Move over New York—for the world’s best fine dining experiences it seems that in-the-know gastronomes are heading to South America.
According to our experts – the Booking.com reviewers – the South American gourmet restaurant scene is not only varied and innovative but is also on the up. And with its multicultural cities full of fusion cuisines and rich natural resources, it’s hardly surprising that so many enthusiastic and talented chefs are setting up shop there.
Using review data of fine dining endorsements, here Booking.com uncovers five of South America’s emerging cities for fancy restaurants and haute cuisine, paired with a suggestion for a perfect place to stay.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
With a 20 million-strong population made up of a diverse ethnic fabric, Sao Paulo is a metropolitan melting pot. And it has this multiculturalism to thank for its array of fine dining opportunities, with remarkable numbers of world-class restaurants, ranging from the glitzy to the relaxed and intimate. The Italian and Middle Eastern communities are the most prominent. According to Forbes, Sao Paulo has more pizzerias than any city worldwide but the city is also home to the largest Japanese diaspora in the world, so you can expect great sushi too. To witness the new generation of young Brazilian chefs mixing up traditional dishes here, head to Vila Madalena, a bohemian neighbourhood known for its palette-pleasing eateries.
Where to stay:
Standing tall and majestic like a modern Noah’s Ark, Sao Paulo’s Hotel Unique is a sight to behold. Its rooftop is home to the Skye Restaurant and Bar, an infinity pool and an almost unbelievably beautiful city skyline panorama. Here you can enjoy haute cuisine, expertly-made caipirinhas and even the bar’s own take on this famous Brazilian cocktail, using sake.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Don’t be fooled by the Argentinian restaurants you know at home, the capital of Argentina has so much more to offer than phenomenal steak. Of course it is still a major draw to the city, of an undeniably fantastic quality and something of a way of life here. But you don’t have to dig much deeper to find experimental haute cuisine such as deconstructed pizza or a molecular take on Argentina’s beloved flan. Various establishments do well in adding a South American twist to traditional European cuisine. In fact this city feels like it was made for fine dining, with well-dressed locals strolling down grand, leafy avenues that are stocked to the brim with superb restaurants. And the wine lists are no less impressive. The Malbec grape variety has become a huge global export success but there are countless others including vintages bound to excite wine connoisseurs.
Where to stay:
The boutique Bobo Hotel & Restaurant is as renowned for its food as it is for its elegant aesthetic. Located in a two-storey Spanish townhouse in the fashionable Palermo Viejo district, the hotel is well-placed to explore the local fine dining scene. But you’d be a fool to miss the hotel’s in-house gastronomic offering. The luxury, ground floor restaurant’s menu offers a medley of contemporary dishes. Taking inspiration from Argentinian, Mediterranean and Eastern cuisine, guests can expect the likes of tender calamari and beef and mushroom ragout.
Peruvian cuisine has taken off on an international scale lately, particularly in London where Soho’s Ceviche quickly went from pop-up to mini empire. But in Peru’s capital, the nation’s cuisine is a far superior beast and is beckoning foodie tourists from afar. Of course a taste of ceviche, the iconic Latin American dish that according to some sources originated in Peru nearly 200 years ago, is obligatory. As is a sip of the national drink, pisco sours. But gourmands will also be delighted by the discovery of lesser-known local ingredients on the menus of Lima’s new generation of imaginative chefs. Miraflores is the district to head to for the cream of the city’s restaurant crop.
Where to stay:
Built in 1927 and declared a Peruvian Cultural Monument, the Country Club Lima Hotel is a paradigm of colonial-esque grandeur. And dining at its award-winning Perroquet restaurant is a rare treat. The ambience is totally tranquil with plush décor and smooth service, while authentic Peruvian delicacies are the order of the day, like the phenomenal sea bass ceviche.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
As host to the 2016 World Cup, the spectacular city of Rio de Janeiro has seriously spruced up recently. And this definitely includes its fine dining offering. Of course this beautiful beachside city is still laid-back and totally Brazilian at heart but the selection of upscale restaurants has grown significantly. Expect exotic food and plenty of mojitos in a tropical setting – some of the finest establishments have great views over the beach and the city.
Where to stay:
Possibly the most glamorous resort in all of Rio, Belmond’s Copacabana Palace is a stunning Art Deco building standing on the Avenida Atlantica and looking out over the Copacabana beach. It also houses one of the city’s finest eateries, the Hotel Cipriani Restaurant. Named after the illustrious Venetian hotel, it is an epicurean’s dream. There’s also the option of a chef’s table experience where guests watch Head Chef Luca Orini prepare dishes inspired by the day’s freshest ingredients, paired with carefully selected wines. Or just sit back and enjoy the restaurant’s trademark delicious Northern Italian cuisine.
Bogota may come as a surprise on this list, but the city has risen up the ranks recently as a fine dining destination, having tackled crime and enjoyed hefty economic growth. And its new, dynamic culinary scene has been generating a major buzz in the world of gastronomy, seeing a surge in enthusiasm for culinary experimentation and entrepreneurship. Bogota is also characterized by an abundance of gardens on the rooftops and balconies of the red-tiled rustic houses, so al fresco dining is an everyday treat.
Where to stay:
Full of antique furniture with sumptuous, deep red velvet upholstery, the décor of the eight-room Orchids hotel feels like a grand stately home, albeit with a dash of Latin flavour. At the helm of the hotel’s restaurant is one of Bogota’s most famous chefs, Harry Sasson, whose menu is famously creative with delights such as the “chocolate volcano” to his credit, which are sure to impress even the most discerning palates.