If the Lonely Planet recommendation wasn’t enough, I would have happily fallen in love with the quaint interior of Sur Patagonico, with its beautiful wood beams and glass bottles. My waiter was a former English teacher who happily recommended the mushroom risotto, which I ordered without hesitation. The dish was (as most dishes are here) huge, but oh my. Everything about this risotto was perfect. The rice had just the right texture, and the stock had clearly been house-made, without being too salty. There were several different types of mushrooms (I didn’t get a chance to count them, I ate them too quickly) that enriched the earthy flavours of the dish – somehow, the mushrooms remained plump and juicy. The cheese melted in perfectly and basically I just sat there in foodie paradise. I was even convinced to have a fresh ginger and lemon tea afterwards, to help with digestion, of course. I went at lunchtime, and it was relatively quiet, but the outdoor seats are popular at dinner and so too, I hear, is their Patagonian lamb. Definitely one of my top tips for Santiago.
Sur Patagonico, José Victorino Lastarria 92-96, Barrio Lastarria, Santiago, Chile, no website.
Ok, so this isn’t the first place you think of when you think South America, but my flight to Buenos Aires left from a nearby gate, and a girl’s gotta eat. Just like at icecream stores, here you pay for your order first, and then move over to make your flavour selection. I opted for a traditional strawberry iced doughnut, complete with sprinkles on top. Yes, the doughnut grease oozed through the paper bag a bit as I took it onto the flight. Yes, there are probably more calories in that thing than in the other three meals of my day. But oh man, sometimes a doughnut is actually the best thing. The icing was very sweet, with a not-overly artificial, but not-overly authentic, strawberry flavour, and the sprinkles were a fun addition on top. The doughnut itself was delicious, with a springy dough that was beautifully aerated inside and had that perfect doughnut flavour. I don’t want to overcomplicate this – it was what you would expect from a chain-store doughnut, and it was delicious (and kept me awake on my flight). Job done.
Dunkin Donuts, Aeropuerto Internacional Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez, Av. Armando Cortínez Norte, Santiago
If I could have claimed to have a ‘local’ while in Santiago, Cafe Publico was it. The staff were really patient with my terrible Spanish (they even taught me how to order an orange juice) and, of course, being located in an arts centre (the GAM), everything was stylish too. Breakfast isn’t a big deal in Chile – usually a couple of pieces of toast with eggs, jam or avocado suffice, but I thoroughly enjoyed trying a couple of the different pastries on offer. When I looked up ‘food to try in Chile’, manjar was high on the list. The Chilean name for Argentina’s dulce de leche, manjar is a sweet, milk-based dessert (think a richer version of Nestle Top Fill), which at Cafe Publico, is served sandwiched in flaky croissants. Heated up, the sweet, rich manjar goes gooey and a bit runny, oozing out of the croissant. Ok, it is messy, but wow, it is tasty too! With a cuppa and a fresh juice, there’s no better way to start the day. As a side note, the alfajore negro (dark chocolate alfajor, kind of like a jam-less, manjar-filled Wagon Wheel) here are also excellent.
Cafe Publico, GAM, Av Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 227, Santiago, http://gam.cl/tu-visita (Spanish only)
I found Casa Lastarria on my first day in Santiago and knew I had to eat there. Pushing through my jetlag, I stopped by for an early dinner on day two, and was not disappointed. I started out with the Pulpo Asado (CLP $7900) – octopus cooked on the grill with an olive tapenade and confit potato. I am a huge fan of octopus, and this meat was so perfectly tender, octopus will never be the same again. The grilling added so much flavour, although I didn’t think the tapenade matched the dish at all in terms of flavour. Next up was the steak. I hadn’t yet realised that portions here are huge and you definitely don’t need an entree and main, so I was faced with a giant piece of skirt steak, served with potatoes, asparagus and a creamy dipping sauce. Unfortunately the skirt was tough and chewy, so that dampened the experience. The flavour of the beef was fabulous though, and I gobbled up the grilled asparagus quickly. There was no way I could finish the dish, so that was that, but I’d recommend sticking to one main or a selection of the excellent entrees.
Casa Lastarria, José Victorino Lastarria 70, Local 1, Barrio Lastarria, Santiago Chile, http://www.casalastarria.cl/
I got some great tips from my Lonely Planet guide to Chile, and lunch at Tambo was one of them. Offering a range of Peruvian foods, I couldn’t go past the ceviche – my waiter recommended the cilantro sauce, and I picked the mixed plate (including calamari, octopus, prawns and fish, CLP $8400) and ordered a house ginger lemonade . That was obviously a good choice – everyone else in the restaurant seemed to have one too! The ginger flavour was present and fresh but not overpowering, and it had just the right amount of sweetness. The ceviche was huge when it came out and I struggled to finish the plate (it would have been good to share). The seafood mix was cold and fresh, but the real magic was in the sauce. It didn’t taste distinctly of cilantro, but the combination of creamy sauce and herbs brought the seafood to life in a way I’ve never experienced before. The meal was surprisingly rich, so the ginger lemonade was a good pairing to cut through it, and the sweet potato portion on the side (also cold) was delicious. Definitely one of the best value meals I had in Santiago.
Tambo, José Víctorino Lastarria 65, Barrio Lastarria, Santiago Chile, http://www.tambo.cl/
Castillo Forestal is a sight to behold in the early morning – approaching from one side, you can admire the impressive turret that gives it its castle status; approaching the other side, the sunlight glimmers through the modern floor-to-ceiling glass window panes. For my first breakfast in Chile, I ordered the Brunch (only available on weekends), which included tea, orange juice, an omelette, a ham and cheese croissant, a fruit salad, bread of the day with honey, and fresh avocado ($9900 CLP). It was certainly an impressive spread. I started with the croissant, which was served hot and had a lovely, rich bechamel sauce inside; the pastry was lovely and flaky too. The omelette was next – fluffy and creamy, it met all expectations coming from a French-style restaurant, and went surprisingly well with the avocado. The fruit salad was a mix of apple, kiwi fruit and banana, which perfectly cut through the rich food. I needed that, because the bread seemed to be some kind of very sweet French toast, and with the honey on top it was even sweeter (good for conquering jetlag). I struggled to finish this – so much food and all of it incredibly tasty. Highly recommended!
Castillo Forestal, Av. Cardenal José María Caro 390, Santiago, Chile http://www.castilloforestal.cl/
I consider myself fairly adventurous when it comes to food, so I made a point of trying to sample the extensive range of unusual icecream flavours in Chile. There are a lot, and the first one I came across was in a delightful heladeria in Bellas Artes, right outside the metro station. Have you heard of lucuma? It’s a Peruvian fruit known as ‘the Gold of the Incas’ (or so Google tells me) – its natural sweetness is perfect for anything sweet, including gelato. This gelato was actually Lucuma Meringue flavour, so was sweeter again, but I got my first impression of a new flavour – quite the adventure. It took me a while to realise why this flavour was familiar – I was expecting citrus, which was definitely there, but I also got a hint of something else, which after reading about it afterwards, I realised was maple. The combination with the meringue was sweet and fresh all at once. I was also really impressed by the texture, which was beautifully creamy and not icy at all (I thought it might be a sorbet given the fruit profile, but the website classifies it as a ‘light’ gelato). Highly recommended!
Gelateria Mo, Monjitas 484, Santiago, Chile, http://www.heladosmo.cl/#_=_