During our first week in Ecuador's capital, we didn't manage to find out as much about vegetarian Quito as we would've liked. It was only on our last full day that we discovered La Cuchara de San Marcos, which was a great way to end our time in the city, but a shame we hadn't found it earlier, because it meant we only got to go once.
Given the chance, we certainly would have visited more times. It was the kind of place where we could have eaten almost every day and not gotten bored with it, something we've been known to do before.
Not only is this place a vegetarian restaurant, where all ingredients are organic and locally sourced, it also houses a small shop and miniature art gallery.
Upon entering the establishment from the unassuming cul-de-sac in the neighbourhood of San Marcos (the Barranco of Quito?), a bell goes off to announce your arrival.
In some shops which have such a device set up, I immediately feel rather self conscious, as though everyone there is suddenly looking at me, but here, no overzealous waiters or sales people pounced upon us; we were free to wander around the building, choose the ideal table to sit at or just peruse the shop and gallery.
Being hungry, and with some friends who were in somewhat of a hurry to get to the airport, we sat down and ordered first.
Once that was out of the way, we got up to browse the shop, where such quirky things as handbags made from old vinyl records and notebooks decorated with 80s keyboard keys, as well as a selection of organic chocolate, coffee, honey and jams were on sale.
In the gallery was a small exhibition of similarly unique items; purses, jewellery and abstract art made from old tapes and other repurposed items.
The focus was clearly on reusing and recycling, as was also the case with much of the decoration around the restaurant area too.
When we came back to our table, a starter of fresh bread with oil and balsamic vinegar was waiting for us, which we promptly devoured.
Then came the food and drinks. This is what strawberry lemonade looks like.
And it tasted pretty good too.
Zab ordered guatita, a traditional Ecuadorian stew, usually made with finely chopped tripe (cow's stomach) in a peanut sauce. In this case, the tripe was replaced with soy meat.
I had a vegetable hamburger (actually made of vegetables rather that soy) served with turnip fries and salad. Yum yum.
The only thing we would complain about at La Cuchara de San Marcos is that whoever devised the menu was still clearly hung up on meat. Even though this was a vegetarian restaurant, almost all the meals were traditionally made with meat that was here substituted with soy.
Of course we then had to sample the deserts, all in the name of research of course.
Zab chose a cake flavoured with algarrobo (carob), a chocolate-like plant popular in this part of South America. I had always held carob with a certain amount of disdain (it's not really chocolate, it's just a wannabe!), but in this cake it was quite pleasant; not too sweet, but still flavourful.
I had the fig cheesecake, which was less like a cheesecake and more like a pie. But hey, I'm not complaining.
In total, for two drinks, two mains and two deserts, we paid US$30 (£18.50) including a tip.
If you're in Quito, make sure to drop by La Cuchara de San Marcos. It's a great place to relax and have a tasty vegetarian meal in a cool setting.
- Address: end of the cul-de-sac on calle Junín, San Marcos, Quito
- Open: Tuesday-Saturday 12:00-22:00, Sundays 11:00-18:00, closed Mondays
- Telephone: +593 2951713 (landline), +593 (0)94154886 (mobile)
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