Super south: where to eat and drink in Santiago

Sorrel Moseley-Williams - 16/02/2024

Chile’s capital city is known for its culture, its beautiful setting and its high-quality hospitality. Use our expert-recommended guide to navigate the finest restaurants and bars for any occasion in Latin America’s ultra-southern culinary hub

Tucked into the Andes mountain range, with the Pacific Ocean and rolling vineyards a short drive away, aesthetically and geographically Santiago makes for a fantastic dining and drinking destination. Although the pandemic hit many bars and restaurants, market-fresh bistro menus, seafood specialists and speakeasies are now igniting the city’s eating and drinking scene. While there’s plenty to savour, note that Chileans are not late-night diners (unlike many Latin Americans) and restaurants tend to shutter at 10pm.

Here is the inside track on 11 highly recommended spots in the city (in no particular order), ranging from a neighbourhood pulpería to Chile’s most famous dining destination.

Must eat:
Carbonara de locos (rock snail stew)

After a three-year hiatus, Santiago’s most eagerly anticipated (re)opening kickstarted 2024. Long a Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants regular, 99 was overwhelmed by pandemic forces, but chef-patron Kurt Schmidt reset and has now relocated to a bespoke spot in Vitacura. Just 12 guests sample the nine-course tasting menu inspired by Chile’s numerous wine-making valleys, whose ingredients are sourced from smallholders and artisanal fishing communities. The accompanying low-intervention wine programme, led by sommelier Rocio Alvarado, is also exceptional. By opting for an analogue experience, illuminated by candles and set to a vinyl soundtrack, Schmidt lets flavours speak for themselves. The reopening completes Schmidt’s gastronomy trilogy that also embraces Prima bar and Tomata pizzeria. 

99, Alonso de Córdova 4355, Vitacura

Ambrosia Bistró
Ambrosia-team-Carolina Bazan_TW
Must order:
Zucchini blossoms, anchovies and homemade ricotta

While chef Carolina ‘la china’ Bazán drove forward her family’s renowned fine dining restaurant Ambrosia for many years, these days you’ll find her cooking up ‘bistronomy’ in Ambrosia Bistró’s open-plan kitchen. Seasonal produce directs the menu with the catch of the day such as king crab, abalone or scallops leading the way. Opening in 2017 with partner Rosario Onetto, natural light flows into the bijou space; bag a spot at the kitchen counter to catch Bazán – Latin America's Best Female Chef 2019 – in action or enjoy the indoor/outdoor experience at the sash window table. For the 60-strong wine list, sommelier Onetto celebrates limited-production Chilean vintages.

Ambrosia Bistró, Nueva de Lyon 99, Providencia

La Providenciala-providencia-v2
Must order: Una de Muzza, Amor y Lujuria and the Doble Americana Baby! burger

A lively and spacious spot located on a buzzy Las Condes corner, La Provi – as it’s fondly called by patrons – mixes up smart cocktails, a banging soundtrack and bohemian vibes. Head bartender and Argentine import Agustín García Fierro puts his spin on classics such as Pichunchillo or the Artichoke Boulevardier, while Jardín Japonés plays with pisco and matcha. Open daily, drop by for a burger for lunch and a cheeky tipple. What’s more, La Provi also houses El Speakeasy, a velvety cocoon for intimate drinking sessions away from the party crowd.

La Providencia, Isabel La Católica 4208, Las Condes

Pulpería Santa Elvira
Must order:
Helado de hongos (fungi ice-cream), (pictured above)

After several years cooking in Buenos Aires, Javier Aviles returned home to Santiago to open Pulpería Santa Elvira with partner Florencia Velasco in 2018. An ambitious project for the outlying Barrio Matta Sur location (a heritage neighbourhood), they converted a 1919-constructed home, paying tribute to the multi-function pulperías of old that fused grocery stores with casual eating spots – and upped the gastronomic ante. By working directly with mushroom foragers and kale farmers to source fresh produce, Aviles adapts his short (just nine dishes) à la carte menu accordingly. The meticulous efforts have paid off: in 2023, Santa Elvira debuted on the extended list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants at No.70.

Pulpería Santa Elvira, Santa Elvira 475, Santiago

Must order: Bacon and merkén smoked chilli pepper sandwich

The past few years have been a rollercoaster ride for chef Benjamín Nast, as he took pandemic punches for fine dining spot De Patio and casual eatery De Calle. But, despite the nutty name, calm now reigns at gastrobar Demencia. Nast’s notable Asian culinary influence was honed at Barcelona’s Dos Palillos, and he now rolls out tasty bites, putting a colourful spin on tacos, ceviches and rice dishes to share. The vibe is fun, thanks to the big top and carnivalesque decor. In 2023, Demencia ranked in the extended Latin America’s 50 Restaurants list for the second year (No.79).

Demencia, Vitacura 3520, Vitacura


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Must order: El Dorado with sweetbreads, roast peaches and cucumber chutney

By day Montpelier serves specialty coffee and filled croissants but come night, this corner storefront in the offbeat La Reina neighbourhood unveils itself as Enigma. A speakeasy led by Pablo Prufer Prats, the former physical therapist’s hands now mix cocktails, while the drinks team comprises only female bartenders. As the name indicates, there’s plenty of intrigue with a dash of Chilean identity: take El Dorado, a cognac-led concoction boosted by balsamic vinegar, saline and a creole bitter; or oak-aged, pisco-based Hasta Siempre Mi Rosita with carrot hydromel, clarified tomato juice and grapefruit.

Enigma, Larraín 5941, La Reina

La Calma By Fredes
La Calma by Fredes-dish_LATAM50BR23_LIP
Must order:
Plato La Calma (pictured above)

Sublime seafood caught from Chile’s extensive Pacific coast awaits at La Calma, and the selection is so bountiful, it’s possible you might sample a local gastropod mollusc for the first time. Chef Ignacio Ovalle creates a diverse Pacific portfolio best enjoyed on the roofed outdoor patio: start with a half-dozen chilensis oysters paired with a zingy Sauvignon Blanc. Then, savour the eponymous Plato platter, whose delicacies include octopus, scallops, algae, limpets and trumulco sea snail, among others. In 2023, La Calma By Fredes ranked No.67 in the extended Latin America’s 50 Restaurants ranking.

La Calma, Nueva Costanera 3832, local 2, Vitacura

Siam Thai

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Must order: El Diablo cocktail and Kan Siam rice noodles

The gastrobar concept holds great appeal for chilenos, who enjoy casual bites and solid drinks beyond piscola highballs. Given their love for spicy merkén, Siam Thai hits locals’ penchant for spice with a solid selection of southeast Asian classics. The backstory is unusual: journalist Karla Martínez moonlit as a waitress before jacking in the day job and taking the plunge as a restaurateur with life partner Beatriz Solari. The risk paid off: in 2023 they opened a second gastrobar but on a smaller scale, the LGBTQ+-friendly Esperancita. Do browse Siam Thai’s drinks list: the current season is inspired by tarot and might (possibly) predict your future.

Siam Thai, Av. Italia 1139, Providencia

Yum Cha
Must order:
Clams, mandarine and oregano (pictured left)

Named after the Cantonese tradition of brunching on tea and dim sum, the bijou Yum Cha first operated out of the chef’s home before opening its dinky doors in 2022 – and it’s been causing a stir ever since. Nicolás Tapia creates a 10-course tasting menu for just five tables, but the restaurant stands out for its tea harmonisations; gems include Japanese Koi Kabusecha green tea and Taiwanese Royal Oolong. Playing around with textures, Chilean ingredients and Asian flavours such as miso and yuzu, Tapia’s Sichuan-driven menu is exciting local diners. In 2023, it debuted in the extended Latin America’s 50 Restaurants list at No.87.

Yum Cha, La Herradura 2722, Providencia

Siete Negronis
Must order:
Besides giving the the seven-negroni tasting menu a whirl, try the Speyside Highball

While the stars of the drinks list here are clearly the eponymous negronis, mixed in a multitude of guises, SN remains at the forefront of Santiago’s signature cocktail scene. Pull up at the lengthy bar or sink into a comfy booth; either way, try one of bartender Rodrigo Otaiza’s deceptively simple drinks that boast complexity, such as the Santiago Sour, or the Apple Fashioned. Elegant glassware defies the party atmosphere that usually prevails here. If you only order just one Negroni, go for the powerful Baconvardier.

Siete Negronis, Alonso de Córdova 4079, Vitacura

Must eat:
Cochayuyo alga bladder roots, algae and rock plants broth

And finally… the establishment that put Chilean haute cuisine on the global stage: Boragó remains the country’s undisputed fine dining leader, ranking No.29 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023. Chef Rodolfo Guzmán’s objectives are clear when it comes the restaurant’s sensitive 18-course hyper-seasonal tasting menu: artfully plating Chile’s diverse latitudes using endemic ingredients sourced from 200 small producers, paying tribute to Indigenous communities’ cooking techniques, and conducting exhaustive scientific research into forgotten ingredients at Boragó’s Investigation Centro (CIB). Staff also forage beaches and mountains for products such as wild fennel and marine strawberries. And yes, Guzmán still collects Patagonian raindrops for table water.

Boragó, San José María Escrivá de Balaguer 5970, Vitacura

Bonus tracks

Still not sated by Santiago? Serious drinks fans should order the Scotch whisky-led Non-Súper 8mm at newcomer El Sindicato, while jazz fans will appreciate live sets paired with a Huacatay Mule in gastrobar Fora’s basement. A recent addition to the cocktail scene is a second Prima outpost, 99’s sibling establishment, while a night should end with a Pisco Sour at traditional dive bar Don Rodrigo in Lastarria (no reservations). Diary date for 2024: Ñam – whose co-founder Rafael Rincón won Latin America’s Icon award in 2022 –  returns in late March.

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