We already know that of things one can have done to oneself at low prices in Lima, I prefer acupuncture over beauty services. We also know that I almost never go to restaurants, and that when I do, they are cheap ones, that I like Lima 1, and that I shop in the central market although the rest of my household is afraid to go in. I have also nearly given up on the bus system, in favor of cabs, until further notice (i.e. until they finish the current obras which cause so many main arteries to be torn up and incapacitated) – because it just takes too long to ride buses around all the detours and through the congestion, because I am too lazy to re-learn all the road maps so that I can be an efficient taker of buses in these circumstances, because I can, or am willing to walk further than people from Lima can or are, and because, when faced with the choice of taking two buses at 1 nuevo sol apiece or one cab for 5 nuevos soles, I go for the cab, saying, “It is just a dollar” (really it is a little more, and over time these dollars add up, but still [and notice, I think in dollars because it is in dollars that I am paid]).
The other extremely bourgeois thing I do is sit in fancy cafés, the topic of this post. I want to know about more of them since I currently only go to three and a half on a regular basis. (I used to go to various others in Lima 1, but I do not live there now. There are other cafés I go to occasionally, but which I think of more as bars or restaurants and suspect it would be invasive of me to use as offices). Because I only go to three a half and want to go to more, we are having an open thread on fancy cafés of Lima (good and bad).
Disqualified from the outset are Starbuck’s, the McDonald’s café (yes, it serves espresso), any café in a mall, and the café of the bookstore CRISOL. This last café looks good but is ultimately too flashy, and the wait staff appears never to have been customers in a café, so they do not know what they are doing. Now I will review the cafés I like.
The HAITI on the Parque Kennedy is the most traditional and is probably everyone’s first choice. It’s an old fashioned café like those in Spain, with a professional wait staff and a varied restaurant menu too (expensive). Café con leche is currently $2.25 here and, give or take a few cents, in all other cafés of this level. This café is good for conversation and for reading, for study groups, and for writing in notebooks. I do not think it would look right there to set up a laptop, and I have not seen people do it; for me it is too noisy and busy there to be writing on a laptop, anyway. Maybe one could at a back table, late at night. It might be possible to hook into the wi-fi hot spot that is the park. The HAITI always gives change in brand new coins, which is fun.
A friend always goes to the CAFE DE LA PAZ on the other side of the Parque Kennedy. Having obviously been named after the CAFE DE LA PAIX in Paris, which is somewhat right bank, shall we say, this café appeared too expensive to me for years. However, it is superior to the HAITI in that its infusions ($1.85) are made of real herbs and grasses, not tea bags. It has a lot of tables outdoors that are well enough covered with umbrellas so that you can really sit there in the rain, and these tables are pleasant at night with candles. To go by myself or to read or work, though, I still strongly recommend the HAITI. The CAFE DE LA PAZ, although good for what it is, is the least useful to me of the cafés under review here, although perhaps the inside seats, during the day, could be useful for my purposes. I am rating it third, and its neighbor right next door whose name I forget but which is very similar, fourth. Both, I am assuming, are able to catch the public wi-fi.
The HAVANNA, on Miguel Dasso in San Isidro, has the very great advantage of being next to the LIBRERIA VIRREY. This, in addition to its wi-fi and its comfortable chairs, place it second, as a marvelous place to study, read and write, despite (or perhaps because of) the overly bourgeois aspect of the neighborhood which truly forces one to concentrate on one’s book (although they also have a good set of current newspapers and magazines on a rack for you to read). This café, however, is part of an Argentine chain and shows worrisome signs of Starbucksification. The wait staff is semi professional, trained by HAVANNA to push the addition of caramel syrup and other things like that to your coffee, or to supersize it. They want you to order their pastries and chocolates, or a four dollar tray of chocolates, juice, and coffee. Unlike the other cafés reviewed here, they do not have a full restaurant waiting behind the scenes, but they do have expensive breakfast and merienda sandwiches, and they want to sell them. Whenever you order, numerous suggestions for additions to your plan will be made. You have to negotiate and insist, no, I really only want an espresso (or whatever it is you want).
Because of the areas they are in (RITZY), many lot of foreigners go to all of these cafés, but most of the clientele is still local. I may be overly suspicious but I think I have seen some rendezvous related to discreet, very high class sex tourism take place at the HAVANNA. And as I say, I used to have various haunts in Lima 1, but I have lost them (and wish to restore them). Perhaps I should buy an old building, restore it as a marvelous café, and live upstairs.