Art and glamour by the sea in Lima, Peru
AN early 1900s mansion in the southern Barranco district of the Peruvian capital was originally a privately owned seaside retreat.
The French-designed, gleaming white Belle Epoque house has recently been lovingly and lavishly converted into a boutique hotel by some of Lima's leading creatives, including architect David Mutal and interior designer Jordi Puig, from the team behind Puno's Titilaka Lodge.
The high ceilings and expanse of white painted walls hung with a dazzling collection of modern art, curated by owner Susana de la Puente, make the hotel feel like an extension of her adjacent Lucia de la Puente gallery.
Period furnishing and features include original tiled flooring, while architectural flourishes include an Italian-marble staircase.
However, the relatively modest scale gives the hotel a homely feel, albeit a rather sophisticated one.
They've made a lot from the available space with the reception doubling as a spacious lounge, a secluded central courtyard patio, roof terrace and first-floor lounge flooded with light from a teatina (a type of recessed skylight typical in Lima), in addition to a bar, restaurant and library.
Breakfast and el lonche (Peruvian afternoon tea) are served buffet-style in the charming library with its collection of maps, books, cultural artefacts and pictures illustrating typical Lima city scenes; you can also eat on the adjoining patio. Other meals are served in the restaurant and bar, El Comedor, that's overseen by local celebrity chef, Oscar Velarde.
The hotel is about 20km from Jorge Chávez International Airport in the heart of Lima's bohemian seaside Barranco neighbourhood, just a few steps from the clifftop Malecón coastal path.
The Bajada de los Baños, the winding wooden walkway that leads down from the centre of Barranco to the beach, is one of the city's most recognisable landmarks and is close by.
Adjacent to the affluent Miraflores district (where you'll find many of Lima's best restaurants and bars), Barranco makes an ideal base for exploring the city's blossoming cultural and gastronomic scenes.
Many of the district's colourfully painted Art Deco buildings are being restored to their former glory.
The main square, overlooked by the stunning Church of the Holy Cross and surrounded by bars and live music venues, is often the setting for exhibitions and events.
Hotel B is surrounded by art.
W U Galería (wugaleria.com) exhibits work by contemporary South American artists, while Dédalo (dedaloarte.blogspot.co.uk) is one of the best markets in the city for high-quality Peruvian arts, crafts and textiles.
Two recently opened exhibition spaces are nearby; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (mac-lima.org.pe) featuring work dating back to the Fifties from the collection of the Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo; and Centro Cultural Mario Testino (mate.pe) which specialises in the work of the celebrated Lima-born photographer who has documented traditional Andean costume.
The 17 guest rooms, spread over the main house and the newly built annexe, are divided into three categories.
Two standard "studio" rooms on the second and third floor of the annexe feature queen beds and rain showers; the 10 "chamber" junior suites in the main house and annexe all have king-size beds and some include a roll-top bath.
The five "atelier" suites on the second floor of the main house feature walk-through open bathrooms.
Some of these suites are actually smaller than some of the less expensive junior suites, but they do come with either a foyer or a private terrace.
All rooms include complimentary Wi-Fi, local phone calls and mini-bar; there's also a plasma television with HD channels and an iPod docking station.
I stayed in Room 11, a junior suite on the ground floor overlooking busy Calle San Martin.
The room's white decor was broken by one large contemporary artwork over the very comfortable bed and two large modern dark-wood wardrobes.
However, the period wooden door offered little insulation from the noise of the hotel, so specify a room on the second floor or in the annexe, away from public areas if you can.
The writer travelled with Journey Latin America (020-8747 8315; journeylatinamerica.co.uk), which offers a four-day Lima city break, staying at Hotel B, including flights from Heathrow, transfers and breakfast.
Hotel B, Calle San Martin 301, Barranco, Lima, Peru (00 51 1 700 5106; hotelb.pe).
- Rooms ****
- Value ****
- Service ****