Refugio Torre Central, Torres del Paine 11-2016

With 6 nights of hiking and only 5 meals carried, I always intended to have one set at a refugio. I'd heard they only serve set 3 course meals which are average in quality, but serviceable enough. After 4 nights of dehydrated meals, the 5th seemed like a great time to have it, and Fantastico Sur seemed to have nicer facilities than their Vertice rivals so the timing worked well.

I knew there was a hotel and refugio at Las Torres but I didn't realise the hotel, refugio and camp site were all separate sites. I was hoping the dinner would be in the excellent and modern looking hotel, but was happy to settle for the impressive refugio. The refugio had a large dining room but also other sitting areas with fireplaces and boardgames. What luxury in the bush.

The set meal for CLP18,000 was a bargain considering the location and the general prices of food around Chile.

- Corn cream soup - a fantastic soup of creamed corn with delicious flavour and thick texture that was mopped up with the bread. I don't think it was just the change in quality of meal, the soup was genuinely excellent;
- Salmon with potatoes - a completed cooked salmon but still at least not dry with a load of potatoes. Ample fresh salad completed the main course;
- Roasted milk - a sweet dessert of rice pudding cooked with milk. Sweet, simple and nice.

Cangrejo Rojo, Puerto Natales 11-2016

For the meal to celebrate a 7-day, 6-night, dried food hike extravaganza in Torres del Paine, the final meal in PN was at a restaurant outside of the main city area. It's a little far south but worth the journey. If I'd known there was an attached bakery and sweets store, I may have been tempted to visit earlier in my stay.

The mango and chirimoya natural juices were fresh and delicious.

- Tostada Francesa con centolla CLP7,900 - there was a choice between fried king crab and king crab French toast. Large pieces of crab meat in a butter and egg crab sauce with soaked white bread. The bread was pretty average but the crab topping was wonderful;
- Pulpo Patagonico con tortilla de papas y verduras salteadas CLP10,900 - very tender soft octopus, coloured purple likely from the long cooking time. There wasn't any hint of chewiness in this version;
- Chupe de centolla CLP11,900 - this was a better crab pie than the previous versions I tried with some nice meat chunks, lots of onions and a good parmesan crust.

I think next time the grilled conger eel with black rice & butter sauteed shrimps would be an excellent alternative for a main.

Given this was the night arriving back from TdP, a dessert splurge seemed reasonable. I thought calafate cheesecake (CLP3,000) was a type of cheesecake not realising at the time it's simply a cheesecake made from the calafate berry. It tasted like a nice grape. The other cake (Kuchen Parras CLP1,500) I thought had a base of apples and crumble. The little red berries (they called them parras, but also known as corinto) being local Patagonian ones made it appealing and were small little tart things with a flavour similar to raspberries. There wasn't an apple bit in sight and it was all butter/thick crumble. Still sweet and nice but not what I expected.

Afrigonia, Puerto Natales 11-2016

Of all the restaurants in Patagonia, Afrigonia was the one I was looking forward to the most. African-Chilean fusion cuisine with Patagonian ingredients? That sounded incredible. Initially I intended to dine here the night after returning from Torres del Paine but after spending too much time queuing for hiking provisions at UniMarc, it seemed easier just to come here being closeby and unlikely to need a reservation due to the low(ish) season.

Naturally the waitress recommended king crab and lamb dishes, as the specialty ingredients of the region. I was only too happy to oblige.

This was the place of my first taste of fresh chirimoya juice (CLP2,500). I wasn't sure what it was and they couldn't quite describe it to me. It tasted like custard apple - I later discovered it is custard apple so that makes sense. Mango sour (CLP4,000) was a fruity take on the local Pisco sour specialty and an improvement in my opinion. There were two courses of bread to kick off procedings - sticks with hummus and lovely warm rolls with salsa criolla.

- Austral King CLP12,000 - fresh king crab wrapped in medium-intensity smoked salmon (the salmon probably overpowered the delicate flavour of the crab), king crab mousse with a sweet berry glaze, king crab gratin. It was a creative way to present boiled crab meat in a variety of forms;
- Seafood Masala CLP10,000 - prawns and scallops in a ginger flavoured curry with some chilli kick;
- Cordero a la Menta CLP14,000 - perfectly cooked medium rare roast lamb chops with a delicious sweet glaze rather than the advertised mint sauce (the waitress did confirm it was mint sauce afterwards). One of the best roast lamb racks I've had;
- Tsavo (fried whole potatoes seasoned with lemon & herbs) CLP2,700 - tasty as expected with discernible lemon;
- Wali (rice with almonds, raisins, curry) CLP2,800 - the rice was a good filler but not as seasoned and delicious as I'd hoped. I think I expected a bit more.

The food was delicious and cooking well executed. It showcased local produce with some African flare.

Amaranta Tea House, Punta Arenas 11-2016

This cafe sits on a main thoroughfare (as main as it gets in PA) where lots of bus stations are. It's a convenient place to waste away some time, enjoy tea and WiFi and eat healthy food. If I had a late day bus transfer, this would be the perfect spot to wait and relax (Bus Sur is very closeby).

There's an a la carte menu that has things like sandwiches and burgers. Otherwise there's the set lunch menu which gives you a choice of tea, a meal and a dessert.

The tea menu is very impressive and caters to all tastes. Te chai (Indian black tea, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, Gingko leaves, ginseng, rooibos) was mildly spiced and needed a little sugar to bring out the sweetness. I would have liked some milk.

The food menu was the choice of either a bolognese with handmade thick fettuccine with nice springiness and al dente texture. The sauce was nice and a large amount of grated parmesan enhanced the flavour and stickiness. The vegetarian option was a couple of mixed bean & vegetable patties with salad and also delicious.

There's a good variety of cakes to pick from with huge slices. We asked for half/small slices knowing well that it wouldn't be finished. The chocolate had thin cake layers and thick cream layers - nice but not my choice in textures. The kiwi torte was sweet and a soft custard layer.

La Marmita, Punta Arenas 11-2016

From all my reading about Punta Arenas, La Marmita was the only place I had highlighted of my shortlist. My Rough Guide also had it starred with the pisco sour, ceviche and general seafood being the standouts.

Pisco sour (CLP3,500) with crushed ice started off the meal and it was cheap, refreshing and mildly alcoholic.

- Magellanic Spider Crab with mayonnaise & salad CLP12,000 - the pieces of crab were soft and delicious as expected. The meat isn't as sweet as the Scandanavian king crab but still adequate. It was expensive for the amount of meat available but it's a delicacy;
- Salmon & hake ceviche of the house, lemon juice, Spanish onion, coriander CLP6,500 - a well balanced ceviche with all the elements. One of the better ones I've had;
- Wild guanaco bourguignon, organic quinoa, green salad CLP15,000 - it was the first exposure to guanaco and it was ordered without quite knowing what it is (it's a deer). The meat was tender but in the strong sauce, it was difficult to discern between it and beef perhaps. The huge asparagus storks were very good.

The food was nice and the menu reads as Chilean-Patagonian. The lamb tagine, hare stew and charquican sea vegetable stew were all other things that caught my eye.

La Luna, Punta Arenas 11-2016

Chile is known for seafood and Patagonia has the specialty king crab. It is known as centolla and all the restaurants sell a version of it, usually expensively as either whole or meat, or served as a cheese coated "pie". The other dish I wanted to try is caldillo de congrio (conger eel stew) but never got the chance in Santiago.

There were no big name restaurants that caught my particular fancy in PA, but La Luna was worth a go. It has a nautical theme like being under the hull of a ship with pictures adorning the walls.

Pisco Sour (CLP2,950) is a known specialty drink of Chile and this was the first chance to try it.

- Conger Eel with seafoods sauce & croquette potatoes CLP8,950 - my first experience with the local conger eel was an excellent one. The fish was meaty and wonderfully soft. The seafood sauce was ok with small pieces of flesh in it, but took a second fiddle to the fish itself;
- Chupe de Centollas (baked king crab) CLP13,950 - the anticipation was let down by a dish that didn't seem to have enough crab meat to justify the hype, surrounded by a heap of cheese filling. The top cheese crust was pretty good with some umami crust;
- Ensalada Del Mercado (artichoke, croutons, olives, lettuce, tomato) CLP4,450 - typically served without dressing as per the norm.

The conger was great but the king crab pie was a letdown. Perhaps it was the small amount of meat, the flavour being more cheese than crab or maybe just the form it was served in. Hopefully the next times would be better.

La Mesita Grande, Puerto Natales 11-2016

After trying to second branch in Punta Arenas (, it seemed an easy lunch decision to visit the conveniently located mothership branch in Puerto Natales.

The vegetable soup of the day (CLP3,300) was Italian cream of pumpkin and very nice and rich. Pancitos salmon (garlic bread with smoked salmon and grated parmesan cheese) CLP4,300 was excellent, with thick slices of fish that I wished I could have found for the hike.

La Barros Luco a lo Pobre (mozzarella, tomato sauce, beef, caramelised onion, egg) CLP 6,900 was a nice version with chewy meat, fried egg and adequate crust.

They also served a local brand of organic juices (Tamaya CLP3,200) of which the blueberry was delicious. Unfortunately they didn't have available the exciting flavour I wanted of Chilean black cherry.

La Mesita Grande, Punta Arenas 11-2016

This pizzeria was originally born in Puerto Natales and then the quality and reputation spread to Punta Arenas. It was the first taste of Italian food in South America and didn't disappoint.

The lasagna (CLP6,500) was served in a deep casserole dish with lovely melted cheese on top, layers of fresh pasta and a sugo with a hearty flavour and no tomato acidity. The Patagonian lamb pizza (La Mesita Grande - mozzarella, tomato sauce, marinated spicy lamb, onions, green peppers CLP6,900) was my first introduction to the regions famed animal. The redness in the meat was still visible. Although nice, it didn't seem particularly different from any other decent lamb I've had, but overall the pizza was good. The crust was relatively thin and chewy but I would have liked a bit more seasoning.

It was all washed down with a housemade lemon/lime-ade (CLP2,500) which was refreshing and had minimal fizz.

Gelateria Mo, Viña del Mar 11-2016

It was funny that I had listed Mo from Viña del Mar as my gelato place for after the beach Playa Acapulca. It was serendipitous that I stumbled across another branch in Santiago (

The staff here were quite unfriendly, laughing at my attempts to speak Spanish. The female serving was very unhappy letting me try one or two flavours (the Spanish-speaking couple before me tried about 8 and they didn't mind).

The coconut was outstanding with pieces of flesh riddled throughout. It was nice and creamy. The chirimoya al agua had a nice flavour but the "al agua" part make it more of a yoghurt or cream and very soft - not to my textural liking.

Pan de Magia, Valparaiso 11-2016

In Cerro Alegre, there's 2 known empanaderias - Taller de Masas and Pan de Magia. I had the lucky opportunity (stomach space) to try both during the same late morning.

Pan de Magia didn't have any empanadas ready until after 12pm so I had to come back after visiting Taller de Masas, which in hindsight was lucky. They only serve one type of empanada here - Carne Mechada for CLP2500 (which is a LOT for an empanada). 

However unlike the substandard generic ones sold in cafes and bakeries, this was delicious, well seasoned and piping hot. Definitely better than Taller de Masas in my mind and better than all the other empanadas I tried in Chile and Argentina.