March 5-7, 2018
Pucón, on the banks of Lake Villarrica with views of the Villarrica Volcano, is one of the top tourist destinations in the Lake District and great for organizing outdoor activities such as hiking, rafting, volcano climbing and fishing.
Popular with Chileans as well as the international crowd its streets, restaurants, and beach along the lake are packed in February. By the first week in March the horde has greatly diminished and the town becomes a pleasant place to enjoy a nice meal on a late summer’s evening.
Located on a quiet corner just a block or two from the marina on one side, the main beach on the other and with the main restaurant drag an easy 5 minute walk, plus volcano views, the location is ideal.
The spacious old German-style building has wide hallways with worn carpets in need of replacing. Rooms and bathrooms are on the small side but not too small. The décor could be considered quaint for those who like an old-fashioned look with high ceilings and wood wainscoting. While the sheets were soft the mattress was old and not great for my tired back. Amenities are minimal – no safe, hair dryer or even bath soap or shampoo. Also our room had an issue with light pouring in from the hall through the widow in the door until the wee hours of the morning.
Service is very friendly and amiable. The old gentleman that is up early in the morning was very kind and got us breakfast both mornings before the usual breakfast hours. At that hour only instant coffee is available but he did have hot milk for me. The rest of the buffet is rather skimpy – one kind of cereal, yogurt, one kind of cheese and one kind of cold cut, two kinds of bread, no fruit but a dessert tart.
Those who find charm in old buildings and like family run establishments may like it here. Certainly the location is worth a lot.
Dinner at Fiorentini
We had an 8PM reservation on a Monday evening in early March which was completely unnecessary. Tourism drops way off in even in early March and none of the restaurants were very full.
The modern, open dining room with a casual yet put together vibe is priced like a tourist restaurant. Many of the restaurants in Pucón are more expensive than in other towns, but overall the food was quite good.
We started with the two-for-one Pisco sour special. They tasted like a cheap two-for-one special, but the meal only improved from here.
Before the appetizer they serve a paper sack full of warm bread with olive oil and pickled eggplant. We ordered the deer carpaccio, topped with pistachio and dried fruit – a generous portion for two to share as an appetizer. The toppings were a tad too sweet but the good quality meat had great flavor.
For mains we tried the pasta rossa e nera, a seafood combination with two colors of pasta. Great flavor and the seafood was nicely cooked.
Don ordered the deer ravioli in a tomato sauce. Again nicely done. The meat was ground very fine and the dish had a bit of heat to it.
We chose this place at random because of their pleasant sidewalk patio. On such a beautiful warm evening sitting outside was first priority.
The menu overall is a bit more expensive than at some other restaurants but the setting is a little more upscale as well. We were hoping the food would follow.
We started with Pisco sours. Tart and nicely done but they were missing the bitters garnish we’ve grown to love.
For the appetizer we split the octopus in olive oil. The generous portion was easily enough for two or even three and had a good amount of octopus mixed with vegetables and topped with a purple sauce. Tasty and well done.
For my main I made an ordering error. I should have known the nut sauce on my beef tongue would be creamy. It was very creamy. While the dish was well done and had good flavor I did not care for such a rich sauce on an already rich meat which was, by the way, very tender and not in need of the cream sauce.
Don’s grilled congrio (Conger eel) with satuéed vegetables over fettucine had a similar issue. Way too creamy. For those who like cream sauces it was well executed and the congrio morsels nicely cooked.
Service was friendly and attentive on a quiet Tuesday evening.
Drive to Pucon from Puerto Varas
From Puerto Varas the first part of the drive up Route 5 is fast and easy. We turned off at Los Lagos hoping for a scenic drive through the back country. While pretty farmland, the landscape is not that interesting or worth the hassle of driving through Panguipulli.
Around Lake Calafquen the road was rough in spots, most likely under construction as the other side looked new.
The landscape becomes more picturesque with volcano views over the lakes as you climb higher in the mountains. Nearing Villarrica there was heavy traffic on a Monday in early March. I can’t imagine what it must be like in January and February.