Santiago de Chile: In search of the perfect pisco

Santiago is full of great places to eat

Balanced on a wobbly wooden stool on a pavement in Santiago's bohemian Bellavista district, I sip a murky pisco sour served in a plastic champagne flute. At this early hour on a Saturday morning the streets are packed with young Chileans enjoying some downtime. I think we're in a grungy bar called Camino al Cerro on Pío Nono (00 56 2 2732 6118), but really there's no way of telling one graffitied drinking den from another, apart from their aptitude for mixing a pisco sour, that is.

It had taken less than an hour since we landed for us to seek out our first ubiquitous South American cocktail. Surrounded by the imposing snow-capped peaks of the Andes, we'd whizzed through the steamy city in the back of a taxi, coming to an abrupt stop amid brightly painted hole-in-the-wall cafés and boutiques.

Santiago is full of great places to eat, but we headed straight for the stylish Peumayen on Constitución (00562 2247 3060; peumayenchile.cl), which specialises in Mapuche, Aymara and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) cuisine.

The following few hours were spent sampling a stream of miniature dishes, running the full gamut of the Chilean farmyard, via a hearty soup served with a smoking volcanic rock and a series of bright green pisco sours flavoured with some sort of herb.

We browsed Bellavista's trendy boutiques, sifting through handmade leather bags and lapis lazuli jewellery before stopping in at the Pablo Neruda Museum, La Chascona on Fernando Márquez de la Plata (00 56 2 2737 8712; fundacionneruda.org), to check out the former home of Chile's Nobel laureate.

In an attempt to walk off some of our earlier excesses we climbed the steep steps of Cerro Santa Lucia at La Alameda for a bird's eye view of the city. Having made our way back to our boutique hotel, The Aubrey on Constitución (00 56 22940 2800; theaubrey.com) we had a quick shower followed by an early evening pick-me-up in the hotel's dimly-lit bar. The piscos here don't quite pass muster, but we managed to sink a couple.

For dinner, we headed to Europeo on Avenue Alonso de Córdova (00 56 2208 3603; europeo.cl). The food here is elegant – an abalone and scallop starter is served on a "beach", among pebbles and seaside flora. The wine list is extensive but I opted for another pisco.

At midnight, we tumbled out of our cab at Patio Bellavista on Pío Nono, where we'd been assured we'd get to the heart of Santiago's nightlife, and stopped at the stylish Pan Asian bar Etniko on Constitución (00 56 2732 0119; etniko.cl) for a cocktail.

At 3am, we're sitting at our street-side table listening to a woman in the bar across the road wail her way through a medley of Madonna songs. There's a soggy plate of complimentary chips on the table but we've heard tell of Chile's famous completos – hotdogs with mashed avocado, tomato and mayonnaise – and are planning a pit-stop for one on the way home. Taking another sip from my sticky champagne flute I savour my last pisco sour in Santiago, and quite possibly, my best.

A Hedonist's Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com

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