Peru is one of the oldest civilisation in the world. It is home to ancient cultures spanning from the Norte Chico civilisation in Caral, to the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. This country is constantly evolving and now with a population estimated at 30.4 million. It is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians, the mixture of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide diversity of expressions in fields such as art, cuisine, literature, and music.
As we all know the culinary scene in Lima has been mind blowing, but you’d be surprised how exhilarating the art culture here is as well. If you love and history, then you will love Peru and here are a few of the highlights:
Victor Delfin’s Second Home
Remember this sculpture El Beso (the kiss) at the Love Park from my previous post? It was such a privilege to actually meet the artist who is responsible for this iconic sculpture. Hence we headed off to Barranco, Lima’s arts district to meet one of Peru’s most important painters and sculptors, Victor Delfin.
We arrived at his home in Barranco which doubled as an art gallery and also a boutique guesthouse called Second Home Peru. Visitors can actually book and stay in one of the eight bedrooms overlooking the Pacific Ocean and be surrounded by Victor’s artworks. Victor himself actually still lives and works there in a small studio separated from the main building but we were the lucky bunch that actually got to meet and chat to him in person.
As we descending down to his studio, all we could hear was classical music echoing through the studio from the radio, a giant big canvas was facing out to the ocean and someone was behind it painting away as we could see his legs. Then Victor revealed himself and appeared from behind the canvas to greet us, what an entrance.
Victor Delfin, is now 87 years old and still no sign of slowing down with his creativity. He is the youngest child in a poor family from a fishing village in northwestern Peru, Delfin graduated from the National School of Fine Arts in Lima in 1958. Delfin works with a range of materials – wood, metal, canvas and even aluminium. He is highly regarded for his massive metalwork sculpture of birds, horses and other animals, as his paintings are often erotic inspired, many of himself with his late wife in many different sexual positions. Delfín has a worldwide reputation; his art has been exhibited across South and North America and is housed in major museum and private collections.
But Victor is not just an artist, he is also an activist.
Many of his art can also have a strong political theme, such as 1996 chronicle that denounced, with great irony, the corruption and authoritarianism during the regime of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. He helped organise artists and writers in opposition to Fujimori with many meetings held in his studio. He also created many of this little cage with Fujimori inside and sold them on the street and carried a bigger one during the protest.
Delfin has many stories to tell. In his studio, there is also a huge wooden carving that depicted the misery of Peru’s war against Shining Path terrorists in the 1980s and 1990s. (pic above)
Not very often that I get to meet a world renowned artist like Delfin, I felt like I just met the Picasso of Peru. This place is definitely worth a visit or even spend a night or two.
Domeyer 366, Barranc
TEL +51 1 247-5522
Next art pit stop was Artesanías Las Pallas, a charming shop run by the eccentric Mari Solari, an expat Scottish who travelled around Peru extensively and built good relationships with local craftsmen. Mari is an artist herself and sadly we didn’t get to see most of her artwork when we were there because many of the paintings were removed from her home for an upcoming exhibition.
We also got to meet Mari’s Peruvian Hairless Dog Nacion Viringo, a breed of dog with its origins in Peruvian pre-Inca cultures. Its look kind of reminded me of the Pharaoh hound.
If you are looking for some authentic Peruvian art to take home as souvenir, then this is the place you must visit. Here you will find an extensive collection of folk art and crafts from all of Peru’s diverse regions.
Artesanías Las Pallas
Cajamarca 212, Barranco 15063, Peru
Phone: +51 1 4774629
Opening hours: Mon – Sat, 10am – 7pm
MATE | Museo Mario Testino
The name Mario Testino is no stranger to those who are fans of fashion, celebrities and photography. Even if you haven’t heard of him, I am sure you would have seen many of his work in magazines, billboards and album covers, especially his brilliant work of Kate Moss which brought her to fame.
Born in 1954 (age 60), Mario Testing moved from Peru to London in 1976 to study photography. He is now one of the most famous Peruvian fashion photographers to date with many of his work featured in magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. Many supermodels and celebrities were shot by him including Kate Moss, Gisele Bündchen, Nicole Kidman. Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna. His career high point came in 1997 when he was chosen by Princess Diana to photograph her for Vanity Fair. They were the last few photos of Diana before the unfortunate car accident.
Mario Testing opened MATE in July 2012, his first not-for-profit association in Barranco, Lima. MATE acts as a gallery of his work through his career years and also a platform to showcase Peruvian art. The gallery is separated into seven rooms, they are categorised into Kate’s room, Madonna’s (where photography is prohibited), Gisele’s, Stars, Groups and so on. Mario doesn’t just shoot celebrities and models, there is also a room where he shot portraits of Incan natives dressed in bright and colourful costumes standing in front of traditional backdrops, made by famous Peruvian king of photography – Martin Chambi.
Last but not least, the Lady Diana’s room. Mario took these pictures for Vanity Fair, the photos show the most natural side of Diana. There were no jewelries on her, minimal make up and just an elegant satin dress with silver and gold Swarovski beads by Versace. I was truly mesmerised by these images.
MATE | Museu Mario Testino
Pedro de Osma 409, Barranco 15063, Peru
Phone: +51 1 2517755
Opening hours: Tues – Sun, 11am – 8pm
Pedro de Osma Museum
We didn’t have to walk far for the next art stop, Pedro de Osma Museum was only few doors down the road from MATE. If you love history and art from the colonial period, then you will love this museum. Inside the grand mansion houses a private collection of masterpieces of art made in Peru during the fifteen through the eighteenth centuries. The owner Pedro de Osma Gildemeister and his sister are serious art collectors, from paintings, sculptures, altar decorations, silverware and furniture. Not to mention, the house itself is awe-inspiring. He took great pride in his collection and strove to share it with others. He often presented and explained the works to guests. After his death in 1967, the Pedro y Angelica de Osma Gildemeister Foundation was formed in order to conserve and exhibit the collection of Pedro for the public.
A divinity chest that believed to be opened only once a year during Christmas, where monks will travel from town to town with this chest to show the locals about the story of Christ and about the religion of Christianity.
There are also many valuable antiques and furnitures in the museum, with one room particularly dedicated to only silverwares. You simply have to marvel these masterpieces with your own eyes.
Museo Pedro de Osma
Av. Pedro de Osma 423, Barranco
phone: +51 1 4670063
Opening hours: Tue – Sun, 10am – 6pm
There is a lot of other art galleries and museums in Barranco area if you are interested. But I think is enough art talk and let’s go for some food!
We had a scrumptious lunch at La Picanteria, a popular local haunt that proudly took the 31st place in the San Pellegrino Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014. Tucked away in the suburb of Surquillo not far from the famous farmers market where chefs come to shop, La Picanteria is exactly my kind of restaurant. There were no fancy decor but just long communal tables where everyone sat next to each other, enjoying family-style feast whilst the tiny kitchen kept pumping out Traditional Peruvian dishes that were not shy from spices and Ajies (chillies).
The local hospitality was friendly affable, we also started chatting to the people sitting next to us and they recommended us to order Algarrobina, which was a delicious concoction of pisco, sweet syrup extracted from black carob tree, egg yolk and milk – just like an egg nog, Peruvian style.
La Picanteria is famous for their seafood usually cooked in spicy curry sauces, that’s why diners were given bibs to wear in case of splatters on shirts. I just loved the casual setting in the restaurant, there was no menu except the blackboard on the wall listed out dishes on offer. They even brought out a whole fish to our table to show us its freshness, before using it to prepare our first dish – Ceviche.
I was really looking forward to try an authentic ceviche while in Peru. The fish used in our ceviche was called Cabrilla, a type of grouper from the local water, a high priced fish loved by the locals. The whole fish that we had cost 90 Sols (AU$36.50) but it was worth it. The flesh was sweet and firm but not chewy, slowly cooked in Leche de Tigre, or tiger’s milk. The citrus-based marinade sauce is tangy and sour, with a slow burning sensation from the aji chillies. It was so damn good.
Rocoto reline hecho chupe is one of my favourite dishes. It came in a big bowl of spicy milk soup and inside was a red capsicum stuffed with beef mince then topped with a slice of cheese and a soft boiled egg. The soup itself was the hero, nicely balanced with flavours with the right amount of chilli heat. It was the time I wish I had a big bowl of rice so that I can pour the sauce all over it.
The Huevera Frita con Yuca y Arroz wasn’t everyone’s favourite but I absolutely adored it. A classic Peruvian dish where fresh tuna roes were crumbed then deep fried to a golden crunch while the roe itself was still soft and creamy inside. The roe itself definitely has a distinctive fishy taste to it but not overpowering, I found it very rich and moreish. Typically served with crunchy yuca potatoes fries.
The last dish hands down was my favourite dish of them all. Lingua or Ox Tongue was slow cooked to a meltingly tender softness, it had that beautiful smokey flavour derived from grilling over charcoals. It was served with a refreshing spicy sauce resembled of the Argentinian’s Chimichurri. While some found it odd to eat “tongue”, but I totally embraced the whole tongue-to-tongue action without hesitation.
If you want to dine at this restaurant, I would suggest to get here before lunch hour as it gets crowded very fast. Better still, make a booking in advance.
Francisco Moreno 388
esquina con Gonzales Prada, Surquillo
Phone: +51 1 241 6676
Opening hours: Lunch only, Mon-Sat, 11am – 5pm
El Bolivariano Restaurant & Bar
When in Peru, there is only one drink you need to know – Pisco Sour. Pisco Sour is a popular cocktail in South America, especially in Chile and Peru. There is a constant rivalry between the two countries over who makes the best Pisco. After our meal, we made an impromptu visit to El Bolivariano Restaurant & Bar to learn more about Pisco and also the art of making a perfect glass of Pisco Sour.
Located in the Puebo Libre district, El Bolivariano was once the church of Magdalena Vieja built in the 1780s. Then it was sold to the Queirolo family in 1880 who turned the place into a typical grocery store. As time went on, the small family business slowly evolving into what it is now, a restaurant, a tavern where locals come for traditional home cooked meals or have a drink from the bar.
We were very lucky to have the restaurant manager Christian Quispe to show us the process of making Pisco.
So what is Pisco? Pisco is a colourless brandy made by distilling grape wine into a high-proof spirit. Peruvian pisco is produced only using copper pot stills, like single malt Scotch whiskies. Peruvian pisco is never diluted after it is distilled and enters the bottle directly at its distillation strength. Pisco usually is around 42% alcohol, so they are quite potent to drink on its own.
To appreciate Pisco is almost like wine tasting. You look at the colour of the alcohol to check its purity, smell the aroma and then taste the flavours that linger on the back of your palate. I have to admit it was way too strong to drink straight. After the tasting, Christian showed us on how to concoct a perfect Pisco Sour.
If you ask any Peruvian, they will have their own recipes on how to make a Pisco Sour. Christian’s recipe is possibly one of the best by using only fresh ingredients and also a very simple, straight forward recipe.
Christian’s Pisco Sour
egg white from a fresh egg
2 oz pisco
1 oz sugar syrup
3/4 oz lime juice
3 cubes of ice
Bitters, for garnish
Add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake for 15-20 seconds. Pour half of the cocktail into a glass, swirl the cocktail shaker around for few seconds and then pour the remaining pisco sour into the glass. Finally splash a drop of bitters on top of the white foam.
Note – If you want your pisco sour less sweet, add less sugar.
Cheers! I mean, ‘Salud!’
El Bolivariano Restaurant & Bar
Calle Rosa Toledo, Pueblo Libre 15084, Peru
Phone: +51 1 2619565
Opening hours: Mon-Wed, 12pm – 12am, Thur 12pm – 1am, Fri – Sat 12pm – 2am, Sun 12pm – 4pm
The Arts Boutique Hotel B
The most artsy hotel in Barranco has to be The Arts Boutique Hotel B and I was thrilled that we got to spend our last night in Lima at this beautiful hotel. Originally built in the style of the Belle Epoque, the mansion served as a seaside retreat back in the 1920s. This boutique hotel has been restored and preserved, it is now a contemporary space with many of its original features remain. There is a unique art collection of its own throughout the whole hotel where guests can enjoy private viewings. Each bedroom also has different artworks hanging on the wall.
I love the idea of hanging a black tie on the door knob as a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign rather than the cheap cardboard. What a smart idea!
The Arts Boutique Hotel B
Sáenz Peña 204, Barranco, Lima – Perú
Phone: + 51 1 206 0800
Our time in Lima had finally come to an end. It was bittersweet as I would have liked to stay in Lima a little longer to explore the culinary scene in this vibrant city, but at the same time I couldn’t wait to get to the next destination which I looked forward the most during this trip.
Because, Machu Picchu!
So Cusco, here I come!
How to get there – LAN Airlines now operates seven one-stop flights each week from Sydney to Santiago, Chile. LAN also offers non-stop flights between Sydney and Santiago every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday in a codeshare partnership with oneworld partner airline Qantas.
Where to stay – Belmond Miraflores Park Av. Malecón de la Reserva, 1035 Miraflores, Lima 18, Peru
- Make sure you have your vaccination for Hep A & B, Typhoid and Yellow Fever prior to departure.
- Get some US dollars and then exchange it to local currencies when you get to South America.
- Drink Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Camenere, Syrah from Chile; Malbec from Argentina
- Best to get bottled water rather than drink from tap
- To create your own holiday in South America, please visit South America Travel Centre.
[A Table For Two travelled to Peru as a guest of LAN Airlines & SATC]