Plenty of restaurants have been established in repurposed, reimagined buildings. The factories, storehouses, mills, and mansions of antiquity now house some of the world’s hottest restaurants and gastropubs, which often pay homage to the history of the locale through menu items and interior details. The famous French Laundry, for instance, was named for one of the building’s original uses as a French steam laundry. Grace, located in Portland, Maine, owes its name and interior stylings to the former Methodist church (built circa 1856) in which it operates. Restaurant and cocktail bar Carlo e Camilla in Segheria, Milan is built in an old sawmill, and its industrial interiors reveal the original skeleton of the structure.
Few restaurants, however, celebrate their history quite like Astrid & Gastón Casa Moreyra in Lima, Peru. While the restaurant itself was established in 2014, it proudly traces its roots and the culture of its region as far back as 1000 D.C. According to a comprehensive timeline compiled by the restaurant, it all began with the irrigation of lands known today as the Avenida Camino Real, which would go on to house fertile haciendas (that is, plantations) over the centuries.
In the late 1600s a house was built, presumably by a Catalan architect named Pedro de Noguera. The house was likely rebuilt following a 1746 earthquake, evidenced by recently discovered murals exhibiting the colonial baroque decoration of the house. Since its subsequent purchase by a Count, the estate has been known as the Hacienda de San Isidro — an apt name, as San Isidro is the patron saint of farmers worldwide. Since then it has passed through multiple hands and served as a backdrop for the Peruvian civil war, played host to the liberator of Peru (Don Jose de San Martin), and faced increasing urbanization in the region.
This rich history has led to the present day, culminating in a fine dining restaurant that is as much about storytelling and experience as it is about the food.
Founders Gastón Acurio and Astrid Gutsche pursued culinary studies in Paris, and upon graduation they set out for the district of Miraflores, where the duo opened the first iteration of their eponymous restaurant. Located in a tiny house in an upscale residential and shopping district, the restaurant served cuisine that was largely French, inspired by global trends of the time. Gradually, however, the distinct culture of Lima began to prevail. Local ingredients, flavours, and traditions crept onto the menu, and Acurio and Gutsche embraced the unique character of the region. The esteemed chefs had a new goal: sharing Peruvian cuisine with the culinary world.
On the twentieth anniversary of the restaurant, Acurio and Gutsche made this symbolic shift concrete with a new location in Casa Moreyra, and today the restaurant is one of the most exciting foodie experiences in the country.
Menus here are seasonal and showcase innovative flavour pairings. Starters include Arepa de Cochinillo (roast suckling pig-stuffed arepas with Andean cheese, quince, and a black mint Ocopa sauce), Arracachitas Rellenas (arracachas stuffed with lamb cooked in Arab-Andean aromas), and Min Paos Planchaos (grilled Baozi buns filled with Shanghai short ribs).
For those looking for something in the seafood department, options range from a Tartar de Atun Bonito Nikkei Arabe (Arab-Nikkei bonito tuna tartare, garbanzo bean hummus, avocado and wasabi ice cream, and rice crackers), Los Erizos a su Gusto (sea urchins over toast, served natural or tiradito style), and a Tiradito Sichuan (scallops in mapo tofu leche de tigre, Sichuan chalaca, and hibiscus flowers).
For mains, options are broken down into your choice of pasta, sharing skillets, fish and seafood, or meat. Pasta lovers with adventurous palates may opt for the Pasta con Erizos y Limon (Nikkei style pasta with sea urchin, cured fish roe, and lime). Leaning towards seafood? Experience true local flavours with the Corvina, Homenaje a Chucuito (sea bass in a Peruvian minestrone emulsion, cioppino sauce, lima bean salad, and lima bean cream soup). Meat lovers can choose between delectable, painstakingly prepared guinea pig, roast suckling goat, pig confit, Angus hangar steak, and more.
The tasting menu also changes seasonally, with dishes specifically named for the history of Lima and its various cultures. A catch of the day pays tribute to Chucuito, a village in the Puno Province of Peru, while a shrimp dish from the Andes celebrates local geography. Other highlights are a cuy pekin in honour of Cantonese heritage, and Nikkei cuisine (a Sancochao dumping and pepian) to celebrate Okinawan heritage.
As for drinks, in-house sommeliers can help guests choose from an impressive list of over 250 wines, complete with personalized pairing proposals to complement the tasting menus.
If you’re paying a visit to Lima anytime soon and wish to experience the very best of local cuisine, be sure to book your reservations in advance; this cultural foodie hub is not to be missed.
Photos via Astrid & Gastón.