“I just run a deli,” says Miguel Hernández when asked about Mistura food fair and the pending LatAm début edition of World’s 50 Best restaurants. But since opening three months ago on key gastro street La Mar in Miraflores – also home to Pescados Capitales and the eponymous cebichería – La Nacional is proving to be oh so much more than “just a deli.”
Stepping inside the former mechanic’s workshop, it’s easy to understand why it has become a fast-favoured haunt for lunching ladies, hip young things and foodies in search of dynamic twists on Peruvian staples.
Grab a bar-side table or a more comfortable banquette with a patio view: the outdoor space is bedecked with ferns, a brightly coloured original by chicha artist Elliot Túpac and a small organic market. In colder weather, a spot close to the indoor clay oven that whips out impeccable pizza, is worth its weight in gold. Overall, the look is fresh with lengthy mirrors, plenty of artwork and a floor-to-ceiling mural sporting the eye-catching logo in all its glory (a soldier pedalling on a penny-farthing, a stop-watch for a front wheel), cheekily prodding fun with its fork-firing cannons.
La Nacional itself represents a bevvy of meanings. For starters, its menu features Peruvian classics brought bang up to date; think a butifarra pork sandwich that ditches dull white slices for a hearty seeded bread baked in house. In addition, earthenware and trinkets pay a red-and-white tribute to Peru’s flag, a collage of stories printed in La Nacional newspaper covers the back wall, plus the eatery was “founded” in 1821, the year Peru gained independence. All these elements contribute to a sense of national pride, albeit in a light-hearted and highly edible way.
Other culinary delights celebrating the country include brunch favourite Eggs Benedict that are slathered in a dreamy salsa de ají, as well as a savoury play on pastel de choclo whose Chinese mushrooms reveal themselves unexpectedly within the depths of the cheesey sauce. And in honour of National Potato Day, pisco de papa was an obvious alcoholic contender.
Other plus points? All dishes can be prepared to go, deli style; Hernández, whose previous history includes manning the ship at Gambas, cooks with various organic produce; and there’s a concerted effort to recycle – plenty of box-ticking for conscientious consumers.
Oh, and on your way out, don’t forget to stick a hand in the candy jar and pull out a Nacional pin – mine, naturally, said: “Peru.”
Av. La Mar 1254
Currently studying to be a sommelier in Buenos Aires, British journalist and editor Sorrel Moseley-Williams squeezes in copy for Wallpaper*, Departures, The Independent, The Real Argentina, Time Out and Fodor's between tastings. She also writes two weekly columns for the Buenos Aires Herald – Wining On and The Expat. www.sorrelmw.com.