Detination: Arequipa | By: Melina Bertocchi | Photos: Melina Bertocchi
In Arequipa everything is different, since the moment you land you notice it. The welcome with the illuminated Misti picture that impacts from the front, show us a city of power, of strength, and also warmth which is one of the most representative features of its people.
The journey from the airport to the hotel was so fast, in the blink of an eye we arrive Casa Andina Premium Arequipa, even though it was about a 25-minute drive. Considering it was Wednesday, the streets we passed seemed calm, just like any Sunday in Lima. Of course, let us consider that this city – the second largest in Peru – has barely more than a million inhabitants. But its population has nothing to do with the economic strength it represents for the country, Arequipa represents prosperity and business; the most important mines in the country are here – but there is also a well-organized tourism industry that grows proportionately over time. The Arequipeños have many reasons to feel proud of their land.
My memories of Arequipa started as a kid, I liked it so much, that I always had the memory of the view, the countryside and the dry and cool climate. That is why, when I reached the entrance to the historic center, I felt as if I had already been there. It started on Ugarte’s street, where the street takes another color and texture by the presence of sillar – volcanic stone-. Here is the Casa Andina Premium Arequipa, the superior hotel of the group in the white city. This is the largest of three locations. Apart from this, they have the Casa Andina Select Arequipa and the Standard Arequipa, each targeted to a specific public. That is one of the great successes of the Interbank group.
This time I was so lucky to stay in Ugarte’s street because of its location, comfort and history; the hotel is built on top of “Casa de la Moneda” (the Mint was once), and those memories of that time are felt in different pieces exposed in the lobby. Here there is history everywhere, and it is without a doubt one of the most beautiful houses in the area.
The whole house is based on “sillar” (volcanic stone). The whiteness and brightness of its entrances, its rooms, its restaurant and bar and some rooms that maintain the style of that era, are well worth. The lobby houses a balcony on top, it gives the idea of a mini village of the past, where you will be surprised by harpist during the breakfast buffet.
At 9.00 pm I was at the hotel with Javier Tejero, executive chef of Casa Andina Premium Arequipa in Arequipa. We booked a very special table in front of one of the windows where you will enjoy the atmosphere, the colorful paintings, the architecture of its walls. The restaurant is set almost like a bend. With about eleven tables inside and capacity for about sixty people the restaurant has wooden tables, comfortable chairs and an elegant casual style.
What to ask for?
If you come to visit the white city, it is logical that you want to eat in the dozens of picanterías that surrounds the countryside of Arequipa; but i recommend you spend one night to enjoy the proposal of Javier in Alma. If you are salad lovers and Mediterranean food like me, start with carpaccios. Octopus and loin. They seem more of the same, but they are not.
The first is a super tender octopus with a olive cream with a touch of cream chees; crowned with a trickle of Yauco oil; from Arequipa of course. The second is the classic meat, but with the intensity of its cover made of blue cheese; Mix of green leaves, red fruits and almonds. These last two ingredients are the ones that break the tradition and make it more attractive.
Also, there is always someone who prefers a dish and can turn it. As a maincourse we had Sea and Land. I had to order something with shrimp, although it is just beginning the season and they are small. But we tried the rice with shrimp and Creole salad. This one with a melty style like texture of risotto with a touch of cream of milk.
The second maincourse we asked was Grilled Lamb Ribs, with candied tubers and Peruvian peppers. Our favorite. A mixeture of potatoes, ollucos and sweet potato confit in olive oil and laurel, covered in chincho and huacatay sauce which remembers the aromas of pachamanca. The lamb is raised in the area and is tender and tasty.
The other one I would ask for on a second visit would surely be the Asparagus Risotto with ham, almonds and sherry, or the Panzotti of pumpkin and cheese, in black butter, sage, capers, almonds and parmesan. Javier has a predilection for almonds, and unless someone is allergic, I think it’s a plus which adds texture, flavor – especially if they are toasted – and joy.
Surely you will wonder what I chose for dessert but I must confess that: ¡nothing! Consciousness would not let me. I had eaten all day and I still needed two more days of picanterías, restaurants, cocktails and market. So I took an infusion of peppermint and Javier one of coca. I have a very important excuse to return to; and when I do I will ask for the “Degustación Moneda” (Mint tasting) without fail; alfajores of coca and other surprises. For some reason I always prefer the dessert at breakfast!
The average investment with one appetizer, one starter and one main course per person plus dessert are about S / 120.