Gabriel Battaini’s Lima Favorites
Our “The Master’s Voice” interview series brings you the insider secrets from Latin American capitals. Gabriel Battaini, the owner of the chic boutique hotel Attalea, talks about the unknowns of Cusco and Sacred Valley, as well as the up and coming neighborhoods and the kitchen revolution of Lima.
“The food is fantastic and you really get spoiled here! Peru has the coast, the jungle, the mountains, and the ingredients are so varied. There are so many choices! The problem is when you travel outside Peru, it is very difficult to be pleased.”
As an Argentinian who made Peru his home, what do you like most about living there?
It took me a while to understand why I was in Peru, but in Cusco I discovered that living a simpler life was everything. I came from Buenos Aires when I was 24 to open and manage a hotel in a town called Huaran. I lived in the Sacred Valley for over 13 years and it is a place that I still call home. My idea was to stay for six months initially, but I never left. Living in a small town with the locals taught me a lot. I slowed down, I started to enjoy the simplest things in life, I met fantastic people along the way, gained a lot of patience and became more tolerant.
The food is fantastic too. You really get spoiled here! Peru has the coast, the jungle, the mountains, and the ingredients are so varied. The food scene has developed a lot over the years thanks to all these amazing new chefs trying to innovate things. Virgilio Martinez, the chef of Central, is leading them, experimenting with ingredients and hundreds of different kinds of potatoes, for example. You go to the jungle and have specialties like seco (meat stew), cau cau (tripe stew with potatoes and peas), olluquito (a one-pot dish made with ulluku roots) and chonta (palm heart salad). In Lima, you should try anything with seafood. There are so many choices! The problem is when you travel outside Peru, it is very difficult to be pleased.
A BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF SACRED VALLEY
Could you give some insider tips for enjoying Sacred Valley as a visitor?
The classic touristic places are fantastic and not to be missed. But as a tourist, you normally don’t have enough time to see and discover everything Cusco and the Sacred Valley has to offer. My favorite ruins are untraditional ones: Ollantaytambo and Raqchi on the route to Puno. The massive walls are unbelievable and you feel away from the usual tourist circuit. Renting a car and driving into the mountains, to Lares or Quillabamba for example, also gives you a more authentic view of the country. The little town of Huaran in the middle of Sacred Valley is a good place to stay. When I first went there to open a hotel, there were no telephone lines or internet there. Now it is very close to everything but without all the tourist rush. It is full of nature, amazing views and lovely people. Try The Green House B&B (my first hotel is now owned by a really good friend of mine that keeps the same feeling and quality of service) or The Green House Villas that I still own. These are rental houses with amazing views, fireplaces and a little bit of hotel service. I visit the place monthly to check how things are going and to see my dogs. You cannot miss the food and homemade ice cream of Viva Peru Cafe here as well.
While you are in Ollantaytambo, make sure to visit Alqa Galleria, a true gem with traditional Andean textiles and other artisanal discoveries. A place to forget about the world is Huaypo Lagoon. If you are a trekker, you would also be happy visiting Yanacocha Lagoon in Huayoccary. When I did it, it was one of the best days of my life!
May I have a shortlist of your personal favorites in Lima as well?
Barranco is where I live and has many architectural beauties. Walk around this bohemian neighborhood, look up, and look beyond… Check the colonial houses and graffiti around Puente de los Suspiros. My favorite streets in the hood are Calle San Martin, which has a very interesting mix of historical buildings, art stores, restaurants and bars, as well as Avenida Pedro de Osma with its giant ficus, architectural gems and museums.
Go to a local market or “mercado” and see all the amazing things that land has to offer. Then have some “ceviche” at Canta Rana Restaurant in Barranco with some friends, enjoying a Pilsen Callao beer. Walk along the waterfront from Barranco to Miraflores and, if you are lucky, the sky and the sea will give you the perfect gift: an amazing sunset.
In Miraflores, where our hotel is located, my favorite street would be Avenida La Mar. Many years ago this was a street where you could only see car shops and hardware stores. Today you can see how all that has blended with one of the most powerful gastronomical approaches.
What should we do to understand the true spirit of Peru?
You need to talk to people, be with them, go out with them to understand Peru. Peruvians are generally very passionate about their country, their folk music, football and food. Make friends here, or share a house in Airbnb if you don’t know anybody here.
“We call the city “Lima la Gris” (Lima The Grey One), as the climate is pretty much the same all around the year here. We don’t have fall, winter, or spring, and the weather is usually cloudy and grey. When the sun comes out during the summer, everybody gets into a better mood, go out more often and Lima becomes a different city.”
PERUVIAN CUISINE FASCINATING THE WORLD
Peruvian food now has a global impact. Where could we taste the best of it?
You should go to Mercado 28, which is a new style food market and visit Norte there. They have amazing small dishes to share and gourmet fast food. Try tequenos de salmon (salmon rolls), parilla marina (seafood grill) or the shrimp burger. El Mercado of the well-known chef Rafael Osterling serves the best seafood. Try their ceviche and pulpo a la parilla (grilled octopus). Merito is my absolute favorite with its super original menu served at the right price, which is only a fraction of famous restaurants like Central and Osaka. This is a small place in Barranco with few tables, so you cannot make reservations. Try arepas (corn flour bun sandwiches), chonta and chocolate mousse here. And of course, I should add Isolina. It serves typical Peruvian food with huge portions to share and authentic recipes with great taste. There is always a queue outside, but it is worth.
Where is the best place to have pisco sour, the national cocktail of Peru?
Gran Hotel Bolivar is a true classic, inside a beautiful old place full of history.
THE RISING STARS OF LIMA
Where would you suggest for a fun night out?
We call the city “Lima la Gris” (Lima The Grey One), as the climate is pretty much the same all around the year here. We don’t have fall, winter, or spring, and the weather is usually cloudy and grey. When the sun comes out during the summer, everybody gets into a better mood, go out more often and Lima becomes a different city. I could suggest Victoria Bar in Barranco. It has just been refurbished and is a fun place to go especially on Thursdays. They have DJs at times and a really nice vibe. Barra 55 is a gin bar, with really nice food and only 55 square meters. La Noche de Barranco has a younger crowd with loud DJ music. There is a good mix of foreigners, backpackers and locals. You can always have a fun night there.
Can you tell us a Peruvian designer we should follow?
Easy! My boyfriend Roberto de Rivero is one of the best interior designers of Peru. He is always creating innovative stuff and has fantastic taste!
The neighborhood to watch?
Monumental Callao. That was one of the seediest neighborhoods back in the days and now is an important spot concerning art and social transformation in Lima. That’s where the seaport and airport are and you would still want to be careful there or you’d better go with a guide. Walk through the historic streets, eat, drink and see street art and graffiti. A part of Peru you would not see anywhere else.
IN A NUTSHELL: ATTALEA >> This intimate five-room hotel is nestled in an elegantly refurbished house from 1925 in the affluent coastal neighborhood of Miraflores. Four partners (and friends) have transformed the glorious building into a cozy place, where Republican architecture meets contemporary art and carefully selected traditional artisanal pieces from Peru. Each room has a different vibe, which you could also make “your own” with the aromatherapy you could choose. The owners like the guests to mingle and share experiences, so breakfasts are served on a communal table, but the house has lots of different spaces to relax and be secluded if you want to. Soon, a beautiful rooftop terrace with a mini-therapy room and a sixth bedroom will be added to the property as well.
WE LIKED An honesty bar with some of the best wines from around the world and complimentary bikes.
To contact Attalea Hotel located in Miraflores neighborhood of Lima: www.attaleahotel.com