Astrid y Gason, Lima, Peru

In recent years there’s been all sorts of hype and excitement formulated by San Peligrino and its World’s 50 Best Restaurants, a feat accomplished by no less (apparently) than 800 industry experts across the globe, diligently eating away in hundreds of restaurants to bring us a definitive list of the finest eateries. Whilst my personal experience in many of the featured restaurants has been nothing short of dismal, there have been experiences that have made my head swoon and my entire being suspended in a surreal intoxication. Nevertheless, I do find myself leaning towards the list more and more often when travelling, to see for myself how my taste buds will fare, and there’s not a country in South America that hasn’t got a restaurant by the Peruvian chef, Gaston, whether they’re arms of the mother ship, Astrid y Gaston in Lima or thers such as Chicha and La Mar. It is with the mothership, recently voted 35th  best restaurant in the world that the ensuing words and emotions are connected.

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Located down a quiet alley off the main street, Avenida Larco in Miraflores, the dining room is a sprawling red and white space with an open kitchen and offers a menu spanning several pages (goran!). When asked if I could take the tasting menu, altered to suit my allergies, things weren’t so happy as there were a few things on the menu that had shellfish in them, and the kitchen refused to swap those dishes with another dish from the 5 page menu. Apparently, it wasn’t enough to state in my booking that I had these allergies, I had to specifically state I wanted a tasting menu altered. Go figure.

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Their bread selection deserves special mention: A fine offering of Black Quinoa, Yellow Potato, Walnut and Andean Berry and Quinoa breadsticks, served up with Peruvian olive oil, wild herb salsa and butter. Following this, came a wee nibble of potato croquette and mango ceviche.

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The rather gregarious waiter was only too kind in suggesting dishes and I ended up with the Peruvian tapas selection for starters. For one, it should have been called Peruvian carbohydrate selection: Locoto (local chilli) stuffed with lamb with a yellow potato gnocchi, minced beef and potato dumpling with yellow chilli sauce and locoto spheres, grilled octopus with crispy garlic and mash potato, grilled goat with mashed corn. While all sounding fabulous,  it never stood up to its expectations and just fell with a starchy thud into my stomach.

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Next came Grilled tuna, coconut, tamarind, sweet potato: three pieces of tuna on three scoops of potato with crispy sweet potato really isn’t what you’d expect in a restaurant of this reputation. The tuna was cold in the middle and the whole dish became triflingly monotonous after the first 3 bites, and yet there was a whole plate to finish.

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Dessert was an interesting sounding number: “The Mango and its accomplice: Mango hidden under a refreshing camu camu layer (rumberry), coconut tapioca and mint syrup.

At last there came a plate of food truly enjoyable. Refreshing, creamy, appealing to look at.

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The petit fours, whilst looking playful and quirky, never got beyond their visual appeal, as the primary taste across all forms was a cloyingly sweet and bland expression.

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It may have been because chef Gaston was away in London to accept his award for placing in the 50 best restaurants again this year that his team back home were disappointing travellers and locals alike (I later spoke to another diner who confirmed that there were too many dishes on the menu and only 1 or 2 worth a positive remark), but to be amongst the 50 best restaurants in the world, I’d say it’s a far, far cry.

Overall experience: 7

Food: 4

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