A Slice of Christmas // Festive British-Peruvian Feasts in London

a-slice-of-christmas // A Slice of Peru

Festive party season is upon us and everyone is searching for that perfect place for their work/friends Christmas dinner. If you fancy something a little different then booking a Peruvian fusion Christmas menu could be just what you need.

At first glance they may not seem Christmassy in a traditional British sense of the word but by using a combination of great British and Peruvian ingredients they truly make a feast. And after all, isn’t that what food at Christmas is all about? Sharing it family style and feasting to celebrate the wintertime. It all sounds delicious to me.

Peruvian food is also a fab option if you have a vegetarian in your party as the cuisine has so many options to choose from. Gluten free diets are also catered to as well!

I’ve not tried any of these specific menus (they are just suggestions for you), but I have chosen restaurants that I have actually visited over the last few years, so that I know how great the quality and ambience is!

So, without further ado let me give you some feasting contenders….

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Bookmarked // November

I know, I know, it’s like the 6th of December, and this post is very delayed…..

I’ve been super busy organising for my trip in a couple of weeks and my posts seem to have fallen further and further down the list of things to do. I promise to improve! Really, I do!

So without further ado, here is the lowdown on what happened in November…

November

THIS MONTH I HAVE BEEN …

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The Wizarding World in London // Harry Potter Studio Tour

OK so here’s the deal.

I love Harry Potter. The books, the films, the whole shebang.

When I found out a couple of years ago that there was going to be a Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour in London, I just had to go. So my mum, the wonderful human being that she is, took me for a surprise visit.

My trip was not long after the studio tour first opened, but that was back in 2012 before some other parts and props were brought in and added to the already vast collection (read: THE REAL HOGWARTS EXPRESS!!!). However, the overall tour is pretty much exactly the same now as it was then, so let me share my gallery of Harry Potter wonder so that you will all be extremely excited and go and visit for yourselves!

Hogwarts Ticket

The studio tour is located right next door to where they actually filmed all of the Harry Potter films. Two soundstages and also a backlot have been filled with props, costumes and sets from the movies. From tiny items like coins from Gringotts to huge pieces such as the Dursley’s house on Privet Drive.

privet drive

Now I’ve been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Florida, which is utterly amazing, but being around the props and sets that were made and designed as close to the books’ descriptions as possible is really, really awesome. Probably even better in fact.

I don’t want to rave on about every single thing in every single photo, because obviously it is all incredible, so I’ll just give a brief explanation of some of the photos and add any extra information I think might be necessary. And maybe I’ll get excited every now and again…but I’ll try and stay on topic!

Think of this as an illustrative post, rather than as a written one. After all, a picture tells a thousand words.

So hold on to your ‘portkey’  and let me transport you to the world of Harry Potter…

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Peru in London // Lima (Fitzrovia)

Seeing as the blog is taking a trip across the ocean and back to my homeland of Britain, I thought it only right to make my first post a Peruvian one.

Virgilio Martinez is a well known Peruvian chef and opened an extremely successful restaurant here in Lima called Central, which is currently ranked at number 15 in the world and number 1 in Latin America. Fortunately for the UK, he took his skills to London and opened Lima which has also been a huge success and has even received a highly coveted Michelin Star. Lima has been so successful in London that Virgilio recently opened a second restaurant in Covent Garden called Lima Floral.

I was lucky enough in December last year to be able to visit the original Lima restaurant, just off of Oxford Street in the heart of London (thanks Dad!!)

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Peruvian Desserts – Alfajores

alfajoresAlfajores come in different forms in different parts of the world. Here in Peru they are most easily described as a sandwich biscuit, however they are so much more than that.

Two layers of plain biscuit filled with manjar blanco (as a norm), and then dusted with a fine layer of icing sugar. They are normally bitesize, so you can eat about 20 before you start to feel like maybe you shouldn’t have! I say normally, because they actually come in many different sizes, from a mere mouthful to a cake-sized sharing alfajor.

The biscuit is from a simple recipe made with a wheat flour alongside butter/fat and baking powder. I would describe it as a less rich shortbread, but neither as sweet or as buttery. This recipe does change to allow for a variety in alfajores. For example, the recipe alters when maicena (cornflour UK/corn starch US) is used in place of wheat flour, or when cocoa powder is added for a chocolate biscuit.

The recipe is also changed to make way for honey to fill the alfajor instead of manager blanco. These little guys are quite different from their manjar blanco brothers, and you will find that people often have a preference for one or the other.

Alfajores are perfect when you just need a mouthful of something sweet. Perhaps to serve alongside a cup of tea, or as an end to a meal. They are the perfect little ‘bocadito’.

 

I LOVE LIMA

Where would I recommend in Lima to eat alfajores?

La Casa del Alfajor 

This is a small chain with little shops and stalls through Lima – with a couple in other provinces. They are exactly what their name suggests and serve alfajores in a variety of flavours and sizes. I love their little box of 10 wheat alfajores, or their boxes of 8 maicena alfajores rolled in coconut (see picture above). They also sell ‘make-your-own’ packs (these are comprised of little biscuits, manjar blanco and icing sugar), which make for great souvenirs or gifts. As do their pots flavoured manjar blanco, ranging from the classic manjar to the flavours of lúcuma or coffee.

There are many stores throughout Lima. Check here for addresses and maps!

Pasteleria El Buen Gusto

 I love this little cafe in the neighbourhood of Monterrico, and they serve the best alfajores de miel (honey alfajores). They’re about the same size as a regular alfajor, but they have these little holes in each of the 3 thin layers of biscuit and in between these layers you find the sweet, sticky honey. alfajores de mielIt’s not a runny honey (could you imagine how messy that would be!), but instead a thick, syrupy honey that adheres the biscuits together. These are delightful, and the fact that the biscuits are not sugary means that the overall level of sweetness is just perfect.

Calle Torre Tagle 249, Miraflores

Av. El Polo 297, Santiago de Surco

What about outside of Lima….?

Lima 

dessert trio limaWe need to go very far afield for this one and back to my homeland. Lima in London was started by the Peruvian chef Virgilio Martinez, who also owns the extremely successful restaurant here in Lima, Central. I was lucky enough to go to Lima when I was last home, and try their Sunday Lunch menu. The dessert came as a trio, and one of these samplings was an alfajor. I have honestly never tasted an alfajor quite like it. The biscuit quite literally melted in my mouth, and actually was much more similar to a shortbread than the ones here in Peru. It was as light as a feather and so delicate, but there was enough of the biscuit to not be overpowered by the manjar blanco. Absolutely beautiful.

31 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1JH

Fiestas Patrias 2014!

Fiestas Patrias is here again and the long weekend celebrating Peruvian independence is upon us! I love a long weekend.

But how to celebrate and spend this long weekend I hear you ask? You have but 2 options.

Leave Lima for fun and frolics elsewhere in the country (Cusco, Arequipa, Mancora…) OR like myself, stay in Lima and enjoy the city when it is much emptier and quieter.

So, if you have decided to head off on holiday and take advantage of the time away from work, or the fact that it is school holidays as well, then enjoy your trip away and relax!

If, on the other hand, you are in Lima, then what is there to do?

Museum of A,A&H1. Well, you could enjoy the space and freedom of the parks in various districts, and enjoy them with less traffic around. Perhaps you have wanted to hang out in the Bosque El Olivar in San Isidro, but normally the traffic to get there would make you rather stay in bed than fight through the hoards of cars, then now is the time to take advantage. Take your kids, your dogs, or if you’re really brave take a picnic (the weather really isn’t making this one a great idea though).

2. Check out the museums, archaeological sites, or galleries with less crowds to contend with. It makes for a much more pleasant experience. Perhaps check out Huaca Pucllana in Miraflores, MATE in Barranco or The Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History in Pueblo Libre.

3. Buy a ticket for the Feria del Hogar in Chorrillos. It runs from July 24th-10th August and tickets cost S/40. It is a huge fair or exhibition of products in Peru, from home and beauty to food and technology. There are also fairground style rides and bands playing too. There is a different big act playing every day, most of which you will have to pay extra to see. However, Juan Diego Florez (a great Peruvian tenor) is playing on 2nd of August and his performance is included in your ticket price, but space is obviously limited, so not all ticket holders will get in.

4. Eat.

This is a serious suggestion. Around Fiestas Patrias restaurants make special dishes, menus, or items to celebrate the holiday, and sometimes restaurants, vendors and shops can give really good deals. Also, less people means less traffic (yes, again) and therefore everywhere is much easier to get to, and much less stress. This weekend, you could probably drive through about 3 districts in the space of time it might have taken you to drive to the end of your street on a normal day*.

*This is a humungous exaggeration, but I feel it makes my point.

Places are also a little emptier, so it can be easier to get a table or you might spend less time queuing. Enjoy this while it lasts.

barranco beer company tankardSo here are a few deals or specials to sink your teeth into this weekend.

  • Befriend Barranco Beer Company on Facebook, apply for a code, and then you can drink 500ml chopps for just S/10 on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday (stock permitting obi). They brew their beer onsite so you would be drinking proper Peruvian beer.
  • Check out Miss Cupcakes and her special for Fiestas Patrias: Charada cupcakes. Charadas are the Peruvian version of Oreo’s but with a slightly darker (less sweet) taste. These cupcakes should be super tasty so get one while you can. The last day to purchase them is today. She also sells big badges to wear to show your Peruvian pride, I believe designed by Edward Venero and his label VNRO.
  • La Casa del Alfajor has large alfajores with added patriotic designs to celebrate Fiestas Patrias.

 

Tacu TacuEven without a deal, discount or special, you absolutely should eat proper Peruvian food and celebrate Peru. Go all out and eat in Astrid & Gaston or head to your local cevicheria or criollo restaurant, just make sure you eat Peruvian.

One of my favourite places to eat good hearty Peruvian food, aside from my house, is Rincon Chami, on Calle Esperanza in Miraflores. It serves big helpings of traditional dishes like Aji de Gallina, Tacu Tacu a lo Pobre (my personal favourite), and Arroz con Pollo. It also does a great Pastel de Choclo and has a big list of desserts. If you want to eat traditional Peruvian food without breaking the bank, this would be my pick. Gaston Arcurio’s Tanta makes some great Peruvian food including Lomo Saltado, Ceviche and Suspiro de Limeña. Maybe you would prefer something smaller, so head to El Chinito for their Sandwich de Chicharron or grab some Salchipapas from the Barranco Beer Company whilst drinking your S/10 chopp I mentioned above (brewed onsite)! To finish up with, grab a slice of Turron from Pasteleria San Martin and have yourself a pisco sour or two.

 

If you are in the UK, do not fret, celebrate with us! There are a few Peruvian restaurants on your doorstep. Well, if you live in London anyway!

Ceviche (check out their website for activities over the holiday) and CevicheAndina were opened by the same person (Martin Morales), and also Lima restaurant (opened by the owner of Central right here in Lima) now has an offshoot called Lima Floral. Also I believe a new Nikkei (a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese food which is extremely popular here in Lima) restaurant has opened in London too called Chotto Matte. I can only recommend Ceviche, as I haven’t been to any of the others, but why not try one out. It’s the perfect weekend to do it, and with the weather as hot as it is in the UK, a ceviche is just what the doctor ordered!

Whatever you do, Happy Fiestas Patrias!!

E