The Uruguay files (3)

la huella  de nocheA legend’s a legend and it’s hard to improve on that. A vital organ in José Ignacio’s gastro scene for more than a decade, and unlike many of the eateries that close down once the busy summer session is over in the exclusive beach town, Parador La Huella opens on weekends during the winter.

From its enviable location to a menu that’s changed up on a daily basis to one of the best vibes at any restaurant anywhere, here’s why La Huella has made such a mark.

The location
Beachside, the Atlantic Ocean within spitting distance, La Huella is located on the main entrance to the sandy Playa Brava. You can’t help but stumble across this chichi shack, or indeed run into the line waiting to bag a table. Watch the waves roll in over a plate of pan-fried baby squid and a cocktail. This is the luxurious kind of seaside meal that will make fish and chips wish it had never been born.

The food
Leading the kitchen since it opened, chef Alejandro Morales takes immense pride in the smartest surf and turf menu going. Think fresh grilled fish, squid rings with chilli mayo and the best Uruguayan skirt steak around — there’s fire in this open kitchen’s soul that’s for sure. With a seasonal base for salads and sides, the menu also changes up on a daily basis, so favourites such as a seafood pasta overflowing with prawns and mussels in a delectable tomato sauce are always available.
The cocktail list also receives a lot of love, and combines a daily twist with classics such as Margaritas and Pisco Sours. Of course, ask the bar staff to mix up whatever you fancy too — they are more than equipped to do the job.

The chef
Morales has been in it to win it since La Huella opened 13 years ago, and he’s still producing fabulous dishes that bagged him an important award in 2013. Simplicity is the key, that combined with the freshest ingredients. But how does he stay inspired after so long at the same restaurant? By popping up every now and then with pastry chef and pregnant wife Florencia Courrèges at other venues in the area.

The space
An integral part of La Huella’s success has to come down to the space, a luxurious wooden beach hut complete with thatched roof. Cleverly designed to be inclusive yet also exclusive, there’s nothing quite as hip as your own sandy private dining room in the hippest resort in Latin America. Bar flys will get a kick gazing at the rows of bottles and giant chess pieces while bantering with staff; couples will want a table with a sea view down the side passage. Wherever you are, it’s likely that some local celebrity will waft in, as will some beau-bos (I just made up that word for beautiful bohmeians). Also some of the nicest and cleanest bathrooms I’ve seen in a restaurant.

Hot girls and boys whip their way through this generally heaving restaurant — bear in mind they do 1,300 covers a day during the peak of summer. Knowledgeable, happy to recommend, these kids are busy but happy so tip them well. They are of course kept in line by an extremely efficient, miked-up concierge who keeps punters happy at the front steps.

The music
Carefully selected sounds contribute to the very cool atmosphere, with a DJ bar side keeping an eye on the energy within. From tango to electronic to electronic tango and everything else that goes, the tempo matches the mood.

In September last year, Team Huella was anointed Uruguay’s best restaurant thanks to its ranking in the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Number 20 is no mean feat, and simply adds to the already impressive legend.

The book
In December, the founders and and chefs got together to share their little piece of history alongside some glorious food porn pics and recipes. Replicating dishes in BA might be mission pretty impossible but remember you can go back any weekend in the year for grilled baby squid and pickles or octopus.

The best bit?
Stuffing your face with delicious nosh at the beach without getting grains of sand wedged into any orifice, or worse, your teeth. Credit cards accepted. Legendary.

La Huella, Playa Brava, José Ignacio

Buenos Aires Herald, February 2, 2014
Ph: La Huella

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