Chances are you’re already on intimate terms with José Ignacio, the sprawling fishermen’s village that has recently been appropriated by stylish types from Buenos Aires to Brooklyn. But further inland, Pueblo Garzón, the tiny colonial village that’s home to renowned chef Francis Mallmann (who starred in an episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table series), remains a well-kept secret.
Garzón sits at the end of the road Ruta 9, a short drive from the coast, in the thick of the Uruguayan countryside. Small, colorful buildings in colonial style are scattered around a palm-tree-lined square. Garzón was abandoned in 1989, when it was cut off from the country’s national rail service. Mallmann purchased much of the town a few years back, and his personal style is clearly reflected in its aesthetic—gaucho, but make it fashion.
Mallmann has re-envisioned Garzón as a gastronomic hub, accessorized with an art gallery, Galeria Garzón, and a handful of antiques shops. But the town’s main attraction lies within its former general store, where Mallmann opened Restaurante Garzón in the early 2000s, a fine-dining destination that has remained blessedly under the radar. Like Mallmann himself, the restaurant is elegant but rustic, retaining the original 155-year-old brick structure and whitewashed walls, adorned with only iron candelabras, wooden furniture, crisp tablecloths, and bowls full of lemons, which are used as centerpieces. If you’d prefer to stay put after dinner, there are five rooms behind the restaurant, and the charming hotel Casa Anna is a short stroll away.
The food at Restaurante Garzón is prepared in Mallmann’s signature style, using locally sourced products that are cooked over an infiernillo (little hell), a homemade wooden oven with an open fire that was originally used by the Incas. Do not fail to order the zucchini salad with Parmesan and the rib-eye steak with chimichurri and potatoes, finished with any number of red wines from Argentina and Uruguay. Many come from Bodega Garzón, the nearby winery where Mallmann also serves as culinary director and ambassador. Busy guy.
Rooms at Restaurante Garzón can be booked via restaurantegarzon.com,
with rates beginning at $800 per night