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Central restaurant in Lima, Peru, which was just been crowned Latin America’s Best Restaurant for a third consecutive year, will relocate to a new home in 2017 in Lima’s bohemian Barranco neighbourhood.
Fine Dining Lovers can also exclusively reveal that the team behind Central, chefs Virgilio Martinez and Pía León, will open a brand new restaurant in Moray, about 45 minutes drive from Cusco.
The news comes just hours after Central was crowned top of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. "It's going to be a busy few years," says Martinez.
The new Central, built inside an old factory, will house three distinct spaces: a newly designed and built restaurant space; an exhibition style area for Mater Iniciativa, the restaurant’s research group, to present findings direct to diners; and a distinct space that will be home to a more casual restaurant where León, already a huge part of the success of Central, will finally present her own cuisine to the world – something many have been waiting for. "I’m excited," she says, speaking about what will be her first solo menu.
"Now it’s time for Pia to play her game and do her own menu," says Martinez. "This will be a separate restaurant, you will book separately and we are thinking it will probably open for longer than Central. We’re still deciding the details, but I think we will go à la carte and maybe a small tasting menu of four or six courses."
The new space is "huge" and will clock in around three times the size of Central, however, Martinez says covers will remain the same at around 50.
The chef says the new space will alter the experience for the guests immensely. "People are not experiencing Mater – they are seeing that we have a lab, but people who are having a dinner should be able to touch, see and feel what Mater do. Now is the time to share but we don’t have the space. I would love for you to have an experience where one point you’re eating cushuro (a bacteria that grows in wet soils at high altitude) and we can show you them live in Mater Iniciativa."
The chef expects the restaurant to open by the end of 2017 and says the holistic experience will be very different to that offered at the current site. "We want to give you a real welcome. First, the entrance will be through a garden, as you pass through you will get some smells and your first bite will be taken in the garden. Guests will then enter through the kitchen and be given a real warm welcome. You’ll go to your table and you will see the Central style of an open kitchen with a long pass. You will have Mater Iniciativa on one side, with access on the same level as the restaurant. A place where guests can see all the ingredients and listen to people who work there telling stories. You can leave your table to enter this and learn more about what you are eating – if you want. It’s the next logical step for us."
An Andean Restaurant in Moray
For the past 12 months Central’s research team, Mater Iniciativa, have been working from a house in the Sacred Valley of Cusco. "We call it Mater Casa," explains Martinez. A team of around four people, including visiting chefs from Central, live in the house and work to register new ingredients, connect with local communities from the area and understand as much as possible about the seasons and cultures surrounding them. This work is overseen by Malena, Martinez’s sister. "She brings us the scientific side, to register the products, to understand if things we find can be eaten," he says.
In January 2017, the Mater Casa team will relocate to a new house in Moray, starting what Martinez calls "phase one" of a "huge project." They will move onto a large piece of fertile land, taking residence in a new home and continuing their work to register new ingredients. They will also begin to start planting their own, "we made some tests, we can grow potatoes, quinoa and corn."
Phase two, and perhaps the most exciting for the public, comes in the form of what Martinez calls an interpretation centre. "It will be our interpretation of Andean culture. A place where guests will be able to eat and hear the whole stories behind each dish, each ingredient." He says this is expected to open by April 2017.
Martinez has always wanted to create a project in the area and originally planned to relocate Central there. Instead, this new restaurant will focus on serving local Andean cuisine.
The chef hopes the area, the journey to get there, and the winding paths along the drive from Cusco to Moray will all go towards creating a truly unique dining experience. "In Central, sometimes we have to write down stuff for guests to understand the story of our dishes. If you are there, eating in the area, you will feel the magic."
He says the Mater team will continue to research and register ingredients, all while pushing to create stronger connections with the local communities. "I can not do something really Andean if I don’t know all the communities, we have to work with maybe 20 different communities and it takes a long time for them to trust us."
Travel, Touch and Taste
These plans are a culmination of ideas discussed by Martinez and his team for years. Looking specifically at an area of Peru rather than the country's entire ecosystem, as they now do at Central, will allow for more focused research and experiences for guests. The Andean project will be the first, but imagine one for the Amazon, one for the desert, perhaps one that offers guests the chance to live the cuisine of the ocean that cracks against Peru’s coast daily.
Gastronomical explorations you can travel, touch and taste.