Restaurants in Montevideo

Restaurant Reviews

Rara Avis, in the Teatro Solís building, Old Town

Feel like being serenaded by an opera singer moving from table to table while you eat your main course? (Nessum dorma since you ask.) Or eating desert to the accompaniment of cool jazz numbers played by a pianist on an elevated stage? Then Rara Avis is for you. The restaurant opened in March 2009 and has already hosted Mercosur presidents – for 2010 it is the winner of our Most Innovative Dining Experience award. The wine list is excellent and varied and the menu caters both to traditional tastes (king prawns, Patagonian lamb) and also the vaguely outlandish (sweetbread and marrow bone risotto). Expect to pay around US$70 – 80 per head when eating à la carte in the main dining area – a cavernous space that is cleverly illuminated to make it appear intimate – more if you choose a stand-out wine. Midday fixed-price menus in the downstairs bar area are a steal at US$15 – 20, including a drink. Closed Sundays and Saturday lunchtime. Reservations recommended. See related article Teatro Solís: theatre of dreams. www.raraavis.com.uy; tel. 915 0330

La Cavia, calle 26 de Marzo corner Cavia, Pocitos

One of a slew of neighbourhood parrilladas (steakhouses) in well-heeled Pocitos – a district of apartment dwellers who have limited possibilities of firing up a barbecue at home. Well executed and a notch above some of the others in the district (such as the nearby La Otra). Excellent tournedos with pumpkin mash; great fries; many barbecued meat and chicken options at US$10 – 12 for a main course. A pretty curved bar and art deco lighting are easy on the eye. La Cavia offers a set-price lunch weekdays. A million miles away from the tourist frenzy of the Port Market, this is a place hardly frequented by foreigners, except the staff of a couple of nearby embassies. Family-friendly and ideal for a long Sunday lunch. A couple of blocks from Cake's café on calle Ellauri if you have room for a sugary dessert. Tel. 706 8253

Panini's, calle Bacacay, Ciudad Vieja

Probably the best option on the short, pedestrianised calle Bacacay, Panini's serves traditional Italian food to a predominantly business crowd during weekday lunchtimes, attracted in the main by a US$11 two-course menu including wine or water and delicious freshly-baked bread rolls. Good range of risottos and pastas. Some main courses are large and filling but ultimately a little expensive (rack of lamb and entrecote both cost over US$25), even though the presentation is excellent. Good seafood. Huge windows make the dining room light in the winter. Tel. 916 8760. For coffee after your lunch, consider the lovely Café Bacacay at the end of the same street. There is another branch of Panini's in Pocitos just below the World Trade Centre at calle 26 de Marzo corner Bonavita.

Los Leños, calle San José corner Convención, Centre

It's not difficult to figure out why Los Leños is so popular: this is a great place for barbecued meat, particularly the national staple asado de tira (beef ribs). You might even summon up the courage to order mollejas (sweetbreads) if you are curious to discover the taste of the pancreas of a calf. Service is brisk and professional. All in all, this wood-panelled dining room with whirring fans overhead is a classic downtown dining experience. But be careful in this area in the evening as it is unsafe; have the restaurant phone for a taxi to take you home. Not perhaps an obvious choice for families with young children, but Los Leños is a Uruguayan rarity: it has a baby-changing station. The weekday lunchtime menu is good value at US$12 (main course, dessert, coffee). www.parrilla.com.uy; tel. 900 2285

Ricci, calle Joaquín Núñez corner Miñones, Punta Carretas

With its ochre walls and starched white tablecloths, no other restaurant in the burgeoning dining district of Punta Carretas pulls off a more accurate homage to a southern French neighbourhood restaurant than the excellent Ricci. Meat and seafood dishes are very well prepared. The menu also contains some oddities (lamb ravioli) and items that reinforce the continental European feel (stuffed rabbit at US$16, pheasant at US$23). Serves lunch and dinner every day. Service is welcoming and professional, but also discreet. At US$15 the weekday 2-course set lunch, including wine and water, is one of the best bargains in town (but bring some cash – they don't accept credit cards for the set lunch). Highly recommended. Tel. 712 0030.

Rincón de Zabala, calle Rincón on the Plaza Zabala, Old Town

Red brick walls and comfy seating are the first things you notice in the excellent-value Rincón de Zabala. The next think you see is handsome Plaza Zabala through the large windows. Merits a mention for its hugely friendly welcome and low prices. If you are looking for a good-value lunch spot in the Old Town, this is it. Open from weekdays until 5 pm only. This part of the Ciudad Vieja offers little scope for strolling after dark, so in the evening the Rincón de Zabala offers delivery service. And the menu? Pure Uruguayan comfort food: milanesas (schnitzels), meatloaf, fish stew, spinach ravioli in Bolognese sauce, pancakes. They have a very filling set lunch for US$8. The Palacio Taranco is in the next block. www.rdz.com.uy; tel. 915 1617

Fellini Ristobaretto, calle Martí corner Benito Blanco, Pocitos

While the best traditional Italian pizza in Montevideo is probably at Don Ciccio (calle Bonpland corner Williman, Punta Carretas. Tel. 710 5151), Fellini serves good pizzas and pasta and has the advantage of being a block from the Rambla in Pocitos. Busy and very popular meeting spot for groups of friends of all ages, including English-speaking expats. When it's full, Fellini can feel rather cramped. Easy to eat well for US$20. Short but excellent dessert menu (there is also a pleasant ice cream shop diagonally opposite). One of a number of places in Montevideo that keeps up the tradition of serving gnocchi on the 29th of each month. Often has live music at Sunday lunchtime, plus regular cooking demonstrations and literary evenings. Closed on Sunday evening, otherwise open for lunch and dinner every day. Tel. 706 9252.

La Corte, Plaza Matriz, Old Town

Excellent option in the heart of the Ciudad Vieja and the perfect antidote to the pushy service found at several of the Mercado del Puerto eateries. This side of the Plaza Matriz is slowly giving itself over to fast food outlets and tourist tat, so we can be thankful that under the stewardship of Marcelo Angres, La Corte is offering quality at a fair price at lunchtime (try the filling steak with fried onions and mozzarella cheese topping) and a more refined menu at night. President Bush dined here during his 2007 state visit. Well-prepared sauces accompany many fish and meat dishes. Excellent and sometimes extravagantly presented desserts. Unusually for Uruguay, La Corte's menu flags a number of low-calorie dishes. Recommended. www.lacorte.com.uy; tel. 916 0435

Tannat/Locos de Asar, calle San José corner Río Negro, Centre

Tannat offers a tango show with dinner featuring two singers, two dancers (of course) and live tango music. The restaurant has even hired a mime artist to enliven proceedings. This all takes place on Tannat's upper floor in a plush dining room that is much more intimate than the "pack 'em in" feel of many outwardly similar places in Buenos Aires. Mainly meat options; reservations essential (tel. 900 8127; info@tannatytango.com). Downstairs is a clean and bright steakhouse with a large soup and salad bar which has the same menu and prices as the Locos de Asar restaurant next door, and is under the same management.

Francis, calle Luis de la Torre corner Montero, Puntas Carretas

And our award for Montevideo's Best Restaurant for 2010 goes to… Francis! Located on a quiet street in Punta Carretas, Francis is a class act. It started out as a fish and seafood place and the seafood dishes (an exceptional squid with caramelised onions, two very fine paellas) are still what draw the regulars. This winter, though, Francis is due to light up a new barbecue, so expect more meat options. Meanwhile, the lamb and mushroom risotto is moist and fragrant – and the portions are huge – and the crème brûlée is a must if you have a sweet tooth. Perfect for a business lunch or a romantic dinner, Francis is fundamentally the choice of people who care about, and enjoy, their food. The US$15 set lunch with a drink is the best deal in town. Open every day for lunch and every day bar Sunday for dinner. www.francis.com.uy; tel. 711 8603.