I have chosen to write about the three main cities of Peru, which are in fact bursting with healthy hotspots. As opposed to them being ‘international’ hubs, they serve true Peruvian cuisine. Peru is the home of many western ‘superfoods’, from root powders like cacao, maca, lucuma, to grains such as quinoa, and even nuts from the Andean mountains like sacha inchi. I found so many plant based option, it was easy to enjoy the delicious food. One thing is for sure: potatoes are always on the menu when the country grows hundreds and hundreds of different kinds!
Cusco is a tourist hub due to its rich history. It is surrounded by ancient ruins including, of course, the famous Machu Picchu. We only spent 4 days around Cusco but with excursions to hike Rainbow Mountain, explore the sacred valley, and a day at Machu Picchu, it left us with only one full day for Cusco itself and I would have loved one more day here in this bustling city that has many quiet, peaceful streets with hidden treasures.
San Pedro Market
Cusco’s central market was my favourite of all the markets I went to. The senses come alive within the rainbow of colour from the ripe and juicy fruits to the aromatic flower stalls with an abundance of textures and shapes. There are many stalls selling nuts and dried fruits by the kilo. We chose one and stocked up. The woman who owned the stall kept generously giving us tastes of pretty much anything we looked at. We filled up with a selection of golden berries, brazil nuts, sacha inchi, dried figs, bee pollen, almonds, walnuts and pecans. The pecans here are HUGE and taste a lot fresher than at home. These snacks kept us going throughout the next week of adventures with hikes and plane journeys and excursions where our included breakfast were really nothing more than bread. (Top tip: take avocado and a lime everywhere! We did and it made every piece of bread so much more delicious, nutritious and therefore, satisfying.)
The Shaman Restaurant
We ate the set lunch menu here and were blown away at how much food we got for such little cost. They claim to prepare and cook their food in line with shamanic principles. We had 4 or 5 courses here including soup, quinoa and vegetable dishes and an almond milk rice pudding to end. It was lovely.
Green Stop (shop & restaurant)
The tea and herbs sold here are sourced from the sacred valley along with many other dried goods. They also make their own fresh produce; cashew cheeses, raw brownies, plant based cookies etc. I got to sample a mouthful of the chocolate chickpea brownie and it was out of this world! Just around the corner is the sister restaurant; the food looks incredible, although fairly pricy, but I didn’t get the chance to try as I was still full from our shamanic feast for lunch.
Arequipa was probably might favourite place I went to in Peru. This city feels much more like a town due to the many pedestrian-only areas and therefore, the much calmer atmosphere. It has a rich history just like the rest of these incredible Peruvian towns, a beautiful main square with lush green gardens and the city is surrounded by three huge, dramatic, snow-covered volcanoes which you can choose to hike up or admire from afar.
This chocolate haven has a shop, cafe and chocolate kitchen (not to mention the daily cacao workshops they hold daily which I will do a full post on soon!). The cakes are made daily at a bakery close by with their organic cacao and, oh my, they are not to be missed!!
This restaurant is next door to Chaq Cacao, sharing the lovely courtyard (where a really great walking tour of the city begins), and serves local, organic produce. By day it serves açai bowls, salads and focaccia sandwiches and by night it become a pizza restaurant, making top notch thin crust extravaganzas in their pizza oven. I actually went back on my last night before an overnight bus because it was so good. They have innovative takes on an international favourite by incorporating Peruvian crops, such as (gluten free) purple corn crust and quinoa bases. There is the option for avocado instead of cheese. Las Gringas also specialises in beers although I can’t tell you anything more on that topic as I don’t drink it.
El Buddha Perano
The food at this vegan sushi bar is amazing! I was the only person dining there so it didn’t have much atmosphere but the food is fresh, colourful, healthy and so tasty.
I came here for lunch on my last day and again got a big set lunch menu for just 10 sol which is about £2.20! From potato to soup to a huge main, that I was able to pick from 4 options (I went for a bean stew), all the way to dessert, it was another seemingly never-ending lunch. I enjoyed it but was a total carb overload. It was a heavy meal and that was without eating the desert which was some sort of mango jelly (not my jam), however I would definitely recommend for those wanting to try the local non-meat food on a budget.
Lima is the capital of Peru and is far larger than any of its other cities. This is evident when you arrive; the streets are crowded with cars and loud with honks. However, because it’s on the coast, you get this whole sea (literally) of open space and a sense of serenity.
I came here with friends that live in Lima and work in Barranco, which is known as the bohemian suburb of this big city. There are many options for cafes in Lima and particularly in this area, but I was so glad we came to Germinando, mostly because of the starters. We ordered a couple of entrees for the 4 of us: mango cerviche (a vegetarian take on this coastal fishy delicacy) and another bowl featuring all of the local food: potatoes, avocado, corn etc. Again these vegetables were so fresh and ripe and the combination of flavours was amazing! My bean burger and salad for main was pretty tasty too.
This spot is in Miraflores which is where my friend lives. There are many exciting options and because it’s such a hard decision we came here 3 times! I tried the falafel nourish bowl for dinner and had the flax wrap for lunch as well as a half of the pancakes then on another visit sampled the carrot cake! The meals were full of healthy ingredients however, in all honesty, it wasn’t really anything to rave about in my opinion.
Ending with a bang; amaZ was the best meal I had and is without a doubt in my top 5 restaurant meal EVER. This is a fancy spot next door to the Hilton hotel and it has a price tag to match. In classic Peruvian style, amaZ also does a set lunch menu which happens to be vegetarian, so as well as this being the best value for money, it definitely suited me best. The price was not the standard 10-20 sol but was 270 for the 2 of us. If you’re looking for something special, I couldn’t recommend this more and it actually coverts to only around £30 each which is what you’d pay for a nice 2 course dinner in England anyway! The set menu had 10 dishes but rather than them being brought out one by one and us nibbling for about 5 hours, they brought out the first 4 together for our first course, then another 4 for our main, and finally the last 2 for dessert. Yes, we were full. What’s so special about this restaurant is that all the ingredients come from the amazon rainforest. A few of my favourite dishes were yucca empanadas, mushroom and callampas patarashca, plantain farofa and the homemade sorbets made with regional fruits such as orange, lime and palmarosa. Everything was absolutely amaZing and provided a real experience over and above the taste of the exquisite, creatively prepared food. Here we had our unbelievable feast then got to enjoy dandering back along the coast to return to my friend’s place In Miraflores. In I find myself in Lima again, I would definitely come back here and be excited to see what new Amazonian delights they had crafted.