Atmosphere: Nostalgic, rustic, hunting lodge design. It is all wood, black and white old pictures, animal trophies and a giant grill dominating the back of the restaurant that remind you that you dine in the midst of wildness. The natural setting adds lots of charm as you can listen to the night creatures humming in the forest surrounding the hotel. Dress code for day is resort casual and for evening smart casual. Families are welcome and depending on the season there can be lots of kids.
Food: Seasonal, international cuisine influenced starters, traditional BBQ. Dishes are being cooked either in the wood-burning clay oven or in the indoor barbecue pit, where the traditional Uruguayan asado is being made. The food is tasty rather than fancy and that is what I appreciate at this restaurant the most. The ingredients were of a great quality so I would not mark it down for the slightly amateurish or perhaps down-to-earth presentation (it made my home-cooking arrangements on the plate look quite competitive).
The right balance of healthy and tasty ingredients is perhaps the best combination one can wish for a meal to have. The Melted brie salad on a large crostini with a generous portion of greens, marinated tomatoes and artichokes can fit this benefits-offering description. The Melted brie salad supplies you with vitamins, minerals and calcium for your bones while it is still tasting very good (a generous portion of great olive oil brings the salad a level up as well as it adds healthy monounsaturated fats good for your heart as well as Vitamin E).
A more filling and indulgent for some of you might be the Creamy soup with tender scallops. I loved this soup based on pumpkin, olive oil, scallops and some spices. There was a tiny amount of cream but it was not like the many of the French cream soups that are super-heavy due to the high amount of cream in them. The scallops melted in my mouth like a lollypop, they were so smooth yet rich given to the process of pan frying them. The only drawback was perhaps too much oil in the soup, but it is possible that the chef simply wanted you to have enough of the healthy olive oil (to balance the upcoming harm to your heart off) before indulging in a chunk of meat in your main course.
From the main courses, unless you are a vegetarian, you should go for the asado (Latin American word for BBQ). You can choose from a wide variety of meats. Go for the beef, lamb or the pork – all from Uruguay. The grass-fed animals have tender – no stressed meat and usually are very juicy even when cooked ‘well-done’. The pork was served on a mountain of super-thin sliced fries and garnished with herbs and oil. I am not a big pork eater (unless it is blood in the sausage – [perhaps it sounds even more weird for some of you) but my fiancé who is an avid food critic (better than me but he does not write about it, prefers the easier way – the talking) was overly satisfied and got very excited about meat from Uruguay.
Drinks: The wine list os good, but not good enough for a Four Seasons property. There is a good choice of local and Argentinian wines though so follow the advice of the wine waiter and you will get the right wine for your food. Do not expect too much knowledge though, we got all the information about the wine ordered when he was reading the informative back label – what a smart thing the wineries in usually Uruguay do! I have to give him a credit for selecting a wine that we enjoyed very much. The El Preciado from Bodegas Castillo Viejo that was labeled something like a wine from Burgundy (1er -Cru??) and Rioja (Gran Reserva) at the same time was full-bodied, fruity and simply enjoyable. Do not expect a super complex blend of Burgundy with Gran Reserva Rioja though. Although it was a complex blend of Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon partially aged for 15 months in a mix of new French and American oak – one cannot attempt to “make it” more complex – the soil and overall terroir did not allow for a very complex wine. It was well balanced and tasty though.
Visit: December 2012
Price: High (at a five-star hotel it cannot be cheap, but it is not as expensive as at the Four Seasons in Paris or London although it is much more rustic rather than gastronomic).
Opening hours: Daily for lunch: 11:30 am – 7:00 pm; Dinner: 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm.
Address: Four Seasons Resort Carmelo Uruguay, Ruta 21, km 262, Carmelo, Dpto. de Colonia, Uruguay
Contact: Tel.+598 (4542) 9000