Tasting Ecuador, savouring history
Casa Gangotena, a three-storey historic townhouse reborn as a luxury, boutique hotel, is a gem at the heart of Quito’s Old Town. Quiteño to its very core and an ambassador of Ecuadorian finery, it stands as a living, breathing illustration of the city’s DNA.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the hotel’s restaurant, where a new, reimagined Ecuadorian cuisine means that you can literally taste centuries of stories in each delicious bite. A re-expression of the country’s traditional dishes and drinks, the cutting- edge concept uses the very best of local ingredients while embracing the techniques of international fine-dining. All of this, served with the easy warmth and kindness of a family home.
Byron Rivera, the gastronomic director of Casa Gangotena’s holding group, explains that the vision was inspired by the hotel’s immersion in the historic centre and the vital role the site has played in the formation of the city, bearing witness to everything from Incan tribes and Spanish conquistadors through to Franciscan monks and Republican-era politics.
He wanted to create a dining experience that would truly reflect the indigenous and Spanish melting-pot of Ecuadorian culture and society.
“We’re calling it ‘cocina mestiza‘. Rather than a fusion, it’s a synergy of native ingredients with European ingredients introduced more than 500 years ago, in which we adapt modern techniques to offer a new signature cuisine,” he explains.
Luckily for the experienced chef, he has a wealth of premium products to draw on from the local area and across the country: seafood from the Pacific Coast, quinoa and vegetables from the Andean highlands and tropical fruit and award-winning chocolate from Guayaquil. Each producer is hand- picked for its sustainability credentials: the paiche fish in the encocado dish is bought from an Amazon community running a responsible pisciculture operation, avoiding damaging forest-fishing.
But there’s more to it than what ends up on your plate, says Byron. In fact, the plates themselves form part of the experience. Glazed ceramic crockery and serving dishes fashioned from black, volcanic rocks found in Cuenca bring the art of Ecuador to the table.
“Each piece tells the story of that rock. It transmits our culture, our race and our country, in one exquisite item,” Byron explains.
The best accompaniment to the feast is one of the bar’s signature cocktails, capturing the finest of Ecuadorian beverages, like sugar cane liquors and multifarious herbs, with an eye-watering sophistication.
“Here it’s about a cuisine of the senses. It’s the ambience, it’s the crunch you hear when you take a bite, the colours, the aroma, and finally about the taste,” says Byron.
It’s the true flavour and substance of Ecuador, executed with exceedingly good taste.
Combine the wonders of Old Town Quito with a taste of Ecuador at Casa Gangotena at any time of day. Come for lunch – or brunch on Sundays (with unlimited mimosas!) – Café Quiteño high tea in the patio, drinks and tapas in the bar, à la carte dinner or indulge in its seven- course tasting menu.
Plaza San Francisco Bolívar Oe6-41 and Cuenca
To view the gallery, please click over the image.