THE PLATE

Some Ecuadorean taxi-drivers still rattle around in clapped-out Morris Marinas. In keeping with the 1970s-Britain theme, this lakeside restaurant serves up a starter that's a dead ringer for a Berni Inn prawn cocktail. The mountain of pink goo that obliterates any flavour mimics Imbabura, the majestic volcano across the water.

The plato tipico, my main course, was not a great improvement. The "typical dish" features pork that is gamey and fatty; plantain; boiled corn (whose kernels look like lychees but are devoid of taste); and tortillas de papa, a return to the Seventies theme - they are potato croquettes.

THE VIEW

Gazing out of the big picture windows, it all seems worthwhile. Puerto Lago was built on the shore of the San Pablo lake specifically for the panorama, and especially the view of Imbabura - dominating the valley through which the Pan-American Highway runs.

Almost every diner is a tourist, whether weekenders up from Quito or British travellers exploring South America's most manageable country.

THE BILL

Ecuador has adopted the US dollar as its national currency. In a country where a perfectly decent lunch can cost a dollar, I paid $18 (£11), including 20 per cent tax and priceless Andean panorama.

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