KiChic vegetarian hotel, Mancora

There are many things you expect to find in Peru, but a vegetarian boutique hotel wasn’t one of them.

I’ve waxed lyrical about the hotel on my sister blog, but now it’s the time for the restaurant to receive some serious acclaim of it’s own.

Gosh, where to even start? I suppose it would be easy to say that with a setting such as a white sandy beach, Palm Trees and the Pacific Ocean, even a bin bag covered in salt would taste great.

KiChic is the opposite of everything we’ve eaten in Peru so far. It’s the Mondrian of food: clean lines, block colours and a fresh take on the traditional. On the first day we arrived we shared a vegan burger. It was enormous, but it wasn’t enough. Filled with layers of avocado, coconut vegan mayonnaise, a quinoa and shiitake mushroom burger, and a heap of other little delights like raw onions marinated in coriander and lime-juice, the burger took vegan food to the next level. It was served with some unpleasant little cardboard crisps, like the kind you might take on a family picnic for the fussy eater. They were bland; we ignored them, the only duff note in this symphony of a restaurant.

The next time we had the KiChic sandwich and Causa starter. The sandwich sounded dull but got my vote for the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten. Ever. It had layers of fresh spinach, marinated mushrooms, heavy, briney purple olives, caramelised onions, a hummus there for the texture rather than the flavour, and fresh from the tree avocados. A drizzle of Peruvian olive oil made it all sing.

Later that night, a green salad scattered with smoked sesame seed powder, crunchy tender stem broccoli, acidic green olives, arugula, and avocado was the star of the evening. A thin crisp pizza without cheese but scattered with those delicious purple olives popping with salt and fruity acidity complemented the salad.

For breakfast, miniature bowls of just-sweet granola came with jars of fresh yoghurt, or almond milk like mine. The next course, a glass of chilled fruit juice (piña), the best coffee you will drink in Peru (fact, because it’s not Nescafé), perfectly scrambled, poached or fried eggs, and then a miniature basket of bread served with homemade papaya jam. Ok, here’s the thing. I hate papaya, passionfruit, apricot and peach jam. As far as I can tell, any of these flavours are an abomination and the maker should just stick to a strawberry or tart blackcurrant. But if you happen to be a fan of papaya, you will dig this.

KiChic gets everything right. From the peaceful, chic, surroundings, to the incredible variety of vegan and veggie dishes served with unwavering politeness and friendliness from the staff. If I come back to Peru, this place will be a massive reason why.

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Why it’s been tough to update in the mountains

I haven’t updated my food blog in a few days, because honestly, we haven’t eaten anything that’s been remarkable. We’ve been carb-loading in Gringo cafés… (If you’ve missed my updates about travelling around Peru then check out my sister blog at http://www.exploreitmore.blogspot.com).

In Huaraz we ate a lot of Gringo fare: hummus, dips, tostadas… It was all pretty standard. We had a few portions of food unpleasant enough to forget and swiftly walk away from, and frankly, these foods were so disgusting, and throwupable, that blogging about them wasn’t worth the effort (see: Lucuma fruit, weird free breakfasts given out on Cruz del Sur bus journeys, frizzy yuca from DCO).

So I apologise for the neglect of sizeable updates, but genuinely, you don’t want to know. But now we’ve come to Mancora, there are a few places that are really worth blogging about.

Mancora is perhaps the most gringo-ey town in the whole of Northern Peru, so I wasn’t expecting the food offerings to be much good. Their specialities are unsurprisingly fresh fish and cerviche. But for some reason they also have a plethora of places that serve up vegan food.

Helen, a Canadian-Peruvian who works at KiChic, one of the boutique hotels along the coast, thinks that more people are starting to become Vegan in Peru: “It’s such a small number, but it’s a class thing. The wealthier people are starting to think about eating well, eating better. It’s also an educational thing. YOung children in most Peruvian schools aren’t taught about diets or nutrition. They get what they’re fed and it’s usually junk food.” Helen also volunteers in a local private school and notices that although the she believes the mood towards unhealthy view is changing in Peru, there are always people selling cookies and Oreos outside the school gates.

At the Mistura food festival I got chatting to a man who was running one of five vegan stalls at the festival. “Last year there were no vegan or vegetarian stalls, so to have five this year shows that there is growing industry.”

We chat about the rise of dairy free milks in Peru, and he points out that there is no fear from local milk companies because they are the ones also creating the milk alternatives. Interesting, huh? I wonder why Cravendale don’t start doing that in the UK?

Anyway, the next few food blogs are most likely going to be some food and restaurant reviews around Mancora. I keep meaning to try a vegetarian Cerviche so I can blog about it, but everytime I go to buy it, I get cold feet and order a more delicious sounding dish. And frankly, anything is more delicious sounding than the though of cold, marinated mushrooms in lime. But I promise, before I leave, to ty a vegan cerviche once. And then I’ll share how gross it is with you all. Lucky me. Urrghh.

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Inca Kola – everyone’s favourite Peruvian drink

We were warned against it. Friends told us that it would lead to certain sugar rush/tooth decay. And yet Inca Kola is what you see in everyone’s hands across the city, swigging from the bottle like a normal bottle of Coca Cola.

Except this stuff messes with your mind. Everything, from the colour, to the smell to the taste, is the opposite of what you’d expect.

I picked up a bottle from a street vendor who inclined his head toward me. A nod of approval towards a fellow Inca Kola drinker.

Firstly, the colour is just so lurid you think it’s undrinkable. It’s like that hilarious time your joker friend pissed in a bottle of beer and then put it back on the shelf to drink. It’s THAT colour. The sort of colour you’d expect to at least have a flavour of limon or citrus. And then the smell hits you. It’s like the most chemical induced blue raspberry slush puppy you ever ordered from a bowling alley when you were twelve and you thought your tongue changing colour was the coolest thing ever. And then the taste. This is where your mind messes up. What could a drink the colour of lemons and the scent of chemical raspberry possibly taste like?

Sugar. It’s like candyfloss and bubblegum rolled into one, 410ml bottle (even though it’s produced by Coke, they probably know that any more than 410ml and you’re dead). The taste isn’t unpleasant and it’s not as sweet as you think it’s going to be. In fact, after half a bottle, you reckon you could take it all the way down. And then just as you go to tilt another swig into your mouth, you notice that each 250ml is more than a third of your daily recommended sugar allowance.

Perhaps it’s best to move back to the water.

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