By Larry Schunk
The nicely decorated room, linen tablecloths and great view of the Rio Tomebamba and the city of Cuenca give it the feel and appearance of a restaurant in better hotels anywhere in the world.
Long-time Cuenca expats will remember that, before it was acquired by Hotel Victoria and was still located on Calle Borrero near Presidente Cordova, El Jardin had established an exceptional reputation. In fact, the Lonely Planet travel guide called it not only the best restaurant in Cuenca, but the best in Ecuador, in the early 2000s.
The staff is well-schooled and makes dining here a memorable experience. The menu is a large single-sided card accompanied by a small sheet listing the day’s three specials of starters, mains, and desserts. I’ve found that if something (such as salmon) isn’t on the menu, it will likely be available if you ask. There’s also a very good wine list and occasional wine specials.
El Jardin is definitely not an inexpensive restaurant by Cuenca standards, but it’s not priced as it would be other places in the world. A large meal for two with moderately priced wine will run $50 to $65 for most choices.
The preparation and presentation of the Continental cuisine with an Ecuadorian flare have been consistently spot on. The server’s white gloves are a nice touch, but perhaps a bit over the top.
As a hotel restaurant, you’ll probably share the dining rooms with guests and sometimes large tour groups, but it accommodates everyone very well and we haven’t noticed any delays as a result of a 20- or 30-person group arriving at the same time.
Having had both beef and fish dishes, I’ve always found the consistency and tastefulness to be quite good, as have those with whom we’ve have shared the experience. If you have guests visiting and your budget allows, this is an extra special place to take them.
El Jardin is one of many finer restaurants owned and operated by the Vintamilla family of Cuenca. Others include the Trattoria in the Santa Lucia Hotel, Villa Rosa, and El Mercado. While there is a family relationship, no two of the restaurants are anything alike and all rate a visit for higher-end dining.
I have eaten at the El Jardin many times and always came away with a smiling face and tummy.
El Jardin in La Victoria Hotel. Calle Larga 6-93 and President Borrero; Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday through Saturday; Phone 282-7401; Email: email@example.com
See their listing for more information and a map of their location. Click here.