In the coastal city of Lima, street art is plastered on many of the weathered colonial buildings in the bohemian barrio of Barranco, the neighborhood where the celebrated chef Virgilio Martínez reopened his world-famous Central restaurant last June.
“It has this artistic sensibility,” Mr. Martínez said of the district once known as a seaside retreat for the Limeño aristocracy. “It looks like a small town where things are happening, but you also see old houses very well preserved.”
In relocating Central from the Miraflores neighborhood, he opened a multilevel complex that also houses the cocktail bar Mayo and the modern Peruvian restaurant Kjolle, run by his wife, Pia León. They live with their 3-year-old son, Cristobal, above their establishments on Pedro de Osma, the area’s ficus-lined main thoroughfare. “There are no big businesses here,” Mr. Martínez said. “You see independent owners doing everything from designing to cooking. People who really belong to a neighborhood.” Here, he dishes on five favorite spots in Barranco.
1. Plaza de Armas Barranco
“Just walking by is a special activity because you reconnect with the social dynamic of the Barranco community. Couples come here to see the sunset and there’s an organic market on Sundays. I’m not the kind of guy who sits to read the newspaper, but if I were, I’d go here.”
Intersection of Pedro de Osma and Parque Municipal
When Mr. Martínez finishes his own lunch service at Central, he’ll head around the corner to catch the last daytime seating at this small restaurant run by two of his former chefs. “I enjoy what Jose Luis and Juan Luis are doing with progressive Peruvian and Venezuelan cuisine. Peruvians don’t normally queue but they respect it here. If you go, don’t miss the “cream volteada” dessert. It’s like a flan, or crème caramel.”
Av. 28 De Julio 206; meritorestaurante.com
3. Casa Caudal
“This is a very eccentric atelier where ceramists create and sell their work. The pieces really speak to Peru’s identity. Many are made from sand and clay caused by flooding in the Andes. They take elements touched by water from the rainy season that have destroyed homes and lands, and they make something good with them. I have their sculptures in my house and in my restaurants. We use their art to serve our art, our food.”
Av. 28 De Julio 316 and Melgar 209; hermanosmagia.com
4. Blu il Gelato del Barrio
“I always have a smashing time at Blu,” the chef said of this gelato spot where native ingredients are whipped into creamy perfection. “The flavors are surprising. I like anything with cacao, chocolate. Sometimes they mix it with Andean mint or new coastal fruits. My son gets the strawberry, but he will get anything so long as it is red. The ambience is relaxed and the people are very friendly.”
Av. 28 De Julio 202; facebook.com/pg/gelatodelbarrio
At this popular restaurant, which opened in 2015 and evokes a rustic Peruvian tavern, Mr. Martínez said, “you will eat as people in Lima ate 50 years ago. Chef José del Castillo is doing dishes that his mother, Isolina, used to cook when he was a small boy. These recipes are very old — and very powerful, like tortilla of veal brains. The portions are massive and there is a lot of spice! They do cheap cuts of meat next to an amazing ceviche made with the best quality fish — so it’s about extremes. The chicha morada (Peruvian drink made from purple corn) is also incredible.”
Av. San Martin 101; isolina.pe
52 PLACES AND MUCH, MUCH MORE Follow our 52 Places traveler, Sebastian Modak, on Instagram as he travels the world, and discover more Travel coverage by following us on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up for our Travel Dispatch newsletter: Each week you’ll receive tips on traveling smarter, stories on hot destinations and access to photos from all over the world.