Peru’s premier city of Lima is a magnet for anyone entering or travelling through the country. It’s enormous, it has just about everything you’d expect from a big city and it’s a great place to stay for a few days. Maybe even base yourself for even longer.
Visitors are bound to find themselves in the district of Miraflores, the city’s main tourist area for shopping, eating and nightlife. Located between the high brow San Isidro neighbourhood and bohemian Barranco to the south, Miraflores has the best of both worlds; plus it’s armed with some of the city’s best parks.
The main commercial centre of Miraflores seems to centre around Parque Kennedy, somewhere to take a seat in the shade and people watch before or after tackling the shops and eateries. Cat lovers can even sidle up to one of the many felines that call this park home.
The area around the park bustles with people and vehicular traffic and when it comes to eating and drinking, it’s a hotspot for that. Cheap eats, cafes, local and international restaurants and so much more.
Here are a few spots that got our attention.
Ágora Cafe y Arte, Diagonal 378
For a morning or afternoon jolt of caffeine, forget that consistently ordinary American coffee chain and head to Ágora, instead. It’s made well, it hits the spot and if you’re tea lover, they do loose leaf here as well.
Breakfast, cake, empanadas and sandwiches can fill the stomach, and if you like your quirky objects, there’s a small gallery upstairs to browse or pick up something special.
La Lucha Sanguchería, Agenda Santa Cruz 847
We got our first taste of La Lucha in Arequipa, so it was great to come across them again in Miraflores. The sandwiches here mean business. They’re served in a crusty roll, there’s a fab choice of fillings and the fries are worth it on their own.
The frozen juices are excellent, and if you like your passionfruit, then this may be the best maracuya frappé you’ve had for a very long time. Yes, they’re that good.
La Lucha is conveniently located opposite Parque Kennedy and close to nearby bars and clubs, so their Sun-Thurs 1am and Fri-Sat 3am closing times make it easy to snack after boozing.
República, Diagonal 220
If it’s Peruvian fast food you’re after, then República may well deliver. Located just metres from La Lucha, these guys dish up the likes of salchipapas, arroz chaufa, lomo or tallarín saltado and burgers.
It sounded good on paper and would have been great if it was cooked fresh, but the key ingredients in my pollo broaster (18) dish were a little too flaccid for my liking. Floppy hand-cut fries, soppy fried chicken with a fried egg, salad and fried plantain. Top marks would have been given had the chicken and fries not been the ones woefully sitting in a bain-marie.
Tarboush, Diagonal 358
If I can rate personal favourites for this particular part of the Calle Diagonal strip, then Tarboush would come out on top. They’re perpetually busy at night, and you often see people lining up to score a table to get their fill at this Arabic eatery.
The Arabic-style lamb ribs are heavenly, shish kebab con hummus (22) is out of this world and the beer is nice and cold. We came here a second time just for that unmissable shish kebab with hummus.
Should you find yourself with the munchies, there are a few vendors offering a few things that can take care of that over in Parque Kennedy.
Churros, mazamorra morada (thickened spiced purple corn & fruit dessert), arroz zambito (rice pudding with coconut & spices) and regular arroz con leche (rice pudding) can look after the sweet tooth.
For something savoury, there’s always someone selling butifarras – bread rolls that are cut in half, crisped-up on a grill plate then filled with either shredded roasted turkey or pork plus some lettuce, onion and Creole sauce.
Not too far from Parque Kennedy is a strip of bars and eateries that transforms into nightlife central as the sun goes down. Try to ignore the hot and sweaty atmosphere in Cafe Bar Habana and take a seat at the bar and cool down with a traditional Cuban cocktail.
Or if Cuban isn’t your thing, then take your pick from Rouge, the very popular La Cachina, La Cafetera or anything else that jumps out at you.
It may be slightly off Calle Manuel Bonilla, but we were quite taken by the intimately cosy Ginebra with its moody lighting, great choice of gins and craft beers. Service is super friendly, as well.
Calle San Ramón, or Calle de las Pizzas as it’s more commonly known due to several pizzerias that can be found there, is a hotspot of bars and restaurants that comes alive at night.
Touts are out in full force along this popular pedestrian strip and it’s an easy place to find some local food, or maybe some pizza, an enormous glass of icy beer and get right into the swing of things.
Spanning from the southwest corner of Parque Kennedy is Calle Berlin, a very popular spot for with the backpacker crowd and, of course, the locals. Here you’ll find a handful of clubs, bars, eateries and quirky shops, but just like Calle de la Pizzas, it really comes alive at night.
During the day, Berlin is a peaceful thoroughfare that’s also worth checking out for menu del día. Not a great deal of options, but you can find some real gems – as we did at La Tapadita.
La Tapadita, Calle Berlin 315
For 12 soles you can tuck into the likes of papa a la huancaína (boiled potatoes doused in puréed chilli peppers, cheese, onion & garlic) and delicious pollo asado con frijoles (chicken with beans), including a drink.
Or for 25 soles you can have the most divine ceviche as a starter and slow-cooked alpaca con vino as a main.
Seek out the regular menu for dishes like tacu tacu (rice & bean pancake), a selection of tallarín (noodle) combos or usuals like milanesa and steak.
Aromia, Calle Libertad 415
For an excellent coffee fix, head one block down Calle Libertad to Aromia and let the team spoil you with their crafty filtration methods. The more traditional espresso as well as Syphon, V60, Chemix, Aeropress and Clever are up for grabs and the beans are single origin through and through.
There are some pretty fab cakes and cookies going and a few nice little brekkie options. The prosciutto panini (15) was a very nice way to start the day.
El Fogón, Calle Berlin 421
At the quieter section of Calle Berlin, where it elbows into the residential area, is the vintage diner-style El Fogón. Traditional Creole dishes are the go at this quiet neighbourhood eatery – with picarones, butifarras and cassava cakes up for grabs.
If you’re a bit of a thrill seeker, then something like choncholí (intestine), rachi (tripe) and anticuchos (beef heart) may sate your edgy cravings. Actually, the anticucho (6) here is really good and deliciously juicy. You can go all out and order three skewers, but appetites weren’t all that extreme with either of us, so I was fine with one.
If you prefer your food safer, then something like the chorizo sandwich (8) may do it.
There’s a sparsely stocked glass cabinet of desserts going, too. Things like jelly cups, arroz con leche and mazamorra morada. I was quite smitten with the plate of freshly fried picarones (5), wading in delicious syrup.
Arepa Cafe, Calle Berlin 407
For something non-Peruvian, you can get your arepa fix at this popular cafe right next door to El Fogón. The formula couldn’t be simpler here. Choose your base – beef, chicken, falafel, mushrooms etc, add two ingredients like cheese, ham, guacamole, eggs, fried onion etc and you’re done.
If booze is a requirement with your arepas, then simply head to the corner store, bring it back to your table and crack it open. They’re perfectly ok with BYO. Otherwise they’ve got the usual non-alcoholic bevies.
Other than arepas, there are tequeños, patacones, empanadas, cachapas and even breakfast.
You never know what you can come across when you wander the backstreets of Miraflores, like the quirky and beachy La Postrería.
They make their own bread and ice cream, many of the recipes come from the owner’s grandmother – even ingredients from the farms of relatives and friends. You’ve got to love that.
La Postrería Café, Calle Enrique Palacios 1008
Tuck into a wholesome breakfast, sandwich, pizza or quinoa gratin and sip it down with a fresh juice or excellent coffee. You’re sure to feel good after chowing on homemade grainy toast with avocado (20), served with hummus, olive oil and black sesame.
Or crunch into taquitos de cameron (26) – two crispy tortillas topped with smashed avocado, crispy shrimp, shredded cabbage, fig honey and sesame oil.
Estación 329, Calle Enrique Palacios 329
For what I think is the best coffee in Miraflores, that we tried, head to Estacion 329 a few blocks north of the Parque Kennedy hub. They’ve been in biz for less than a year, showing Limeñans how true espresso ought to be done. It’s nothing short of excellent.
Find a handful of sandwiches to nibble on, a few cakes, pastries, muesli and fresh juices. The venue may be petite, but it sure packs a punch.
El Pan de la Chola, A Mariscal La Mar 918
Up on the edge of Miraflores is a mecca for all things baked, and we can only urge anyone to walk, über or cab it to this industrial-residential corner of the district and grab a table at El Pan de la Chola.
The most incredible sourdough bread – a welcome relief from that stuff you get all over Peru – and a great selection of cookies, pastries and cakes all on display across the counter. Those croissants are to die for flakey.
From something as simple as avocado sprinkled with black pepper and sea salt, some olive oil and plenty of toasted sourdough, to a deliciously moist frangipan tart and coffee – this bakery cafe is a must for anyone visiting Lima.
If we can step out of Miraflores for a second, lets bus it down to neighbouring Barranco – another popular district for visitors and Limeñans alike. Galleries, boutique stores, restaurants, loads of bars and a handful of cafés; you can almost see why it’s been pinned as the city’s SoHo district.
Take a look at Puente de Los Suspiros (The Bridge of Sighs), wander through Parque Barranco, linger at a museum or gallery and be sure to check out the street art throughout the area.
Tostaduria Bisetti, Avenida Pedro de Osma 116
Caffeine aficionados need look no further than Tostaduria Bisetti for all their needs. The aroma of roasting beans hits you as soon as you enter this temple of coffee, a venue that’s been at it in this colonial mansion since the 1950s.
They roast top quality Peruvian beans and they even offer courses on roasting, preparation and tasting. There’s a small selection of pastries, cakes and cookies to enjoy, plus free wifi to connect or get some work done.
Chifa Xin Lung, Carlos Villarán 870
It may not be in Miraflores or Barranco, but if anyone has been around the bus terminals on traffic-choked Javier Prado, they know it’s a culinary wasteland, especially at night.
We were in need of dinner ahead of an overnight Cruz del Sur bus trip out of town, and after half an hour of wandering the streets, I came up with one potential.
Chifa Xin Lung is your typical, brightly-lit, sprawling Chinese restaurant where you can sit beneath flashing psychedelic ceiling lights and dive into enormous plates of food.
All the Chinese-Peruvian mainstays can be enjoyed, including a variety of saltados and that ubiquitous aeropuerto dish – a Chinese-Peruvian stir-fry of rice, noodles, some veggies and a protein.
The tallarín saltado con pollo y chancho (16) is typically Cantonese, glistening in thickened sauce and loaded with chicken, pork, egg noodles and veg. Fried rice lovers can indulge in a mountain of chaufa de chancho (9), filled with a confetti of pork, egg, peas and other treasures.
Cruz del Sur departs Paracas at 8am and arrives around 11.45am. Cost per person is 65 pesos.