Afrigonia: Puerto Natales, Chile

My Patagonian romance  was in a bloom, having traversed a fair distance in Argentina, it now led me across the Argentine border, across the empty expanse of no man’s land and into the small Chilean town of Puerto Natales. Here lay Torres del Paine national park, famous for its caves, its towering Andean peaks, the condor and as in my very fortunate case, a wandering puma. Even on a sunless day, the landscape never fails to flood your senses with rushes of awe and overwhelming emotion. It’s hard not to feel happier and happier by the minute in such a place, where the world you’ve left at the entrance is a far and hazy memory. As has been my recent habit of asking the locals I’ve encountered where the best restaurants might be, the collective answer on this occasion was a curiously named Afrigonia. An African-Patagonian blend of flavours seemed rather a bold and adventurous venture, one that may not necessarily work as well as its owners, but casting an eye into the restaurant was all the calling I needed as an immediate sense of comfort, familiarity and ease blew over me.

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For one thing, the menu was small – something I have time and again been very glad to see. My choice of fare for the evening took me gladly away from red meat and first brought out Cebiche Malindi: Ceviche of salmon with coconut milk, lime, spices and mango. The resulting combination of sweet, creamy, sour and herb, along with a dash of cumin had the effect whereby I closed my eyes momentarily and let my mind play along with all the flavours I had just nibbled on; a few delightful forkfuls of some of my favourite flavours.

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Next in line was Pollo Cami: chicken breast stuffed with spinach and peanuts, eggplant curry sauce.  To go along with that there was marrow (the vegetable) stuffed with roasted vegetables. Never has a stuffed chicken breast been more tender, creamy almost, succulent that I was torn between wanting to devour it immediately and savour it slowly. Luckily a glass of Chilean sauvignon blanc helped a delicate balancing of the two. This Afrigonian cuisine seriously had its merits and had grown on me.

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Half way through my main course, the lights went off and the entire restaurant was illuminated by candlelight. Why this had its merits is because it brought out the colourful walls and decorations alive and, more importantly, because it was Earth hour – something you appreciate even more given the situation and the part of the world you’re in. Unfortunately for purposes of this review, there was no light by which I could capture the glorious, if odd sounding, dessert of El Duo: blackbean pannacotta with passion fruit ice cream. Being a huge fan of the Japanese red bean mochi, this was its equal. The little bit of black bean syrup that had been made from the liquid used to cook the beans in edged the dessert into something I wish I could have had second portion of!

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