Publish in Road Warrior - Wednesday, December 12, 2012
GIRVEN FAVORITE The Central Restaurante in Lima.
Tim Girven, editor of The Legal 500 Latin America, on his favorite restaurants and hotels in Latin America.
BY LATINVEX STAFF
Based in London, Girven has been traveling to Latin America for more than 20 years. Latinvex caught up with him while he was visiting Guatemala after a trip to Mexico.
What are your favorite restaurants in Latin America?
Maria Ortiz’ former restaurant, Águila o Sol, was something of an institution and its abrupt closure from one day to the next 4 or 5 years ago simply added to its legendary status. She has since opened a new restaurant, Dulce Patria (Anatole France 100), which serves traditional Mexican cuisine with an animated twist. Every dish is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. There’s something contagious about the care with which the food is prepared and presented… it’s as if the playfulness of the dishes gradually overtakes the diners. By 9pm the place is buzzing. I’d also recommend Pujol (Francisco Petrarca 254) for a quieter evening with very sophisticated and subtle dishes, again using primarily Mexican ingredients; and if one has the opportunity to dine at the Club de Industriales that too is to certainly to be relished. All the above are in the Polanco district.
It is hard to beat a good carne asado accompanied by a bottle of Malbec, but leaving that aside… I like Tegui (Costa Rica 5852) very much - it’s one of those restaurants which –prior to the Internet, at least– travelers would be most unlikely to find for themselves. An all-but-anonymous door in a graffiti covered exterior gives way to a place of real character. The long narrow dining room gives on to an open kitchen and the tables are sensitively spaced to ensure a degree of privacy. The tone is set, in part, by a riot of vegetation that rises behind the glass wall running the length of the room. Everything I’ve had from the menu has been excellent. On one occasion a neighbourhood-wide power cut threatened to curtail the evening but the staff, both in the kitchen and front of house, took the entire episode in their stride and the subsequent candle-lit evening was very memorable. On balmy evenings I’d recommend dining out on the terrace at the Hyatt’s Gioia Restaurante (Posadas 1350, in Recoleta), which looks out on to Palacio Duhau.
Peruvian cuisine has taken London by storm during the course of 2012 – most notably with the opening of ceviche, and more recently LIMA. The latter is run by Virgilio Martínez who back in 2010 opened Central Restaurante in Lima’s Miraflores neighbourhood (Santa Isabel 376). For me it’s hard to beat. I’ve never seen it less than vibrantly busy. The starter of pulpo carbón morado, served with lentils, the delicate, lemon-like yuzu, and pac choi, is a personal favourite from a fantastic menu. Humberto Sato’s Costanera 700, with its option of discrete dining rooms, is also an experience. It was a favourite of former president Alberto -El Chino- Fujimori and reputedly the scene of “el cevichito de la paz” between him and former Ecuadorean president, Abdalá -El Loco- Bucaram, a fourteen course extravaganza which subsequently featured on the restaurant’s menu for a time. For a more modern and international take on Peruvian cuisine -not to mention a very fine selection of wines- the Hotel Westin’s Maras Restaurante (Las Begonias 450) is an excellent option, a little quieter than Central but none the worse for that.
In the mid-90s Santiago’s business district was dubbed ‘Sanhattan’ by the editor of La Nación’s Friday supplement so it is fitting that the neighbourhood’s signature restaurant is called Nolita, a name derived from New York district located ‘north of Little Italy’. The atmosphere reflects its busy executive clientele and efficient service makes it ideal for a working lunch.
What are your favorite hotels in Latin America?
Amidst the city’s growing bustle I’m a fan of the tranquillity offered by Lima’s Country Club. And if one has read Alfredo Bryce Echenique’s novel Un mundo para Julius, staying there takes on a whole other dimension. The hotel’s buffet is excellent and they do a mean pisco sour too… In Mexico City: the St Regis. Situated on La Reforma, a block away from El Ángel de la Independencia, it’s a stone’s throw from the city’s symbolic centre. Architecturally it seems to capture the spirit of 20th century modernism a la Mexicana. The scale and design of the building, its rooms and dining spaces – the entire package is fantastic … unless of course you need to be in the satellite business district of Santa Fe, in which case you face an hour in the traffic. I’ve also heard good things about the W Mexico City. The US-born writer David Lira, long resident in el DF, gives a wry account of the hotel’s cocktail bar in one of his crónicas… And if one’s taste is modern then in Chile the W Santiago on Isidora Goyenechea is a must – brand new, ideally located and absolutely up to the mark.
What do you like most about traveling in Latin America?
Food, friends and the unexpected are all high on the list but none are truly region-specific. The fact of the matter is that for whatever reason I have a certain passion or fascination for the continent despite the many difficulties that have beset it over time. It is a pleasure to be here and I regard it as –if not exactly a privilege- then certainly as something special that I value greatly and which I am conscious that few are fortunate enough to experience.
What do you like the least?
Clearly there are still some very severe issues in many corners of the continent but were I to take a lighter perspective then I’d have to say that traffic is pretty high on the list. Mexico City and Sao Paolo remain way out front in this regard but both Santiago and Lima, according to their respective scales, are doing their best to catch up.
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