Eating Between the Lines: PatagoniaSophie Barber - Travel Expert
We have so many holiday ideas on the Journey Latin America website, but the short itineraries we display can only give a very small flavour of the experience of being in such an exotic part of the world as South America, with its feast of new sights, sounds and sensations. Using our classic Highlights of Patagonia holiday as a starting point, Senior Travel Consultant Sophie Barber fills in just a few of those gaps with some unmissable restaurants and delicacies to try each day, bringing to life the fabulous cuisine to be encountered along the route.
The incredible landscape is what draws most people to this holiday, but the food and wine will almost certainly also be amongst the highlights of the trip. Argentina is renowned for beef... and lots of it! The variety of cuts is extensive but my favourites are bife de chorizo (rump steak) and bife de lomo (tenderloin). I find you never go wrong when ordering those! A lot of desserts centre around dulce de leche: milk and sugar evaporated to a pale, soft fudge... just delicious. Meanwhile, Chile, where I was lucky enough to spend a year as a student, should not be overlooked in the gastronomic stakes – the seafood here is simply delectable.
Here are my day-by-day dining suggestions based around the itinerary of our Highlights of Patagonia holiday:
Day 1: Arrive in Buenos Aires. Overnight
Buenos Aires is one of my favourite cities for exploring and discovering new restaurants. However, there are a few classics that I hope will always be there when I go back! If you are staying in Palermo or Recoleta, there are a plethora of restaurants to try: La Cabrera for example is a meat lover's paradise and serves really authentic cuisine. I would recommend trying the bife de chorizo (rump steak) followed by the ‘Volcán de Chocolate’ (Chocolate Volcano) for dessert.
Day 2: Guided city tour of Argentina's capital
A good stop for coffee and a snack is the famous Cafe Tortoni. It has a beautiful interior and evokes a bygone era. For something a bit different for dinner, I would highly recommend a trip to Osaka, a Japanese/Peruvian fusion restaurant. The menu is a bit overwhelming but just ask your waiter and they will be delighted to help you choose some dishes. Some ones that I would recommend include the ceviche tasting (where you can choose three dishes to sample), one of the causas and the sashimi, which is so fresh! Remember to take cash as they don’t accept cards other than AMEX.
Day 3: At leisure
On this day we suggest a stroll round Puerto Madero, the refurbished port district now alive with marinas, promenades and a string of restaurants. If you do choose to visit Puerto Madero, I would recommend having dinner at Cabaña Las Lilas. The menu is so extensive that making a decision about what to eat is difficult, however there's no risk of disappointment no matter which of their fantastic steaks you opt for. Another great option here is La Bistecca. It’s a buffet-style restaurant but don’t let that put you off – the food is extremely fresh, you can choose your cut of beef and watch it being cooked, and the pasta bar was a refreshing change from steak.
Day 4: Fly to Ushuaia, 2 nights
A good lunch option in Ushuaia is the Cafe Tante Sara opposite Tourist Information. It’s a great little local cafe with good coffee, tasty sandwiches and delicious salads. For dinner, I would recommend one of the fantastic seafood restaurants, and Kaupé is perhaps the best in my opinion. The views are superb, staff helpful and food yummy. Opt for the king crab or the sea bass and you won’t be let down.
Day 5: Full-day excursion
Another excellent seafood option is the Casa de los Mariscos. The menu is simple and the restaurant is small (definitely book) but the centolla fueguina (king crab in a white wine sauce) is amazing. If you would prefer something other than seafood, try the Bodegón Fueguino which serves homemade pasta and good roast lamb as well as seafood.
Day 6: Fly to El Calafate, 3 nights
Patagonia is famed for its lamb and La Tablita is one of the best places in town to sample some Patagonian lamb. That said, anything from the grill is excellent along with the huge tasty salads.
Day 7: Full-day guided excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier
After this full-day excursion, a hearty meal is welcomed. I recently went to Pura Vida and thought it one of the best restaurants in Calafate, offering home-style cooking and huge portions! The homemade bread was delicious followed by the pumpkin stew. The pies are also highly recommended and there is a good selection for vegetarians too.
Day 8: At leisure
A great place to take lunch or while away an hour is the cafe and bookstore Borges y Alvarez Libro-Bar. Sit upstairs where you can people watch over a coffee or a glass of wine. In the evening, I would recommend going to Parrilla Mi Viejo. This is a great end to Argentinean Patagonia – the only thing to eat is the lamb!
Days 9-11: Drive over the border to Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, 3 nights.
All food is included during your stay given the remoteness of the park. The breakfast and dinners are all served buffet-style with lots of choice and well-prepared food.
Day 12: Fly to Santiago for 1 night.
With only one night, choosing just one restaurant is a difficult task! While living in the city for a year I discovered so many excellent restaurants but with difficulty I have managed to narrow the choice down to one... La Liguria. There are actually two of them, both excellent: one on Avenida Pedro de Valdivia and one on Avenida Providencia. I used to live nearer to the one on Avenida Providencia so I would go to Liguria Manuel Montt. The atmosphere is fun and the restaurant is popular with locals so it feels more authentic. Try the machas a la parmesana (a type of clam with a white wine sauce and melted parmesan).
Day 13: Transfer to Santiago airport.
One final thing I should mention is that restaurants get booked up quickly so try and make a reservation in advance to avoid disappointment.