jueves, 28 de junio de 2012
OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF URUGUAY’S ESTANCIAS, A JEWEL BOX El Garzon | Garzon, Uruguay
(Garzon, Uruguay) — About 40 or so miles inland from the surf of Jose Ignacio is a sleepy little town called Garzon. There, in the middle of gaucho country and home to Uruguay’s famous grass-fed beef, Francis Mallmann (my favorite restauranteur in the world) has created a true destination place, El Garzon. I first ate at his famous restaurant Los Negros in Jose Ignacio several years ago and was immediately hit over the head with his incomprable design style, intense focus on every detail and his complete dedication to cooking with fire. Los Negros was built around a horno, a large clay oven, where nearly everything was cooked around the high temperature wood fire.
He has since closed Los Negros, but I’ve sought out his other restaurants, including Patagonia Sur in Buenos Aires — in fact, on a recent trip to Salta, I had a five hour layover in Buenos Aires and hired a driver just to go have lunch at Patagonia Sur. As a perfect example of hospitality, I didn’t realize they weren’t open for lunch. “Well, you made a reservation, so we accommodated that and opened” said the waiter. So it was just me and him, having the beautiful restaurant all to myself. (see my other posts about that incredible place)
Over the last several years Francis bought up several buildings in Garzon and created a magical restaurant that people drive from all over to visit. There are also about five incredible rooms there, precious gems carved out of a courtyard built around a quiet pool. It’s not really a hotel, per se, more like staying in someone’s house. (Albeit, a really nice house.) When you check in, you walk into the restaurant and a waiter will simply hand you the keys. There’s no front desk, there are no tabs to sign; when you need something, you just ask any of the attractive people flitting about the place day and night. Everything is included, breakfast, lunch, drinks. When I was up early taking pictures out front, Francis was in his bathrobe on the front porch, having breakfast in the warm morning sun. “Do you want to to go for a ride up to the mountain ridge? You can take one of our horses over there, and we can pack you a nice lunch. Don’t worry, tt’s all included.” I still kick myself that I had to leave for my flight out of Montevideo. Note to self: next time, book more time in Garzon.
Francis’ fame is built around cooking with fire. He’s the master. (Here’s a great story about Francis and his cook book, Seven Fires) The specially-made grills in the glassed-off kitchen are designed to cook the meet on two sides at once — in an infiernillo (little hell, literally). His design style is about as perfect as it gets to me, using natural materials, subtle colors…just like his amazing food. You can just go the restaurant, but book a room…and some extra time…to truly enjoy the full Mallmann experience. This is in the Top Five for me. Here’s a great recent article on the town of Garzon in the NYTimes.
As a hotel guest, this is your lobby. Whatever you need, round the clock, they'll bring it to you. It's more like staying in someone's home.
I mean, seriously….who thinks "oh there's a nice tree there, let's build a nice black lacquered table around it"?? It's the perfect example of the attention to detail I love in in every one of Francis Mallmann's projects.