Food & Flight

Francis Mallmann’s boutique hotel and resturant, El Garzón in Uruguay.

(photo: The WSJ)

“Francis Mallmann’s position as Latin America’s pre-eminent chef depends on more than mere cooking. Most of it can be summed up in one word: style. Everything Mallmann does speaks of elegance as easy as a Fred Astaire soft shoe. Tall, fair-haired, with ice-blue eyes, and often sporting a Sinatra-ish fedora, he cuts a figure that is flamboyant yet somehow never showy. Mallmann is all about the perfect gesture, from the banquettes in his Uruguayan restaurant—knockoffs of a seventeenth-century church pew that caught his eye in Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night—to the handwritten poetry that covers the walls of his dining rooms. So yes, he is a cook, but his sense of taste extends far beyond food on a plate.


Last year, he opened a boutique hotel about ten miles inland from Los Negros, in the sleepy town of Garzón. Its five bedrooms look out on a grassy courtyard. His Smiles of a Summer Night banquettes, painted pale green with a black trim, lend an almost surreal René Magritte touch to the setting. The voice of Cecilia Bartoli or Norah Jones on the sound system, or even T. S. Eliot (Mallmann is the biggest poetry fan I’ve ever met), often competes with the lowing of cows and the cry of roosters on the other side of the fence. If you drive from Garzón to the sea, you can bet that any new car you encounter contains visitors coming or going from a meal and maybe a night at Mallmann’s.”

And the Hotel Gaón, in Uruguay

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