We discovered traditional Patagonian flavors with a different treatment in which juice, sauce and decorations complete the essential nature of beef, fish and pasta.
An old building on San Martín Avenue in the City of San Martín de los Andes
houses a well-known restaurant with an ancient atmosphere and avant-garde
cuisine. As soon as we entered, we breathed in its hundred-year-old air and imagined that the stove would be powered by firewood, just like when the Lácar Hotel used to welcome guests at this very spot.
In the dim lights of a splendid evening, we let ourselves be carried away by inspiration towards a good meal and drink choice. We were welcomed into the venue and escorted to our table as we could not help noticing the fantastic decoration details and the delicate table and glassware.
The menu has an ancient touch. Very well designed, it has leather covers that match the charming atmosphere. Old chandeliers and fans hang from the ceiling and take visitors back in time to the old San Martín summers, when the air had to circulate. The white frosted glass light fixtures offer subtle illumination at every table.
We chose different dishes in order to get familiar with the menu and we included the hand-made pasta
: the star of the restaurant. Served with varied sauces, they are part of a menu that includes a fix proposal and a variable one, which changes according to customers’ taste.
As we waited for what we had ordered, we chatted with the people in charge of the venue. Young entrepreneurs who know their profession very well and provide customized assistance, Hugo González and Mariana Harris have managed to portray their concept of neatness in the presentation of Doña Quela’s dining-room, in the cleanliness and the choice of the menu options.
Finally, the dishes arrived in our table and, in my case, the so longed-for glazed venison with mashed potatoes served on its juice and crowned by a sweet-potato sheet. We stopped talking for a moment so that our delicacies would not get cold.
Hugo told us: “Even today, old customers from the Lácar Hotel come to have a meal here and they tell us what life used to be like in the past. The roads and communications were slow and the settlers living in the surroundings had to shop in San Martín de los Andes, stay at the hotel and then return to the countryside the following day”.
The hotel was opened in 1910 and it reached its zenith in the 1940s, when tourism began to settle down in the district. The great social celebrations took place in the hotel facilities. Olden photographs give proof of this fact on the walls of the access corridor. Back then, there was no other venue with similar characteristics.
Tasting the Past
As if we had opened a chest of memories, we could see vestiges of the hotel. Old chests and suitcases, documents that give evidence of who the owners were, the dishes used are authentic relics from a glorious past.
The sound is part of the effort made by Hugo and Mariana to create the perfect atmosphere. The choice changes according to the moment of the day and there is also the chance to play some musical piece in an ancient piano still in tune.
We tasted an excellent wine from the complete list offered at Doña Quela, after welcoming some good advice. When it was time for dessert, we could not miss the delicious berries that ornament several of the specialties.
On an evening without haste, we delighted ourselves with an exceptional cuisine in which traditional flavors were presented with a renovated touch. As it was to be expected, the outstanding nature of the dishes came from its chef: Leandro Miller.
We heard from him that we had not been too far from the truth: they still use the old woodstove from the original hotel, which offers a very special way of cooking.