of the South American restaurants to watch in coming years.
“Early in life Virgilio Martínez was confused about his identity, and that fact alone makes him perfectly Peruvian. Martínez made it a rule when growing up that each Sunday his family would eat Chinese food, but he was also interested in Japanese and Italian cuisines—all three of which have had significant influence on Peru’s culinary melting pot. Growing up in Lima, with a burning desire to cook and no culinary school to attend, Martínez decided (after getting his law degree) to travel.
When he ended up in Canada, Martínez got a cooking job. He loved the experience so much that he enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in London, graduating in 1998, and then worked his way around much of the world, exploring the cuisines of France, Italy, London, Southeast Asia (Martínez traveled and worked in Singapore), and New York (where he worked at Lutèce). After 10 years, Martínez returned home to helm Gaston Acurio’s flagship Astrid y Gaston, eventually exporting the restaurant, and the flavors of Peru, Madrid, and Bogota.
Martínez opened his own restaurant, Central, in the trendy Miraflores neighborhood in 2010, offering market-driven cuisine inspired by the Pacific and the Peruvian Andes. The following year, he set his sights on London, opening Lima in July 2012. Lima focuses on traditional Peruvian dishes with modern approaches; foie makes an appearance here and there, and even the requisite purple corn is showcased in gelée form, meaning Martínez’s original identity confusion has evolved into Peruvian identity celebration” – Star Chefs
So with all this in mind I had to find out more about Lima here in London. My first port of call was to apply to work at Lima as an estagier (a kitchen equivalent of a placement). So I visited Lima and was introduced to Head Chef Robert Ortiz, a Peruvian national who has called London his home for many years having worked in some of its finest restaurants (which is how he met Vigilio Martinez). After a brief discussion he agreed to have me come into his kitchen (this is arranged for August 2013) and spend a week working there.
My next step in learning more about Lima was the obvious one.. to eat there. So the following week I booked for lunch…
The restaurant is very well decorated and bright, the menu is simple and straight forward in many ways yet at the same time there are wonderful flavor combinations and exotic ingredients unique to Peruvian Cuisine. I don’t consider myself a food blogger or reviewer in anyway; so suffice to say that the meal was great and that we spent over 2 hours enjoying good food and wine.