Food and drink Guatemala

Five of Antigua’s best restaurants

Antigua, Guatemala, may not be at the top of just anyone’s must-visit list but the fact is it should be at the top of yours, especially if you’re a discerning foodie also partial to a fine tipple. In 1997 Antigua became the first ever designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, an accolade it well-deserves. The setting is stunning: surrounded by the lush green peaks of the Agua and Fuego volcanoes (the latter occasionally letting out a sigh of smoke), the evocative cobblestone streets and tended ruins (homage to the tenacity of the inhabitants who survived and rebuilt the city after numerous earthquakes throughout the 1700s), the Maya in bright traditional dress with their horse-drawn carts around the plaza central reminiscent of a simpler time, all this comes together to create a fairy tale-like setting where the pressures of reality seem suspended. And within this oasis of calm you’re free to wander and discover the hundreds of gastronomic gems. In fact, there’s a different restaurant here for every day of the week so you are literally spoilt for choice. However, if you only had a week these are five of the best you should not miss.

Hotel Casa Vecchia, a luxury boutique hotel, and its sister restaurant Il Caffe del Vecchio, are housed in a handsomely historic building with much of the original structure beautifully preserved. As you relax in the romantic courtyard flickering with candlelight, sampling your gourmet Italian dessert you can feel the secrets of times gone by just seeping out of the walls around you. 5a. Ave Sur No.16, 502-7832-3055.

What could be finer than hecho a mano ‘apple-pie and crumble’ flavoured ice cream melting in your mouth or an exquisite glass of vino tinto swilling around in your hand, while you pick out your next piece of art, picturing exactly which wall it will go on. Sobremesa: degustando el arte, a precious cafe cum art space, allows you to do just that. All the artists, whose work is hung on the walls, are local as are the ingredients – only the wine is imported, but do try the Guatemalan bottles also available. 3 Calle Poniente No. 3E, 502-7832-3231.

Deceptively small from the outside, the ecclesiastical Casa Santa Domingo, a converted convent from the 16th century, is a dramatic complex of green alcoves, tinkling fountains and colonial artefacts. The menu here is contemporary Guatemalan, which translates as: perfectly seared tenderloin steak with chocolate and red wine reduction or traditional chicken tortilla soup with morel mushrooms. What’s more, the team behind La Casa won the Copa Azetca 2009 cuisine contest and the right to compete in the Bocuse d’Or 2011. This truly is a wonderful place to discover fine local cuisine in first class surroundings. 3a Calle Oriente No. 28 “A”, 502-7802-1220.

Of a Saturday night the über cool in Antigua can be found in the swish and very hip Nokiate, otherwise known as Sushi, Sake y Serviche. The restaurant combines the distinguished elements of Japanese and Latin American cultures in the architecture and décor as well as its menu. The bamboo garden provides a relaxed exotic al fresco space to sample the ultimate in fresh fish, while the Nokiate lounge, with its seductive lighting and low tables, styled using local pumice stone and mangrove wood, is perfect for drinking Martini specials over conversation with friends. 1a Avenida Sur No. 7, 502-7821-2896.

For a taste of perfectly executed Gallic cuisine the Bistro Cinq will not fail to impress and will most certainly satisfy. The restaurant is housed in a tastefully renovated corner brown stone building and while the inside in modern it still retains a certain rustic charm. All the dishes are made with premium ingredients; try the steak tartare with a side of haricot vert amandine, roasted robalo or short rib risotto followed by vanilla bean crème brulée and be carried away to food heaven. 4a Calle Oriente No. 7, 502-7832-5510.

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