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Food + Drink

A Local's Guide To Dining In Ecuador

No matter your dining preferences – fine dining or fire-cooked, local recipes or dinner with a view – find a place to suit in this guide to restaurants and dining in Ecuador. 

Ana Ortiz, chef and co-director of Country Fire Kitchen, grew up on the Galápagos Islands; some of her earliest memories include helping her family cook in her grandfather’s kitchen. Here, she talks to us about Ecuadorian cuisine and tells us where to dine in Quito and on the Galápagos Islands.

What inspired your career as a chef: 

I fondly remember cooking in my grandfather’s beautiful fire kitchen, helping to prepare feasts for all the family (we were a large family – my grandfather had eight daughters, two sons and 20 grandchildren). We would cook animals straight from the farm – nose to tail – over a fire. I would help stuff the morcillas. My father also became obsessed with Argentinian asado from his travels around South America, and it soon became a Sunday ritual for the family.

This period of my life ignited my passion for fire-cooking and inspired my husband, Tom, and I to start Country Fire Kitchen in 2016 after moving to live in England. I wanted to bring the way my family and I cook – and enjoy food – to the UK.

Tell us about Ecuadorian cuisine:

We have three different regions on the mainland: there is the coast, the highlands, and the rainforest. And then there’s the magical Galápagos Islands, too. It’s a unique and special place and the typical cuisine varies depending on where you are. No matter where you go, rice, soups, grilled meat and fresh fruit juices are a staple part of the diet. Tubers, (potatoes and yuca) are also an essential part of the Ecuadorian cuisine, and plantains generally accompany most dishes. Fritada is Ecuador’s national dish; an incredibly tasty, confit pork stew served with a range of sides including potato tortillas.

What’s a typical dish in the highlands? 

On the mainland and in the highlands you’ll find fantastic trout and cuy (whole roasted guinea pig) – both are popular delicacies. Other highland specialties include suckling pig and goat. 

Which dishes should we try at the coast?  

The coastal region is renowned for its incredible seafood, especially ceviche (typically prawn or other shellfish prepared in lime juice with onions, tomatoes, and coriander and served with maize and plantain chips). Another popular plate is encebollado, which is a delicious fish soup that has gained a reputation as a national dish. 

Which cuisines do the Galápagos Islands specialise in? 

The Galápagos is particularly special for the variety of seafood available and also the excellent coffee.

What else does the country produce? 

Because of the fertile soils and the humid tropical climate of the coast, Ecuador produces a stunning variety of fruits and vegetables, most notably different types of guineos (bananas) as well as other fruits such as guava, passion fruit, soursop, guayaba, caña de azucar, ciruelas, star fruit, and achotillo, to name just a few.

Ana’s Guide To Dining In Quito And The Galápagos Islands

Where To Eat In Quito:

For Fine Dining: 

3500 – I like the concept behind it: fresh, garden-grown produce and a menu that is geared towards responsible consumption. They serve Ecuadorian cuisine, but give every dish a bit of a twist. 

The Local Favourite: 

Las Guatitas de la Colmena is one of the most traditional restaurants in Quito and is well known by locals for a national favourite dish – guatita. It’s a peanut based stew made with tripe and served with rice and avocado. They also serve incredible ceviche. 

For Fire-Cooked Food: 

Zerdo. One of their specialities is the lechon en caja china, created using a fire cooking technique – the suckling pig is roasted inside a box surrounded by fire. It’s a real spectacle to watch and absolutely delicious to eat. 

A Restaurant With A View: 

Casa Gangotena bar and restaurant has a panoramic-view terrace and is one of the most exclusive spots in the city to enjoy a sunset cocktail. In that much-hallowed golden hour, take time to spot each of Quito’s monuments: the spiked towers of the Basilica del Voto Nacional, the domed La Compañia Church and the Virgen del Panecillo. The restaurant also has a vast wine cellar and serves brilliant cocktails.

Somewhere For Dinner and Drinks: 

Chulpi Urbano – the team here use a great array of small producers in Ecuador. They serve wonderful Ecuadorian cuisine using modern techniques and have a brilliant wine list. This is a great place for cocktails, too. 

To Shop For Ingredients: 

Mercado Santa Clara in Hornado. This market is my first stop when I go back home. Aside from the amazing food hall full of stalls, there is an incredible variety of medicinal herb stands; go to the natural medicine experts, tell them your health issues and they will give you a mixture of herbs to drink as a tea, or to bathe with. The herbs and flowers are so beautiful and aromatic that I even love to buy them to decorate my home with. 


Where To Eat On The Galápagos Islands:

For Fine Dining: 

MUYU on San Cristobal island. For me this place is the most inspirational in the culinary world of the Galápagos. It is truly a farm offering a sea-to-table dining experience: they therefore avoid all unnecessary ordering of products from the mainland, reducing carbon emissions and supporting local farmers, artisans and fishermen.

The Local Favourite: 

El Descanso del Guía in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island. It’s a very well know restaurant by locals for day-to-day dining, and has the most traditional breakfast and lunch service. It’s a must visit.

For Fire-Cooked Food: 

La Calle de los Kioskos in Santa Cruz. It’s located on my very favourite street in Puerto Ayora. The street is filled with 10-15 barbecue stalls that specialise in carnes asadas con menestra, which is one of the most traditional and popular dishes of the islands. It’s grilled meat or seafood with rice, patacones (fried plantain) and menestra (beans stews).

A Restaurant With A View: 

Bahia Mar – it’s in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. They use the best fish; I always order their catch of the day as it is delicious and super fresh. It’s also a lovely spot for cocktails at sunset.

Another great restaurant with a great view is Angermeyer Point on Santa Cruz. This restaurant is steeped in history; there are photos and other memorabilia of early island life, which is really interesting to look at. The restaurant does not have an extensive menu, but what it lacks in variety it more than makes up for in quality: highlights are the fish dishes due to the location but the meat dishes are incredible too – the Galapagos steaks are arguably as succulent as those from Argentina.

Somewhere For Dinner and Drinks: 

Finch Bay Restaurant is a beautiful place located on a quiet beach on one side of the Santa Cruz Island. It’s only accessible by a taxi boat and is beautifully peaceful with amazing views. It has great house cocktails too.

Ana Ortiz is a chef and co-director of Country Fire Kitchen which she runs from Somerset with her husband Tom Bray; the pair design and produce fire cookery equipment for chefs, restaurants, and consumers worldwide, as well as running experience days and training in all things asado.

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