Explaining how this agricultural history is reflected in the menus of Lima, he further explains: “The idea behind Lima is to explore the three main regions of Peru – the Andes, which is rich in cereals, corn, potatoes; the coast with all its seafood; and the Amazon, which is new for us and where every day we’re finding new fruits, roots and nuts – these three regions we bring onto the plate.”
But Lima is not just a representative of traditional Peruvian cuisine in London, it is also showcasing the epicurean explosion that has taken place in the South American country, described on Lima’s website as “the gastronomic capital of the Americas”. Robert Ortiz tells The Staff Canteen: “It’s a country where, at the moment, there are around 150,000 students training to be chefs; it’s massive what’s going on.”
Virgilio Martínez, owner of Peru’s Central restaurant (currently number 4 in the world’s top 50 restaurants) and Robert Ortiz’s co-collaborator, has travelled to the Cusco region of the country 47 times in the past three years, braving both hostile rainforest and high altitude in search of rare, ancient edibles for his restaurants. These wild ingredients and unique flavours feature in both the menus at Central in Peru and across the water in London. Describing a tasting menu at the Lima Floral, Martínez says: “We just came two days ago from Ancash in the Andes, where we picked some ingredients, like cushuros, (a cyanobacteria that appears at more than 4000m), then we will be going to the Amazon area of San Martin, and right in the jungle we will get some wild fruits, cacao and coffee.”
Working together with Martínez, Robert Ortiz develops his menus around this ever-changing supply of fascinating, native food stuffs – to great acclaim from UK diners. The chef’s talent lies in his ability to make complete sense of a fantastically diverse and wide-reaching cuisine. A studied presence in Lima’s conspicuous, open kitchen, he works quickly and quietly to produce vivacious, wholesome and intensely-flavoured dishes that distil rather than distort or dilute the unique flavours of Peru.
His light, fresh plates are characterised by clean, vibrant flavours, wonderful textural combinations and dramatic, natural colours – all beautifully and artfully arranged with clean, contemporary style. Ortiz’s signature preparations, such as Octopus olivo (braised octopus with white quinoa and Botija olive) and Lomo steak Huancaina (beef loin with yellow ají sauce), reflect his flamboyant, but precise, style – where every ingredient brings something to the plate and nothing is just for show.