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Develop a taste for Peru; Peruvian food is tickling tastebuds worldwide, but for a real flavour of South American cuisine you should head to Lima, says SARAH MARSHALL.

Byline: SARAH MARSHALL

PRESENTING a selection of outrageous canapes on what appears to be a miniature double divan, the waitress proudly raises a curtain on our show-stopping meal.

"We start with a fusion of flavours that form the basis of Peruvian cuisine," she proclaims, pointing to fried pork balls and alfajores filled with crab paste.

Opening a small drawer beneath the mattress to reveal several dainty, bite-sized empanadas, she adds: "Because this is where everything begins - on the bed."

She's right. Mixing gasketblowing African spices with earthy Andean flavours and fragrant Japanese finesse, cooking in this South American country truly is a melting pot of influences.

In recent years, Peru's chefs have earned worldwide recognition and capital city Lima is bubbling with creative restaurants.

Spearheading that foodie revolution was chef Gaston Acurio, who runs the immensely successful Astrid & Gaston with his Germanborn wife, pastry chef Astrid Gutsche (a 10-course tasting menu will set you back around PS94).

Dispersed between carefully curated book cabinets and elegant balconies, large wooden tables are scattered across the floors of palatial 17th century mansion Casa Moreyra. The other diners are so far away, it's enjoyably easy to believe we are alone.

Our 13-course taster menu is an endless adventure: ceviche made from an old, "endangered" recipe (where lemon and lime juices are replaced with orange), tender flakes of guinea pig set sail in the hull of a mermaid's tail, and a defiantly different dessert of cheesecake ice cream with olives (it shouldn't work, but it does).

When the Candy Shop eventually arrives - a multi-drawer treasure chest of gold-dusted chocolates and a full flavour spectrum of truffles - we're pleasurably destroyed.

"We used to have a 30-course menu," reminisces the waitress, rebuffing our gentle (and temporary) protests of "no more".

"People would take naps in between courses on daybeds. Those meals would last all day."

Armas, Lima Eating isn't a bad way to spend 24 hours in Lima. But if you want to squeeze in a few additional activities, here's how...

WHERE TO STAY | Atemporal, Miraflores JUST like its cuisine, Lima's architecture is a mish-mash of styles. A survivor from the 1940s, this proud mansion mixes turrets with a mock Tudor facade and lattice windows, and even bears the original owner's coat of arms.

Opened as a hotelito (small hotel) last year, the nine-room property sits on a leafy residential street in upmarket Miraflores, a 10-minute walk from Astrid & Gaston and even closer to grand pre-Inca pyramid Huaca Pucllana.

Jazz streams through internet radio in rooms and tea in china cups is available all day in a mezzanine lounge.

Exploring the city is incredibly easy: the hotel offers a free chauffeur service around the local area and guests have access to a wifi hotspot for the duration of their stay.

If booked in advance, the hotel can arrange special food tours (minimum three-night stay), with tastings and reservations at top restaurants. | Doubles from PS115 with breakfast. Visit atemporal.pe WHERE TO DRINK | Hotel B, Barranco ALSO housed in a grand belle epoque mansion, this was the first boutique hotel to open in Lima a few years ago.

Corridors are filled with modern art, daring sculptures and classy photographic portraits.

Once the art tour is over, retreat to the densely dark, clandestine bar where minutes become hours and one pisco sour (around PS8) easily segues into another.

A mixture of modern European and Peruvian, the food is also respectable.

Located at the gateway to the trendy Barranco district, next door to Miraflores, the hotel is a short walk from photographer Mario Testino's gallery.

| Visit hotelb.pe WHERE TO LUNCH | La Mar Cebicheria, Miraflores THIS casual ceviche restaurant does a roaring lunchtime trade beneath a roof of bamboo and palms. Arrive early though (before 1pm) and you'll get a table without a reservation.

Fresh fish options are scrawled daily on a chalkboard, although it's worth opting for the speciality - ceviche.

Start with a moreish snack of warm, salted fried corn, and choose from a seasonally changing menu. Service is sharp and snappy, and mains cost around PS10.

| Visit lamarcebicheria.com WHERE TO GO (WHEN NOT EATING) | Larco Museum, Pueblo Libre IF you can manage to take a break between meals, head to Lima's triumphant museum of pre-Colombian archaeological treasures.

From Miraflores, it's a 40-minute taxi ride across town (about PS7 in an Uber) but it is well worth the journey.

Housed within a bougainvilleadraped, whitewashed mansion, the collection includes sophisticated pottery from the Moche people and some conversation-sparking erotic pieces in a separate gallery. | Entry PS7. Visit museolarco. org for information.

need to know | SARAH MARSHALL was a guest of The Ultimate Travel Company (theultimatetravel company.com), which can arrange tailor-made tours to Peru, incorporating Lima as part of a wider itinerary. A 10-day food-themed tour costs from PS4,645pp including flights.

| For more information on Astrid & Gaston, visit www.astridygaston.com | KLM (www.klm.co.uk) and sister company Air France (www.airfrance.co.uk) offer a choice of 14 weekly flights to Lima via hubs in Amsterdam or Paris. Economy fares from the UK start from PS503 return. Regional UK departures available.

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Chef Gaston Acurio and some of colourful dishes from his kitchen
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:May 8, 2017
Words:868
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