24-Hour Room Service: Garzon, Maldonado, Uruguay

All that's missing is tumbleweed. Garzon is like the ghost town of cinematic folklore – when a new road killed the railway, the town died. It is hard to imagine 2,000 people living here as recently as the Sixties. The old station stands abandoned, its ornate sign still out front, a cow tied up beside the ticket hall.

But out here in the pampas, a half-hour drive from anywhere, are two unlikely signs of life: a corner deli, and the Garzon Hotel and Restaurant. These are the first steps in celebrity chef Francis Mallmann's plan to turn the village into a more fashionable, exclusive spot than any in the nearby seaside resort of Jose Ignacio.

Mallmann has turned an old general store into a five-room boutique hotel, with a garden and pool, decorated in pistachio and dark wood. It's all deliberately rough: ersatz vintage quilted chintz trims the bathrobes; instead of sun loungers are simple mattresses that look like they've been plucked from a squat and decorated by Cath Kidston.

The main attraction at Garzon is the restaurant, which charges the kind of prices you might find at a Ducasse or Robuchon. In Argentina and here in Uruguay, Mallmann is considered of the same calibre. And with the exception of a disappointingly tough octopus dish, I found the food to be fantastic. It's simple, bold and muscular: baked peaches with Iberian ham and hazelnut; salted and oiled heirloom tomatoes; duck breast with pommes Anna, pear and tannat sauce.All meals, plus Finca La Anita wines from Argentina, are included in room rates.

Given its remoteness, this is a place to check in and stay put. Work your way through the menu while taking time out to read in the garden, ride horses, flick through The New Yorker by candlelight or explore the ghost town, for which Mallmann has grand designs (another restaurant and luxury tents, each with its own butler).



LOCATION

Garzon Hotel & Restaurant, Pueblo Garzon, Maldonado, Uruguay (00 598 410 2811; www.restaurantgarzon.com).

The hotel is on the central square of Garzon, half an hour's drive (predominantly on unpaved road) from Jose Ignacio, the furthest outreach of the Punta del Este stretch of coast running east of Montevideo. Follow the signpost for Route 9 from the Jose Ignacio roundabout, then turn right on to Route 9 and follow the signage for Garzon. A taxi from Punta del Este will cost you around 1,400 pesos (£35).

Time from international airport: Although there are no flights between the UK and Uruguay, hydrofoils depart from the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, for Punta del Este, which is around an hour's drive from Garzon.

COMFORTABLE?

The bedrooms are a blend of boho and rustic, with a touch of the monastic: small spaces with double-height wood-beamed ceilings, huge beds plumped up with sumptuous pillows, and cushions that take up most of the floor.

The look is unusual, chic and effective, particularly in the en suite bathrooms; you may well be inspired to buy a battered, vintage claw-footed tub of your own.

One major flaw: soundproofing between rooms can be nonexistent.

Freebies: Shampoo and conditioner come in glass apothecary bottles intended to stay in situ, presumably to make you feel like a guest in a private home.

The product range is prosaic: apart from the aforementioned unguents, bathrooms come with bars of Dove.

Keeping in touch: This may be a ghost town, but there's free Wi-Fi and excellent mobile phone coverage.



THE BOTTOM LINE

Double rooms start at $660 (£347), including all food and wine, horse riding and laundry.

I'm not paying that: La Posta del Vinyet, Chacras de Medellin (00 598 480 6136; www.lapostadelvinyet.com) is a recently opened boutique hotel with four rooms in the nearby resort of Jose Ignacio; from $150 (£79) including breakfast.



Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test