Over the past decade, Latin American food has attracted more and more attention on the international scene. Whether it be the avant-garde Michelin-starred fare of Lima, or homely family favourites – this part of the world is a heaven for foodies.
Home to arid deserts, both Pacific and Atlantic coastline, high Andean plains, and the wild expanse of the Amazonian and Central American jungles, Latin America’s peerless geographical diversity has given rise to a mind-boggling variety of utterly unique, good-quality ingredients. The exquisite seafood of Peru, the world-leading viticulture of Argentina and the smorgasbord of exotic fruits in Colombia are just a small example of how the land itself has facilitated such a gastronomic triumph in these countries. Whether you’re seeking fine dining, comforting street foods or looking to hone your own culinary skills, Latin America is the perfect place for a foodie trip.
Here are some of our favourite places for a gastronomic getaway in Latin America!
The Flavours of the Andes with Fine Dining in Peru
Lima, Peru’s chaotic capital city overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is without doubt the culinary capital of Latin America. Boasting the sixth and tenth best restaurants in the entire world in Central and Maído (according to The World’s 50 Best), fine dining in Lima is a must-do. If you broaden your search a little further to the Latin America’s 50 Best list, eight more Lima restaurants (Osso, Isolina, Astrid y Gastón, Rafael, Kjolle, La Mar, Malabar and Mayta) make the list. Offering wildly inventive cuisine that pushes the boundaries of modern cooking and culinary science, these restaurants make the best of Peru’s diverse produce to create something completely unique. If you’re looking for the best of the best, a reservation at Central, or its sister-property in the Sacred Valley: Mil, both headed up by Peruvian Michelin-starred chef Virgilio Martínez, are the ones to go for. Book a table as far in advance as you can! A meal at Maído offers an opportunity to sample ‘Nikkei’ cuisine – a high-end foodie trend in Peru that blends Peruvian food with Japanese cuisine, making good use of the marine produce of the Pacific Ocean and Amazonian waterways.
Taking your foodie experience to the streets, we recommend a day out with a private chef at one of Lima’s many bustling produce markets. Begin with a fruit tasting and let your guide give you a brief introduction to the myriad of ingredients unique to Peru’s jungle regions. Next, appreciate an education on the chili pepper and humble potato. Both are hugely important ingredients in Peruvian cooking and the country boasts over 4000 different varieties of potato to get excited about. End the day with a ceviche and a pisco based cocktail making class in a chic hotel like Hotel B to wrap up your foodie tour of Lima.
Read more about the top restaurants in Lima here…
Tasting Gourmet Ingredients in Uruguay
Uruguay’s rolling grasslands and temperate climate lend themselves perfectly to the production of truly excellent ingredients. Famous for its cheeses, organic beef, grapes and olive oil, cooking in Uruguay is about respecting the quality of the produce and combining flavours to make the ingredients really sing. This is a wonderful place for foodies to enjoy private tours of organic farms and wineries without crowds of tourists. We love the wine tour at Narbona Wine Lodge and thoroughly recommend a dining experience in their cosy private tasting room. The Relais & Chateaux kitchen produces hearty yet refined meals that exhibit the best of Uruguayan produce with traditional recipes. Take a tour of an olive oil and dairy farm in the Rocha region to better understand what makes Uruguay’s methods so special before ending your trip on the pretty beaches of the Uruguayan southeast coast.
During a relaxed and sunny stay in José Ignacio, a quiet fishing village which has become the bohemian hangout of South American and international celebrities alike, make sure to book a table at Parador La Huella, number 33 on Latin America’s Top 50 list. Serving up the ultimate in chic beach eating, Parador La Huella’s repertoire in grilled seafood led by Vanessa González is second to none, and a speciality dish here is the grilled seabass. For dessert, tuck into a dulce de leche volcano: a transcendent experience for those with a sweet tooth! For a mix of great countryside eating, scenic rural escapes and high-end dining, Uruguay is a great choice of destination.
Read more about our Gourmet Uruguay itinerary here…
Fusion Cuisine in Northern Brazil
There is a lot to love about northern Brazil – the golden-sand tropical beaches are a good place to start. With an abundance of tropical fruits and excellent Atlantic Ocean seafood, many hotels here offer ultra-fresh, ultra-healthy ‘clean-eating’ menus that allow guests to feel a bodily and spiritual nourishment during a break in the sun. This part of Brazil, especially the State of Bahia and its colourful capital, Salvador, are characterised by an ethnic and cultural melting pot that has given rise to a rich cuisine combining elements of Amerindian, African and Asian flavours; the two latter influences being brought to these shores on the ships of Portuguese colonists. Rich coconut curries, spicy seafood broths and delicious fruity desserts are all common here. Must-try dishes include the moqueca, a seafood stew with curry spices and rich coconut sauces; acarajé, crispy deep-fried bean-paste fritters stuffed with chili shrimp; and vatapá, another popular dish made of a spicy prawn paste, palm oils, peanuts and coconut milk served with white rice. To understand Brazil’s mixed cultural heritage, there’s no better way than tucking into these typical dishes after a day out in Salvador touring local markets and learning to cook with a local Bahian chef.
Steak & Wine Experiences in Argentina
Think of Argentina and chances are one of the things that comes to mind is steak…or wine… or both! Argentina is quite rightly world-renowned for the quality of its meat and wine (usually Malbec). Argentine cuisine is rich, homely and really not for anyone on a diet. Tuck into juicy grass-fed steaks, grilled vegetable kebabs, delicious home-baked empanadas, and sickly-sweet alfajores – made of biscuit and gooey dulce de leche. If travelling south, Patagonia’s speciality is slow-cooked lamb, often roasted for up to nine hours over open flames and accompanied with grilled provolone cheeses and grilled vegetables. If you plan on visiting Buenos Aires, be sure to book a table at Don Julio. A traditional Argentine steakhouse, just done very well, this restaurant made the number 34 spot on the World’s 50 Best and serves grass-fed Aberdeen Angus and Hereford beef that has been matured for at least 21 days in a climate-controlled space. Unusual speciality cuts such as the entraña (skirt steak) are a particular highlight and should be eaten with fried beef empanadas and crispy sweetbreads lightly seasoned with lemon juice and salt to start.
The perfect foodie tour of Argentina has to include the cosmopolitan capital city, one of the country’s principle wine regions, and a stay on a traditional cattle-breeding estancia. Start your holiday with a stay at the Four Seasons Buenos Aires and have your dinner at the Elena restaurant – ranked at number 45 on Latin America’s Top 50. We also recommend asking your travel specialist to book an evening at The Argentine Experience for you, where you will learn to make your own empanadas, mate tea and alfajores, with a delicious steak and wine meal included in your cooking class! Fly to Mendoza in the wine region and enjoy a couple of days of excellent bespoke wine tours, perhaps also with fine Relais & Chateaux sanctioned cuisine at Cavas Wine Lodge, making sure to detour by Francis Mallmann’s Siete Fuegos at some point during your stay. Finally, head back to the countryside outside Buenos Aires for a stay on a traditional ranch like La Bamba de Areco, another Relais & Chateaux offering. Enjoy lazy days in the pool or out riding punctuated by freshly baked bread and pastry at breakfast, impossibly generous traditional ‘asado’ barbecue lunches, rich cakes for afternoon tea and stylish contemporary Argentine evening meals.
The Taste of the Caribbean in Colombia
Much like Brazil, Colombia’s geographical and ethnic diversity has been a catalyst for the development of a fascinating fusion cuisine. Nowhere is this more obvious than the country’s Caribbean north coast where African, European and Amerindian influences and ingredients combine to create a rich gastronomy, full of flavour and colour. Specialities here include seafood, soups (a Colombian institution) and anything that can be made with coconut! Try traditional Colombian arepas to start, followed by a main of grilled fish and coconut rice, finished up with coconut sweet and fruity flans. Those interested in cooking will revel in the opportunity to enjoy a cooking class and market tour in the walled city of Cartagena, where much of this region’s culinary renaissance is taking place.
For a fine dining experience to round off your foodie journey in Colombia, enjoy a rum-tasting at the El Arsenal Rum Box and try the 10-course tasting menu at Celele in Getsemaní, complete with 10 unique pairings ranging from crisp Chilean white wine to a fermented tamarind liqueur. Everything about the food here is exceptional with a specialist menu designed to celebrate the heritage of Caribbean ingredients and cooking dating as far back as the ancient Tayrona people. Presented with bespoke crockery and a theatrical eye for artistic detail, this will be a dining experience you will never forget.
Are you planning a foodie getaway in Latin America? Learn more about Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Colombia. Contact us today and speak to one of our experienced specialists about designing the ultimate foodie tour for you – restaurant reservations included!