Providencia has lots of places to eat, including a lot of middle to high-end restaurants. A lot of them feature Peruvian cuisine which is featured in the next post. In this section I start with the ‘better’ places and gradually move down market, not a comment on the food as such, just a way of organising things. The last few places are the ones I’d be more likely to choose if I was staying here any length of time. Liguria is my top pick for everyday eating. See also this post on Chilean sandwiches in Santiago for more local options.
Aqui Esta Coco (Advanced B/C). La Concepckon 236, Tel. 410 6201
This is the flagship restaurant of Chilean celebrity chef Coco Pacheo.
As the glowing fish heads attached to the outside wall indicate, they specialise in seafood.
The decor is slightly quirky but ostentatious and it attracts very well-to-do customers. It’s a big place with tables on two floors and they are always full, so it’s still best to reserve.
I went on two occasions, the first by myself when I was shunted to one of the tables to the side of the main room (after turning down a stool at the bar). This is a bad spot to be as it’s the main thoroughfare for the waters who whisk by at high speed, occasionally clipping your chair or table if they have to pass each other in the narrow space. The second time I went with a colleague and reserved a table on the outdoor terrace at the front which was much more relaxing.
On the first visit I had a Pisco Sour made with mint and basil (menta y albahaca) which was a very nice alternative combination (A) to the usual.
To start, after chewing on some uninspiring bread (C), I had the Empanada de Mariscos, a famous Chilean snack, and pretentiously described on the menu as being ‘the best’. They were ok (B) but needed lifting with some diced Aji chillies in oil from the condiment tray.
For my main I had the Congrio Mai-Mai, conger eel doused in a yellow creamy sauce (C) containing giant maize and mushrooms, which once scraped off (I hate cream on my food) to reveal the fish, was ok (B). This was a bad choice perhaps but due mainly to myself and the waiter not speaking each other’s languages. The best thing was the unblemished giant shrimp that sat on top of the whole concoction. Seafood should be cooked much more simply in my opinion.
To drink with the food I had an excellent ‘limited selection’ Montes 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (A) from Leyda, recommended by the diligent sommelier.
To finish a large slab of Torta de Lucuma, a cake made from an Andean fruit (called eggfruit in English due to its flesh having the same colour and texture as hard-boiled egg), which was very nice (B+).
Total spend on this occasion, $37,400, about £50.
The second time I went, myself and Erna shared a starter called the Seafood Selection involving Razor clams (B), Snow Crab Claws (C), Smoked Salmon (A), Horse Mussels (C) Octopus (B) Shrimp (C) and Sea Bass Cerviche (C), all ok but nothing special really.
For her main course, Erna had her beloved King Crab, in this case au gratin, which was very tasty (B).
I had Conger Eel again but this time grilled and served with small shrimps and scallops (B) along with some bland boiled potatoes (C).
To finish we (mainly I) had ‘A Tasting of Desserts’ which included a crème brulee (B), raspberry sorbet (B) and something similar to Leche Asada (B) all ok in themselves but which didn’t go well together and looked incongruous on the plate.
So two visits were enough for me and I wouldn’t go back. The best things about this place for me were the wooden sinks in the bathroom area!
Out of all the uber-posh restaurants in Providencia, I would say this comes second, the first being Astrid y Gaston (next post) due to its tasting menu, which Coco does not have.
Le Flaubert (Advanced B-), Orrego Luca 125, Tel. 231 9424
Possibly a place to come for a less frenetic atmosphere (far fewer customers, only four tables on a Tuesday night) than other more hyped up spots. I was shown through to the pleasant back garden with lots of ivy, a trickling fountain, and the odd mosquito.
The ingredients are Chilean, cooked in a French style, and the menu is quite short (could be good, could be bad) and pretentiously displayed on a painter’s easel by your table (the French influence?).
I charged straight in with my order, eager to try some local classics but maybe I should have asked for recommendations first. To start Ostiones a la Parmesana (A-) which tasted great in a creamy, cheesy sauce, but you only get four scallops.
The recommended Sauvignon Blanc (‘Amayna’ from San Antonio in the Leyda Valley) was good (B+) but not as fragrant as others I have had, despite being the most expensive on the list at $15,400. Interestingly the waiter said he always drank SB as it suited the cold water seafood of Chile, which agreed with my theory of Norwegian seafood supremacy when in Europe!
Congrio a la Bizaritz (Conger Eel again) was described as coming with boiled potatoes, well prepared and cooked but needing salt (B), in a sauce of garlic, olive oil and balsamic and topped with small prawns and parsley. The fleshy white fish was perfectly cooked but sadly the dish was swimming in a sauce totally dominated by the vinegar, despite the slope on my table draining most of it to one end of the plate. It moved from a B to a C by the end.
Desserts were standard French/Chilean fare (tarte tatin, creme brulee, manjar, chocolate mousse) The waiter was kind enough to give a small dish of the homemade ‘manjar artisanal’ to try but it was still super sweet and treacly to the point it made me cough. I went eventually for the ‘Sol de Maracuya’, continuing my South American love affair with this wonderful fruit (sorry, I smashed it in before remembering to take a photo!).
Unbelievably they had no sweet dessert wine to offer me so I went with the suggested Chardonnay but it smelt little better than the toilet so I sent it back and had it replaced (upon suggestion) by the waiter’s personal preference of a Santa Ema Sauvingnon Blanc, which was ok (B) but not good for dessert. Also, despite only wanting a bit, I had to pay for the whole half bottle as the waiter made a mistake in telling me it was available by the glass. So I took it home and had it the next day.
So, this is a pleasant peaceful spot with friendly efficient service, but ultimately I had a disappointing experience with both the food and the wine. Perhaps better if different choices are made, but maybe not, and I won’t be going back.
There are lots of other small bars, tapas joints and sushi places at the beginning of this pleasant little street however.
For more local nightlife you could also go to Paseo Oreggo Luca, a cul-de-sac between 2065 and 2075 Avenida Providencia. There are five neighbouring bars with outdoor seating that are buzzing most evenings. There is a night club called Subterraneo here too but I didn’t get time to go.
Baco Vino y Bistrot, Nueva de Lyon 113, Tel. 231 4444
This would be a good choice any night of the week, but especially so on Sundays when most places are closed. It’s a modern French-style bistro, with a relatively short menu, mainly steaks and some fish dishes. I really enjoyed coming here as it felt like being back in Europe after a long time away. The waiters could smile a bit more and the bright white walls and pine floors can seem a bit brash but everything mellows a lot once the sun has gone down.
Carmenere was rapidly becoming one of my favourite Chilean reds, (although unbelievably the variety nearly became extinct after the phllyoxera plague of 1867 until it was rediscovered in Chile) so I got it in again. On the waiter’s recommendation, and with my budget in mind, I ordered one of the lower priced bottles; ‘Viu Manent’ Gran Reserva 2009 from the Valle de Colchagua, which I really enjoyed (B+).
I had the Filete Poivre Noir, a solid chunk of beef fillet rolled in black pepper , ‘sellada‘ (rare or sealed?) as opposed to’jugosa’ (medium or juicy) or ‘rosado’ (less than well done?) which was just what I wanted (A). It normally comes with a green salad but I swapped this for a portion of Ratatouille del Campo which was pretty good (B+).
To help finish my wine the waiter recommended some Le Petit Basque cheese which was a very good combination (A).
For dessert sadly a very poor Baba au Rhum (overly soft and swimming in a liquid that wasn’t at all rummy, covered in squirty cream) (C-) and a shot of Poire Williams, a favourite Eau de Vie of mine, but not here (C+). Total cost for me $31,350 (with tip) or about £45.
On a second visit with three others, Neil, Frances and Erna again, we shared the Brie Flette (potatoes, onion, fish and Brie) which was powerful and tasty (B+)…
…as well as the Crepe del Mar, a delicious pancake (B+) of salmon and spinach and a milder cheese, which was good but would have been better to eat before the dominating Brie.
For my main I had Saucisse de Toulouse con Lentejas, or sausage and lentils, a favourite comfort food of mine, which was good (B) but a bit too simple (I make a better Spanish version with the addition of other ingredients like spinach or bacon and a more spicy sausage like chorizo).
Liguria (Intermediate A), Aveninda Providencia 1373
This is a classic Santiago bar/restaurant, a buzzing hive of activity with several seating areas in different rooms and levels, both inside and out. The chunky skinhead or bequiffed waiters, in black & white uniforms, minus ties and sleeves rolled up, rush about bearing silver trays. There must be a couple of hundred customers gnawing steaks and slurping up pasta at gingham clothed tables to a frenetic soundtrack of Folklorico, Chilean rock and other Latin beats. Tiled floors, walls covered with painted bell flowers, quirky paintings (sailing ships, luminaries from the last century, Captain Spock), old maps and political posters, all add to the atmosphere.
The food is good and reasonably priced and the portions are generous. The wine and drinks list takes up most of the menu. On my first visit I had the Lomo Vertado a la Parilla, a thick rare slab of fillet (B+) with a lettuce salad and Verduras Salteados, a bowl of sautéed (salteado) mixed veg (B).
The busy waiter recommended a 2009 Cab Sov called ‘Chocolan’ from the Valle del Maipo D.O. which lived up to its name (B).
For dessert Leche Asada (literally ‘baked milk’), similar in texture to Caramel Pud (B).
With this an Amaretto Sour (C+), a murky alternative to its Pisco-based bretheren which, dangerously, grows on you.
Total cost with tip $28,000 or about £40.
Santo Remedia Restorante Afrodisiaco (Intermediate C), Roman Diaz 152
Another place that’s open on a Sunday when a lot of places are closed, however I’d give it a miss now that I’ve found Baco above.
Despite the rather worrying name, it’s a trendy bar really, with two large dark cavernous rooms and a soundtrack of chilled house, or at least it was when I was there early doors (opens 8.30pm).
After some average bread buns served with a pretty horrible cheesy sauce (C-), I had the Pollo a la Pimienta, salteados con aceite de olivia (pieces of chicken sautéed with olive oil and bell peppers) which was tasty but over-salted and the meat overdone (C+). The Arroz a las Finas Hierbas was fine (B) as was the glass of Machali Cabernet Sauvignon (B) recommended by the waiter.
I also like to be able to see my food when I’m eating and this place was too dark to even read the menu. The candle holders were lovely though. I’m sure it’s a buzzing bar but in my experience, not somewhere to have your main meal.
Peruvian Food in Providencia next!