After the previous day’s amble around the city, including some splendid photos of the mountains that encircle it, I slept late and generally tried to give my body the opportunity I should have afforded it to recover after the lengthy flight from New Zealand.
I had lunch booked at Peumayen and decided to relax until then and it make the main focus of the day, perhaps with a stroll home in a different direction to see a little more of the city, afterwards.
Peumayen opened in 2013 in the fashionable Bellavista district, not far from yesterday’s hillwalking sight. It specialises in the ancient foods of Chile, telling the story of the food heritage of the country.
As I approached along the street, it almost reminded me of Amaru and Attica in its fairly anonymous frontage amongst a parade of other shops. You enter down the side of the building into their dimly lit dining room, which in turn leads to a beautiful bright internal courtyard where I was seated. From here you can see the chefs at work at the pass, as well as marvel at the amazing building.
The place was mainly populated by tourists – Peumayen is mentioned in just about every guide to Santiago I read – but had a smattering of locals, too. It seems important for a restaurant telling the story of the indigenous food of a country to connect with locals and visitors alike.
Various menus were offered, including a full a la carte. But their tasting menu seemed the way to go as it offered “22 tastes of ancestral dishes” which sounded like the reason I’d decided to dine here in the first place.
First up we had a little sopaipilla bread topped with warm achawal rooster meat. This was a good little bite.
I accompanied the first few courses with a pisco sour using a pisco flavoured with huacatay herb. It was suitably invigorating.
Firstly we had a selection of bread bites presented along a narrow board. From left to right they represented breads from the north to the south of Chile’s long, thin landmass and associated islands.
This included pumpkin bread from Rapanui (Easter Island), outstanding potato breads and one stuffed with llama meat and goat’s cheese. These were fascinating and at times delicious.
There was then a short spacer course of a long thin roll of seaweed that had been fried to a crisp. It was accompanied by avocado and chilli. It packed excellent crispness.
We then moved on to a platter of starters. This included rose veal and sweetbread with parsley sauce, tongue pate, shredded rabbit with pickles, crisp fried beef belly with tomato, and a seaweed salad with smoked mussel dressing.
Again, this was full of interesting flavours, ingredients and textures. Some of the dishes were more successful than others with the sweetbread very good indeed.
We then had another spacer dish with a little cracker topped with horse tartare. This was very good stuff.
The main course selection didn’t quite hit the same heights. Again we had interesting things, but flavour and technical skill of presentation were not to the same level. The cylinder of potato dough filled with oxtail was pleasant and the fried fish atop creamed wheat was alright. The winner was probably the pumpkin, crisped yellow potato and purple potato mainly for the novelty factor. These were solid dishes but there was room for improvement.
The desserts were rather better with a nice array of miniature items including a chocolate and huacatay cake, coconut pannacotta on a base of pineapple and pumpkin bread, a mousse of chanar – the fruit of a tree native to northern Chile – and finally a sweet seaweed dish. Seaweed had appeared in more forms than I could have imagined. I suspect Scotland’s own seaweed bounty may see a rise in its use across sweet and savoury dishes so I now feel more fully prepared for that.
So overall, Peumayen offered a really valuable insight into the ancestral cooking traditions of Chile. It seems that Chilean cuisine has somewhat been defined by things like the meaty lomito sandwich, the stacked completo hotdog, and steak cooking more broadly. Peumayen and other places – most notably Borago, of which more after my visit – have set about redressing that by highlighting the rich tradition of breads, uses of foraged ingredients etc. With Peumayen, there was a sense that they were very comfortable cooking this menu – the kitchen radiated a palpable sense of a comfort zone – so I feel there might be a need for fresh research or new ways to improve some of the dishes to make the whole experience just a touch more dynamic.
Peumayen is well worth a look as you’ll eat a bunch of tasty stuff you won’t have seen or heard of before, and it will be served to you in warmly friendly, beautiful surroundings.
Blythe scores Peumayen
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4.5/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 16.5/20
I ate: mixed tasting menu
I drank: huacatay pisco sour, cabernet sauvignon
I wore: Hawaiian wear
Total bill: 34,800 pesos
Address: Constitucion 136, Providencia, Santiago