Pursuitist visits Central in Lima – the pinnacle of gastronomy, named the world’s best for 2023. Go inside this award-winning Peruvian restaurant and read our review.
Here, at Pursuitist, we are taking you through an enchanting culinary journey that celebrates Peruvian tradition and authenticity. Recently hailed as the world’s best restaurant for 2023 by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Central in Lima, Peru, holds the coveted title, redefining the fine dining scene globally.
The Visionaries Behind the Culinary Triumph
Central was born in 2008 from the ingenious mind of Virgilio Martínez, whose ambition was to establish a gastronomical wonder deeply embedded in the Peruvian culinary ethos. Pía León, who later became Martínez’s co-chef and spouse, joined the venture in 2009, fortifying the foundations of the Central experience.
Their mutual admiration for Peruvian cuisine was so captivating that it ensnared Martínez’s sister, Malena. Together, the trio continuously traverse the expanse of Peru, engaging with local producers, exploring unique ingredients, and conceptualizing inventive culinary methods.
The Evolution of Central
As Central’s unique philosophy evolved over the years, the restaurant developed a fascinating menu that catapults diners across 15 distinctive Peruvian ecosystems, separated by altitude. Each dish encapsulates the essence of its source, from Dry Valley to Amazonian Water, reflecting the diverse Peruvian landscapes from under the Pacific Ocean to the heights of the Andes.
In 2018, a significant milestone marked Central’s journey – the relocation to a spacious establishment, Casa Tupac, in Lima’s Barranco neighborhood. The move allowed the restaurant to expand its culinary wonders, including León’s solo venture, Kjolle, and their research center.
The Ascent to Global Acclaim
Central’s success story, both remarkable and inspiring, saw the restaurant first appear on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2013 at number 50. Ten years later, Central has skyrocketed to the top, becoming the first South American restaurant to earn the prestigious title. This recognition is a testament to the diligent work and the commitment of Martínez and León.
Becoming Culinary Ambassadors
Martínez and León have embarked on a global mission to spread the allure of Peruvian flavors. They have brought to life a string of eateries, each one harmonizing Peruvian and local produce into unique culinary experiences. These include Mil in Cusco’s mountains, Olluco in Moscow, Maz in Tokyo, and the most recent addition, Estero in Riviera Maya, Mexico.
A Sustainability Endeavor
Central’s core philosophy pivots around sustainability. Six years ago, Martínez took a groundbreaking decision – to rely solely on 100% organic ingredients grown in Peru, eliminating all overseas sourcing. Every ingredient is procured from different micro-climates of Peru, including the Pacific Ocean, the Andes Mountains range, and the Amazon Rainforest.
The Central Dining Experience
The Central dining journey is an immersive experience, beginning even before entering the restaurant. Guests are welcomed by a grand granite table, showcasing the myriad flavors and ingredients they will encounter during their dining experience.
Central’s 17-course tasting menu showcases a variety of appetizer-like bites, a selection of slightly larger main dishes, and an array of desserts. Each dish, although petite, is a flavorful explosion of unique ingredients, such as limpets, river snails, native tubers, raw cacao, and even clay. Paired with each course is a drink, ranging from juices to alcoholic beverages, each as exotic as the dishes they accompany.
Central offers affluent travelers a sensorial journey across the micro-climates of Peru, encapsulating the essence of the region’s culture through its cuisine. The World’s Best Restaurant 2023 isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an experience, an adventure into the soul of Peru. It’s a testament to the creativity, tenacity, and passion of Martínez, León, and their team. For the gastronomy-loving traveler, Central is a destination not to be missed.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.