Paula and Simon Rengger own and run Shakey Tables, my favourite restaurant in the Hunter Valley. She’s a terrific cook and Simon really knows his wines and is a talented winemaker. They’re seasoned travellers and here’s Paula’s report from a trip to Peru.
Culinary Report from Peru
By Paula Rengger
Lima is a diverse city with amazingly grand colonial Spanish architecture, high security residential compounds and favellas (shanty towns). We chose to stay in Mireflores, which is a safe suburb in Lima supporting a great café society, fabulous patisseries and a splendid cliff suspended mall called ‘larcomar”, which is also home to some of Limas trendiest eateries.
Puno at the edge of Lake Titicaca has trendy bars, but only a few good eateries. The best place in town is the IncAbar (Lima 348), which serves up some good local nosh such as “alpaca with a whisky cream”. Crevice is a typical Peruvian dish but in Puno the locals like to use the small kingfish, which they catch from the lake and serve it with a very acidic marinade, balancing the acidity with boiled yucca (like sweet potato).
On Taquile Island, located about 2 hours by boat from Puno, you can have some super fresh kingfish in a spicy corn/maize based soup in the many restaurants located around the village square at the top of this idyllic island. Beware of the local “restaurant police’. Traditionally dressed men, who decide who goes to which restaurant, and then they try to get extra money out of you after the meal!
Cuzco is a very beautiful Spanish colonial city where you can base yourself while visiting the many Inca sites of the Sacred Valley & Macchu Picchu.
Eating & drinking in Cuzco is a delight, with many traditional Andean restaurants, funky bars with modern Andean appetisers and a couple of top end nosheries.
Tunupa Restaurant – (Plaza de Armas, upstairs) has a fantastic view of the square and cathedrals. We started with an alpaca carpaccio and a thinly sliced cheese (akin to buffalo mozzarella) dressed with lemon, capers and olive oil. Alpaca meat is dense in texture but quite pale in colour, and tastes mildly gamey. We also ate guinea pig in a creole marinade with scrambled potatoes – dark meat tasting like mutton, the texture and appearance of chicken. Scrambled potatoes? More like undercooked roasties in a tomato sauce! We also tried the duck breast with lemon, honey and figs with gratin potato Norman style. This breast could have been from a Dodo, t was huge, easily four times the size of anything that has been through my kitchen, the meat was really dark, gamey & tender.
Monasterio De Cuzco – (Plazoleta Santo Domingo 259). This hotel is a converted 18th Century Monastery, complete with haunting choir music filtering through the air vents, hundreds of genuine Spanish/baroque inspired quirky Inca paintings and a world class restaurant. Amuse bouche was a sweet potato puree, oriental sesame dressing with a Parmesan crisp. Our entrees were a breaded crayfish with herb and citrus dressing, red onion and potato jelly and a traditional sole ceviche with poached sweet potato.
Mains included seared alpaca, local cheese croquettes, port wine butter emulsion, and a duck breast with sweet potato ravioli, candied carrots and Andean mint infused jus. I really enjoyed the clean & refreshing taste of the poached baby pears in their syrup with a tarragon sorbet as the dessert. All washed down with a 2003 bottle of Canepa Argentinean Chardonnay / Viogner.
If you think your Amex is looking a tad loose and flabby well this is a good place to give it a good work out!
There are several groovy bars in town, but Los Perros and Bar Mandela are by far the coolest venues. Los Perros (Tecsecocha 436) for its creative and tasty appetisers in a “Ministry of Sound Inca remix” ambience and Bar Mandela (just off Plaza San Blas) for some politically correct cool vistas from its roof top sofas.
The eerie mountain clad town of Aguas Calientes is where you stay if want to do the Inca Trail or a 2 day stint visiting Macchu Picchu. The restaurants generally cater for the backpacker market, but interesting “fast food” can be found in the local market and the town has great natural hot springs, perfect after a day’s hiking.
Ica is 3 hours south of Lima, the “bodega” (winery) region of Peru. Pisco is the white brandy spirit used in making the national drink “Pisco Sour”, similar to a margarita in taste, but is made with frothy egg white, lemon and a dash of angostura bitters. At Ica we visited two bodegas. The first one was “Ocucaje” a very old and established bodega that also has lovely accommodation in this desert oasis location and is a great place to set up your base to see the ancient Nazca Lines, and experience the regions wine/pisco. The other bodega is one of Peru’s major Pisco distillers “D’oro”. The guard at the gate, the one with the AK47 machinegun, took our passports for safe keeping while he escorted us around the bodega. We tasted 3 different piscos and all were quite unique in flavour… the Italia version was quite floral with hints of rose, a bit like a 45% a/vol Gewürztraminer!
Everyday eating in Peru is a diet based on starch. It is not uncommon to receive mashed potatoes, chips or rice and boiled yucca on the same plate, but this is a third world country where you can experience every extreme weather condition within the very same day... so its probably not such a bad thing.
Paula is happy to help out with further travel advice.
You can contact her on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Next time you’re in the Hunter eat at:
02 4938 1744