As a confessed foodie, visiting the wildly awarded Restaurant Central was a must-do when visiting Peru. Located in the city of Lima, the venue found fame through the popular Netflix show “Chef’s Table.” The restaurant is regarded as one of the best globally, currently claiming the number six position. It is notable for its contemporary flair and innovative twist on traditional Peruvian dishes. Incredible chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz is the brains behind Restaurant Central. He uses his restaurant as a celebration and educational experience of all things Peruvian.
Celebrating Peruvian Biodiversity
What makes Restaurant Central so unique is the use of native ingredients from across the country. Véliz and his wife Pía León have traveled the breadth of Peru in previous years, hunting down the best produce. On the menu are ingredients from the Pacific Ocean to the Amazon jungle and everywhere in between. It explores food from every altitude and climate. By sourcing ingredients from ecosystems of the land, sea, and mountains, the restaurant celebrates the mega-diverse country of Peru.
And diverse it is! Peru contains approximately 10% of worldwide flora species and 2,000 species of fish. It ranks second in biodiversity of birds, third for both amphibians and mammals, and fifth for reptiles. This makes Peru one of the most biodiverse places on our planet. Each plate served in Restaurant Central showcases this ecological variety. The menu tells the stories of dozens of small farms in the most extreme areas of the Peruvian landscape. Through the seventeen-course taster menu, you can explore a taste-tingling and visual representation of the country’s best offerings.
A Concoction of Art & Science
Every plate at Restaurant Central is a celebration of Peruvian cultural heritage through the careful use of ingredients. However, it is the innovative fusion of these bold ingredients that makes the restaurant so memorable. To Véliz, the ingenious combination of flavors is a science that he’s learned to perfect. Native dishes are reimagined into mouth-watering never-seen-before explosions of flavor. Examples include a dish consisting of cactus, clams, and seaweed as a presentation of the desertic coast. The flavor combinations and textures here are entirely novel. Paying tribute to the potatoes grown in the Andean highlands, another dish combines two tuber varieties with confit duck.
Just as every dish is pleasing on the palette, each plate is presented as a work of art. The presentation of the entire menu is as unique and creative as the ingredients found within it. Many of the dishes are presented to remind us of the environment from which the ingredients were sourced. They have a distinctive natural and imperfect appeal; nothing is made to look flawless. In some cases, it is difficult to tell what is even on the plate without taking a mouthful.
Food as Design Inspiration
It’s not often I look at a plate of food as design inspiration. However, the menu at Restaurant Central is the exception as it provides more than just modern food. It acts as a commemoration of cultural heritage and biodiversity through taste and artistic presentation. Each dish is about giving a culinary yet aesthetic experience. Stepping into a room inspired by Véliz’s creations will surely have the same profound effect as tucking into the ingenious menu.
The amalgamation of unique flavors and textures in the dishes can easily be transferred to interior design. Bold colors and the use of multiple contrasting materials are ideal for replicating this. These create an eclectic and awe-inspiring contemporary space. Moreover, the perfectly imperfect finish of all the dishes and clear link to the natural world is reminiscent of biophilic design. Each plate celebrates the diverse environments of our planet, and our interiors can do the same. Natural colors and raw textures can easily create this link with and celebration of nature.
Additionally, selecting handcrafted pieces from local designers develops a human story behind the space. This is comparable to the stories of many small Peruvian farms told within each dish. When it comes to design, inspiration really is everywhere.