As part of our Tasting Notes series, we’ve teamed up with the Michelin-starred chef of Lima’s Central restaurant, Virgilio Martínez, to co-curate our Tasting Notes of Peru experience. Ranked the fifth best restaurant in the world, Central’s creator, Virgilio, was the perfect man to team up with to offer expert guidance on the flavours of the Andes, the Amazon and the Ancient World. On this 10-night culinary whirlwind, you’ll get an exclusive taste of Peru with unrivalled insight and access as you look through the eyes of the chef leading Peru’s gastronomic revolution, from the pass of his critically acclaimed restaurants. Inspired by the environment and landscapes of Peru, join Virgilio and Black Tomato in a journey encompassing everything from piranha fishing in the Amazon to authentic cooking techniques in the Sacred Valley and ancient rites up in the Andean Peaks; tasting local specialities along the way. Dine in the jungle, with locals on a riverbank and at Virgilio’s newly opened Mil Restaurant in this one-of-a-kind experience that really has to be tasted to be believed.
High Jungle and River Scales
With a love of food triggered by Peru’s classic dish of ceviche, your journey begins at the lifeblood of Latin America; the Amazon. One of Virgilio’s favourite sources of inspiration, discover the overwhelming biodiversity of this region from the luxury of three nights at the Reserva Amazonica Inkaterra. Spend the next few days taking in the contrasting environments of the Amazon from the murky waters of the Rio Negro to the verdant jungles that line its banks. Walk through trails lined by Shihuahuaco trees, canoe across the mirrored surface of Lake Sandoval and fish for piranhas on Gamitana Creek before visiting a local co-operative farm to discover local farming habits and learn about the many uses and benefits of local flora – and how Virgilio has worked them into some of his most celebrated dishes.
Valley Between the Andes
Whilst much of Peru’s culinary attention has been focused on Lima, the Sacred Valley has much to offer. Here, Virgilio has handpicked some truly specialist experiences which will give you a taster of why Andean dishes are becoming more and more popular in Peru. Meet up with local Ani Corpancho for an authentic meal at her home on the banks of the Urubamba River before giving thanks to Pachamama, or Mother Earth to you and I, in a traditional Andean Pago a la Tierra ceremony led by a local shaman. From local cuisine to haute cuisine, tomorrow you’ll then head up to Virgilio’s new restaurant Mil, tucked away amid the otherworldly circular terraces of Moray, thousands of metres above sea level. Here, he’ll not only set you up with the best seats in the house for a seven-course degustation paired with distilled infusions you won’t soon forget – but we’ve also managed to convince him to let you in on the secret with a private tour of his research centre next door, Mater Iniciativa. Ask nicely and Virgilio may even show you around himself.
Low Andes Mountains
Peruvian cuisine is not just about the dishes themselves, but also the preparation of those dishes, from marinating raw fish for ceviche to baking in hot stone earth ovens. The practice of pachamanca originated in the Andes but its popularity is now spreading throughout the country with chefs such as Virgilio beginning to draw inspiration. Discover what all the hype is about with your own traditional pachamanca lunch as you build the huatia oven to cook everything from mutton to cuy and causas to humitas. A truly authentic experience, learning about how local people prepare mouthwatering dishes, set amid beautiful scenery; we can certainly see where Virgilio got his inspiration. Before leaving the Sacred Valley, there’s just one last stop with a private tour of Virgilio’s favourite pisco distillery at Destilerias Andinas. Here, you can watch as local producers distil Caña Alta and prepare Matatcuy macerations before sampling their wares over an expertly mixed pisco sour.
From the Sacred Valley, you’ll then head up into the country’s cultural capital of Cusco to discover Peru past and present as you visit the Amaru weaving community and take a wander through the city’s ancient stone walls before stopping by the Central Market to pick up ingredients for an afternoon cooking lesson. Whip up a traditional Andean starter, main and dessert before sitting down to enjoy all of your hard work in the beautiful courtyard of your hotel at Belmond Palacio Nazarenas.
Just as Virgilio draws inspiration from the mountains, from the Andes, from the Amazon, to bring what he has learned back to his kitchen at Central, now you’ll do the same. Head back to Lima and get to know this culinary hotbed of a city with a reservation at Central that evening. But this reservation doesn’t stop at a table and we’ve also scored you exclusive access to Virgilio’s kitchen where you’ll enjoy a private demonstration of some of his signature dishes. Dessert of Solar Mucilage anyone? Team this with a privately guided visit to the Mater Iniciativa headquarters in trendy Barranco with Virgilio and his sister, Malena, and you’ll have the full low down on Peruvian cuisine. Well – almost. For your final foray into Peru’s gastronomy, you’ll join private chef Ignacio Barros to put all that you’ve learned to the test in one final cooking class showdown before indulging in a well-earned reward as you scour the city for the best pisco sour.
Return home with full stomachs and sated appetites and prepare to wow your friends at your next dinner party with authentic Peruvian cuisine.