Despite the star studded inauguration on February 16-17, Lima restaurant Astrid y Gastón Casa Moreyra’s official opening date is March 28th. One week before the doors open I met with executive chef Diego Muñoz, to see how things were progressing. I visited the space in September, while Mistura, Lima’s annual food festival was underway. At the time, restorations had been ongoing for some time, yet Casa Moreyra was basically a construction site. Floors were missing. The basement level, home to the future kitchen, looked liked it had not been touched since the 17th century. The grandeur of the space was clearly evident, though it was difficult to predict exactly what the resulting look would finally become. Now we know.
There are very few restaurants whose architecture and design make such an immediate impact and have such a strong connection to place. I can think of only a few. Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée in Paris, where tens of thousands of crystals hanging from the ceiling reflect the grandeur of the finest of Parisian fare. At El Bulli, the beachside setting in Cala Montjoi in Catalonia evoked the rebellious, free spirit that was Ferran Adria’s food. Astrid y Gastón Casa Moreyra – with its combination of history and innovation that closely follows the trajectory of Muñoz, Acurio, and the entirety of Peruvian cuisine for that matter – falls into this same category.
This project has been ongoing for years. The original Astrid y Gastón outgrew its space on Calle Cantuarias in Miraflores, long ago though it held on to it for 20 years. The kitchen and front of the house staff has come together one by one. The technical abilities and creativeness of the cuisine has become increasingly more sophisticated. Media attention to the restaurant, as anyone who has followed the World’s 50 Best Restaurant List can concur, has grown progressively each year. Casa Moreyra, a 17th century hacienda in the heart of San Isidro, is the last piece of the puzzle.
On entering the compound a spiral garden with wild batches of aji peppers, herbs, mandarins, and products of every sort to be used in the restaurant, is the first thing that catches your attention. In the corner near the street there is a smoker where kitchen staff were smoking tomatoes. A small greenhouse aligns itself along one side of the garden. A quinine tree sits at the very center of the spiral. Aside from a few finishing touches, the front of the main house is ready. A lucuma tree, which came with the house, stands to the right. On entering is a grand salon with large counter where staff will lead you to the area of the gastrobar, the fine dining area, or the private salons depending on your reservations. Interior details were for the most part still being installed as I walked through. Much of the furniture was covered in plastic. Muñoz didn’t seem in the least bit nervous.
“I came on 2 years ago for this. We’re here working, but they are still getting things in place. I think we’re ready.”
On a quick walk through the dining rooms everyone in the Acurio team is working side by side. Victoriano Lopez has come down from T’anta in Chicago to help out. Emilio Macias is directing the kitchen staff. Communications and marketing teams are blasting away on keyboards in dining rooms. Cleaning staff is being inaugurated.
The downstairs kitchen and storage rooms are completely finished and food is already being prepared. On the back patio there are giant spheres made from solid pieces of red eucalyptus that look like seeds. In the gastrobar area, which will seat 80, the open kitchen was designed from the crates that the kitchen equipment was shipped in from Spain, and a glass roof lined with lights and vines is sure to add enchantment. Orange and blue Andean motifs have been painted on the walls of one dining room. An original mural has been uncovered in another. Some rooms feature centuries old armoirs and gilded mirrors. Above the entrance to the main kitchen, a hand painted sign reads:
“Somos Libres. Seámoslo siempre.”
“We are free. Let us be always.”
Astrid Y Gastón Casa Moreyra
Avenida Paz Soldán 290
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.