A Pacific scented wind blows off the Miraflores malécon outside of the Miraflores Park hotel, where the restaurant Mesa 18 can be found. Lima has lacked a really good hotel restaurant for some time. There’s Perroquet in the Country Club, which is more about socialites mingling than the food, and the Sonesta El Olivar used to hire promising chefs but jumped off that train long ago. Orient Express, which manages the Miraflores Park, chose to make the restaurant a destination unto itself, rather than make it another hotel eatery like the predecessor. Gone is the stiff red and gold décor and formal setting. In came a plant filled open-air terrace and an edgy dining room designed by a Jordi Puig.
Argentine chef Federico Ziegler spent his first 6 months in Peru being occupied with opening the restaurant and getting to know Lima. He set up an Argentine Mediterranean menu that was good by any big city standard and had his staff in place. Then he went off to explore Peru. He was shocked at how many ingredients were out there. Now they are all over the menu. Amazonian fruits and fish are as common as risotto. Paiche, a giant Amazonian river fish, is served over tomato and ginger fondant, fava beans, mango vinaigrette, and shrimp oil. Yellow fin tuna swims in a smoked broth, with ginger flavored cassava and tapioca. Shrimp are breaded with kiwicha, and Andean grain, and then fried and served with a maracuya, or passionfruit, sauce. Dessert follows with a tasting of manjar blancos, among other things.
Hans Hilburg, Peru’s most famous bartender (he now runs the excellent El Pisquerito in Cuzco) has trained the bartenders of Orient Express hotels and the cocktail menu is as creative as any: Chilcano de Gengibre (ginger, pisco, club soda), Fresa Albahaca (strawberry, basil, and pisco), etc.They keep a decent selection of ultrapremium piscos behind the bar. Gran Herencia, “the top of the top,” was recommended.Good choice.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.