The Colours of Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso just oozes colour, in both housing and street art, even on a cloudy day. A collection of dozens of steep hills around a port, each cerro (hillside) is effectively a barrio (suburb) strewn with haphazard and squashed-in buildings clinging to the hillside. It was once a rich port city, but that was a long time ago and it now has a general air of dishevelment. In the absence of money, the people of Valparaiso have turned to whatever paint colours they can scrounge to paint what are often just particle board and tin dwellings.

A few Cerro still have a working ascensor (funicular) to help with the very steep hills, but the majority have now fallen into disrepair, so everyone gets to work their glutes on the stairs, usually multicoloured as well of course. Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre are the two most touristy, renovated, and probably safest areas of the city, although thefts and mugging are still a risk. It’s a beautifully grungy place, which Unesco agrees with, giving it world heritage status in 2003.

And Valparaiso’s arty soul is not restricted to the buildings, the walls and stairs are alive with wonderful colourful street art as well.


Dining Solo in Santiago – fine dining at Borago

Dining solo in Santiago – Borago

Staying on in Santiago for a few days after my travelling companions depart gives me a wonderful opportunity to try out some of Chile’s finest food and drink, as well as testing Chilean service attitudes to solo diners. And Borago, rated in the top 50 South American restaurants, does not disappoint. One of the nicest touches is being seated with a clear view of the kitchen at work – combine this with the conversation with the staff around every plate (and bottle) as they were brought out and described one by one, and for once there was no need of the solo diner’s crutch, the book to read between courses.

I loved each and every plate, the great intensity of flavours plus the humour of the plating –  if I had to pick favourites from this night, they would be both the savoury and sweet mushroom dishes and the conger eel.

Starting with the snacks

The degustation is described as 10 dishes, but that doesn’t include the 6 “snacks” offered first, in two sets of three.

The first includes a potted cactus breadstick made from black lipped oysters; abalone and seaweed between crunchy papery thin crackers; and the unusual local shellfish, piure, filled with mandarine.

The second is a dish call “pig in stone” including a crackling cracker; a pate filled bricohe made to look like a popular breakfast sweet; and a take on the standard marraqueta (bread roll) and pepper paste, including a layer of ash on the paste, with the bread roll coming in a paper bag, as though I’m about to take it to work for lunch. With the snacks came Laurent Zapphire, Viognier 2013, D.O. Padre Hurtado.

Starting the main menu:

  1. Crudo of Venison from Patagonia (Deer tartare) was almost hidden under its forest of standing edible leaves – with a glass of Aquitania, Sol de Sol, Chardonnoir, 2010, D.O. Malleco.
  2. Salad of Plants from the Andes includes tiny apples and fermented quinoa, with a side of frozen snow – with Zarander Muscat, 2011, D.O. Itata.
  3. Chupe of Wild Pine Mushrooms is the most intensely rich flavoured mushroom pate, with mushroom crackers and edible wild leaves – with Polkura, G+ 1, Syrah, 2010, D.O. Marchigue, Colchagua.
  4. the Quails Nest is the most spectacular plating, with the edible nest, straw and egg nestled into a small tree, bonsai style.

    The menu then moves into the “rock sequence” with:

  5. Cremoso of rock plants, samphire/sea asparagus,  – with Koyle, Costa, Sauvignon Blanc 2012, D.O. Colchagua.
  6. Conger Eel (a saltwater eel from the ocean) in Quintay cooked with the blackened wrapping layer on the left, with a strong fishy paste covering the rock on the right – with Close Des Fous, Pucalan Arenaria, Pinot Noir, 2013 D.O. Aconcagua Costa.
  7. Veal in milk from a specific farm in Parral, – with  Re, Syragnan, Ensamblaje 2012, D.O.Casablanca

     And then the desserts

  8. Camanchaca and Rica Rica from Atacama – the coastal fog (camanchaca) inspires the egg in the atacama bush, while the the pink Rica-Rica flowers cover a sweet yoghurt dessert log among the stones.
  9. White Strawberries from Puren with sheeps milk ice-cream and an acidic herbal frozen snow – with Erasmo, Late Harvest, Torrontel 2010, Maule Leche de Alpiste-Melisa
  10. And the dessert of Pine Mushrooms – yes, a mushroom ice-cream, it is sweet, rich and delicious, with a sand of nuts and spices – with a Gonzales Bastias, Matorral, pais 2012, D.O. Maule Ulpo de Almendras – Safas.
  11. plus the surprise ‘frio glacial’, which looks like a spoon of ice-cream, and sends frozen vapour out your mouth and nose, a nice chocolately-mint to freshen at the end, you can’t help but laugh.



What (and where) has been your favourite “great food, great price” restaurant find in your travels?


Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, I paid full price for this meal, and at $99 including matching wines it has to be the steal of the century! see here for my full disclosure policy