It may be totally unfamiliar to most of us but Peruvian cuisine is experiencing something of a boom right now.
Food critics, famous chefs and food magazines are currently flagging up the quality and diversity of food in Peru.
This was recently underlined by Tripadvisor which named gastronomic tours of Peru as one of the new travel trends.
That was confirmed when the marketing folk behind a new hotel in Brussels posed the question for Belgians: Which is your most exotic dream destination?
They reply was Peru and that gave them the idea to base the hotel’s restaurant on this South American’s cuisine.
Of course, most of us will have little, if any, idea of what Peruvian cuisine consists of, not least because there are so few places, if any, in Belgium actually serving it.
But the good news is that there is now one such place in Brussels and if you pay a visit you it is clear to see why there’s such a fuss right now about Peruvian food.
Peru, in fact, has 3 distinct regions and each region has its own food, culture and traditions, meaning that in Peru you will be spoilt for choice in terms of food.
The same applies to “Cantina Valentina”, the restaurant at The Hoxton, Brussels’ newest and, currently, most talked about hotel.
What though, one might ask, can you expect from Peruvian cuisine?
Well, for a start you should recall that Peru is located next to the Pacific Ocean so seafood is important.
The “all-day” menu at this new resto includes a whole fish, cooked “Peruvian style”
The actual fish depends on the catch of the day but the idea is that you eat it in two stages. The first stage is served fresh ceviche style, the second is grilled or fried.
You will also find other seafood options on the card, including sea bass and octopus as well as oysters. All are delicious.
For starters, you can sample any one of the lovely “bites” (Lima bean hummus with plantain chips, crispy pork and aji lime salt, red prawn croquettes) or try the “raw bar” which includes oysters, Lima ceviche, tuna tartare and mushroom ceviche.
For mains, there’s an equally great choice of dishes, including chicken breast (a best seller which is grilled twice and once in the oven), crispy duck on rice, steak saltado, a Lima cheese burger, fried aubergine or “superfood salad.”
A selection of sides features broccoli and peanuts, mixed leaf salad and fries.
If you still have room, you will also be tempted to try a Peruvian dessert such as “Suspiro De Limena” (passionfruit, custard, meringue and almond) or Peruvian chocolate (dark chocolate, toasted quinoa and ice cream).
Everything, particularly considering the quality, is very affordable and reasonably priced.
A quite delightful meal can be accompanied by one of the terrific wines from the card (yes, including Peruvian wine) and, before leaving, try to taste their Nixta Mexican corn liqueur.
Eating here is very relaxing, reinforced by the comfy surroundings: multi-coloured fabric cushions, small round tables and walls filled with frescoes and old-fashioned trinkets.
After a lovely dining experience, why not check out the very popular 1970s retro-style rooftop bar to end the evening in style? At 23 floors up, it affords what is said to be the highest and best panoramic view in the whole of the city.
This 70-seat restaurant (open 7/7) like the hotel, is all very new here but is already gaining a great reputation.
The whole story, in fact, began in London in 2006 when the owners turned a cark park into their 1st hotel.
The Brussels hotel opened recently in what might be called brutalist-style tower building (the former European headquarters of IBM).
The Hoxton, Brussels is a hotel with just under 200 rooms but is so much more besides that.
The whole business concept is based on sustainability, from eliminating single-use plastic to using recycled materials to decorate its rooms.
Its “Good Neighbours” initiative helps those who need it most in that particular locality. This ranges from fundraising projects in aid homeless shelters to donating bedding, toiletries, appliances and food to local charities, projects and foodbanks.
The hotel even provides a co-working workspace, spread over several floors – like working from home without the distractions
Brussels rightly prides itself on the huge range and diversity of its eating options but, even so, very few restos here serve Peruvian food.
If the above has whetted your appetite for something different – Peruvian cuisine – then you really should check out this great new addition to the city’s culinary scene.
Square Victoria Regina, Brussels
02 883 8122