How to spend three days in Barranco, Lima: Eat, eat, eat

How to spend three days in Barranco, Lima: Eat, eat, eat

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Find top-notch graffiti art all over Barranco, including pieces by internationally-renowned Jade Rivera.José Vallejos /PROMPERU/PROMPERU

In February, I spent two warm weeks walking and eating my way through Lima’s Barranco neighbourhood. I was eating what Peruvians call lonche, a tradition similar to late-afternoon tea, at 4 or 5 p.m., then dinner a few hours later until someone told me Peruvians only eat one or the other. But I couldn’t help it – every incredible meal left me more excited for the next one.

When I wasn’t eating, I was admiring the culture of the neighbourhood. I visited San Francisco Plaza’s colourful ranch houses, perused the bookshelves at Placeres Compulsivos and Librería La Rebelde and shopped for Peruvian souvenirs. At Artesanías las Pallas and Dédalo, I found toros, or bulls, figurines of the god Ekeko representing abundance and happiness in the home, and miniature boxes called retablos depicting various scenes.

Every day started or ended along the malecon, the esplanade along the waterfront, and the best ones did both.

If you’re visiting Lima on your way to Machu Picchu and don’t have two weeks in the city, I suggest these three food-focused and affordable days in Barranco instead.

DAY 1

Start your day at Ciclos Café, a small coffee shop and roastery that teaches you about Peru’s coffee industry. The country is one of the world’s biggest bean exporters, but only recently adopted a culture of third wave coffee, with trendy coffee shops emphasizing high-quality beans, often lightly roasted.

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Start your day at Ciclos Café, a small coffee shop and roastery that teaches you about Peru’s coffee industry.PIONEROS CINE/PROMPERU

Take a wander through local grocery store Metro Barranco, because no trip is complete without a slow walk up and down every aisle of the grocery store (I snagged some Alacena mayonnaise with a touch of lime to take home.)

Head next door to Canta Rana for lunch. The restaurant’s walls are covered with photos, posters and newspaper clippings, and most Sunday afternoons it’s stuffed with families. I went on a Monday when it was quieter and made sure to order the ceviche.

Lima is known for its ceviche – fresh fish prepared in lime juice with thin sliced red onion, sweet potato and choclo, which are large, soft corn kernels. The combination of ingredients makes each bite taste perfectly balanced. You should order at least one tiradito (fresh fish sliced thin and served in sauce) and a cold glass of chicha morada (a refreshing mix of purple corn, pineapple skins, and pinch of cinnamon and cloves). Canchitas will be brought to your table, a crunchy, salty corn nut that is best eaten with a spoonful of lime juice from your ceviche plate.

As the day fades, find a bench along the malecón and watch as it fills up with people watching the sunset.

For dinner head to Domeyer Street and try to snag a table at Awicha, a contemporary Peruvian restaurant whose name means grandmother in Quechua, a nod to the woman who taught chef Jason Roman how to cook, or Japonesa & Co. a Japanese fusion restaurant with delicious rolls that put a Peruvian twist on sushi and maki. I got a table tucked inside the terazza and devoured salmon sashimi and the TNT roll.

DAY 2

Start your day with a coffee from COSMO café. If it’s a Saturday or Sunday, stop into La Casa de Kanú on your way to the Lima Museum of Contemporary Art. Kanú has used books, including lots in English if you finished your vacation read early, and wall-to-wall prints by local artists such as Patricia Alcántara Larco.

Entrance to the museum is just over $5 and it has a good track record of temporary exhibits plus a permanent collection with Peruvian artists such as Claudia Coca and Kukuli Velarde as well as international artists.

Afterward, you can make your way to the Saenz Peña park and visit Museo Jade Rivera which gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the famous graffiti artist’s career on your way to Isolina for lunch.

I made a reservation at Isolina, but I don’t think it’s necessary if you’re not in a massive rush. Isolina’s specialty is home-cooked staples that pay homage to the historic taverns of the area – all the dishes you’d be served at someone’s home if you were invited for dinner. The handwritten menu is full of favourites, specifically the pan con pejerrey (fried pejerrey fish sandwich), seco de asado (cilantro beef stew) and aji de gallina (chicken and yellow pepper stew)

In the afternoon, grab a seat on the patio of trendy café Demo and enjoy a mild iced Hierba Luisa (lemon grass tea) to soothe your stomach and the pan de guayaba (a French pastry filled with guava). Wherever you go in Barranco, the pastries are so, so good, thanks to the high-quality ingredients, incredible work ethic and a Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Lima.

For dinner, head to Gran Chifa Chung Yion. It will be teeming with locals at large round tables sharing massive plates of Chinese-Peruvian food such as pollo chijaukay or tallarin saltado and drinking the fusion food’s signature side beverage: Inca Kola, a made-in-Peru yellow soft drink with a cream-soda-esque flavour.

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Barranco’s walkable streets have a mix of old and new architecture. The neighbourhood’s plaza is often full of people out for an afternoon stroll.Pao Flores/PROMPERU

Continue to bar La Noche de Barranco where wide open windows make it a good place to enjoy a drink. There’s food here, too – or do as the locals do and stop on your way there at El Tio Mario for antichuchos (skewered and grilled marinated beef heart).

DAY 3

Start your day with coffee from hole-in-the-wall Inusual, and then walk to Pan Sal Aire for a big breakfast with fresh sourdough sandwiches. I tried their twist on a mixto – a simple staple sandwich you can find at gas stations and high-end restos made with ham, cheese and bread and was left stuffed.

From there, let the street art of Jade Rivera guide you to the Puente de Los Suspiros – the Bridge of Sighs. Tradition states if you can make it across the bridge in a single breath, you’ll be granted one wish.

For an afternoon at the beach, follow the Bajada de los Baños down to the public beaches that line much of Lima’s coast. The Bajada spits you out at Playa Barranco and a bit further south is the sandier Playa Yuyos. For about $7 an hour or $8 for the entire afternoon, you can rent an umbrella to stake out your spot.

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For an afternoon at the beach, follow the Bajada de los Baños down to the public beaches that line much of Lima’s coast.Pao Flores/PROMPERU

For dinner, head back to Domeyer Street’s Siete Restaurante for a small menu of smallish plates perfect for sharing. By now you’ve gotten a sense of Peruvian food, and can appreciate how the restaurant’s chef Ricardo Martins plays with tradition and new ideas.

If you go:

Barranco is easily explored on foot but if you want to venture further, the Cabify app provides the safest rides around the city. Most places accepted credit card payments via tap from my phone, some needed a physical card and only a few needed cash.

Where to stay: Villa Barranco is a charming restored historic property. I stayed in a spacious room with private garden access and a great bathtub. Rooms start at $364 a night. There are lots of affordable Airbnbs in the neighbourhood as well.

Accommodation, a meal and an entrance fee were provided by PromPeru. It did not review or approve the story.