Restaurant Review: Casino El Cobre

The restaurant in the crosshairs today is Casino El Cobre.  No, it’s not an actual casino, that’s just its name.  If you hadn’t guessed by the name, it is the canteen that’s at the mine, and it is run by Sodexo, (who you may remember from earlier this year).  So, what can you expect?

Well, it’s somewhat self service, with a dinner lady giving you your main course (from a choice of two or three).  However, there only seem to be about four or five items in total, so the menu couldn’t be described as innovative or diverse.  Don’t get me wrong though, the food is very edible, although it does tend to be a little on the salty side.  The main courses are usually not quite hot enough, but there are microwaves provided to heat it up a bit should you need to which is good.

Typically for your main course you can expect some sort of meat with pasta/potato, or a sort of frankfurter and lentil soup mixture.  Soup is also available as a first course/side dish, and is good, especially in the winter, and there are often croutons available too, however it does all taste the same, and seems to vary only in colour, but don’t get me wrong, I do like it.  Self service side salads are there should you want, with oil, vinegar, and lemon juice to add to taste.  Pudding is good if you like mousse or jelly (luckily for me I love jelly so that’s ok), and there’s fresh fruit available too.

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It’s very good value for money as well, and it’s cost me £0.00 in total so far.  The décor is as you’d expect from a canteen, but there are some posters dotted about (mainly to do with safe working practices).  Music adds to the ambience, with all sorts of music being offered (including The Beatles).

Overall, I give it a thumbs up!

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Restaurant Review: La Cantina

I’ve been considering blogging about the restaurants that I visit for a while, and so thought that I’d use this post as a pilot for the general idea (as I’m not totally convinced whether I can pull it off, comments would be appreciated).

Anyway, to kick off this new (probably terrible) feature, we’ll be looking at the canteen of the desert camp.  I don’t think it’s actually got a name, so I’ve arbitrarily given it one.

The restaurant

The restaurant

The first thing to notice is that it is literally a tent.  However, it is always nice and warm inside, which is definitely a huge bonus (as the desert winds can be pretty cold to say the least)!  There’s only one table, as there are only about six people at any one time in the camp, and so we all sit round it together.  It does have satellite TV, so there’s usually something on (although I have to be honest, Chilean game shows are very odd indeed – however, they have a long way to go before beating Japan’s efforts in that particular department)!

The menu is simple, and there is no choice (due to there only being six people to cook for), but the food is varied and of very good quality.

The first course of the first meal I had.

The first course of the first meal I had – mussels and salad.

At every meal, there is bread provided.  Lunch is three courses, supper two, and breakfast is pretty bog standard.  Even though we’re in the middle of the desert, it’s not uncommon to eat fish and shellfish, (as well as meat).  Often there is soup for the first course, which is pretty good.

I only have one criticism of the food here, and that is that almost everything comes with a garnish of coriander.  I’m not a fussy eater, and there are very few foods that I don’t eat (few enough to be counted on one hand), but unfortunately, the thing I hate most is coriander!  However, as all you Brits who read this will undoubtedly understand, one doesn’t make a scene, so I take it on the chin! (Luckily one of the effects of altitude is to reduce the sense of taste and smell)!

Don’t get me wrong though, the food here is excellent!

A Taste Of Home – Part II

Following on from Part I of this two part special, it’s time to tackle the Indian meal I had last week.  Indian restaurants are very difficult to track down in Santiago, but luckily there was one about a ten minute walk from my hotel, and so that seemed the easiest place to go.

It’s situated on Av. de 11 Septiembre, which is the same road as my hotel, but it’s much further down.  I’m by Pedro de Valdivia metro station, whereas this one is nearer Tobalaba (two stops on line one to the East).

I opted for the set menu, for about £6.00 or so.  With that you got a starter of cheese balls, with a main course of “Chicken Curry”, rice, and naan bread.  Quite what type of curry “chicken curry” was, I wasn’t certain, and I ended up having a bi lingual chat with the waiter (with me resolutely sticking to Spanish, while he opted for English). Unfortunately I also got a menu primarily in English, but fortunately it wasn’t a shambolic Google Translate job (unlike one incident I recall in a hotel in Bayeux, where the English menu offered “roofing tile” for pudding.  I still don’t know what that could have been – if you’re ever in the Bayeux area, definitely check out the tapestry)!

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Anyway, I enjoyed my chicken curry very much, although again, it’s not as good as curry in the UK!

A Taste Of Home – Part I

Last weekend, I was having some time off in Santiago, and I thought that now I’ve been in Chile for six weeks, it’d be nice to have some food from home.  Clearly, the only option was to get a Chinese and an Indian, which is exactly what I went to do.

Chile, not really having much experience in either Empire-building or Colonialism when compared to Britain’s efforts out in India and Hong Kong, has a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to foreign foods.  If you want your American fast food chains, then Santiago is full of them (McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Subway, etc. – although not that many Starbucks interestingly enough).

Anyway, yesterday was time for Chinese for lunch, so I duly went on a explore to find a restaurant.  Stumbling across one in a side street, I ventured in.

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The menu wasn’t especially diverse, and the classics that everyone has in the UK (such as sweet and sour/crispy duck) were conspicuous by their absence from the menu.  I went ahead and ordered some spring rolls, followed by “mixed rice”, and “Peking chicken”, which duly arrived nice and promptly.

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Peking chicken and mixed rice

It was nice, with a very generous helping of chicken, and at the end I was very full.  Overall, it was a solid meal, but I get the impression that foreign food here is more of a novelty, rather than something serious.  I guess it’s a bit like it must have been in the UK in the 70s.

Food For Thought

Ok readers, this is the last post of the day, I promise.  Yes I know I’ve written three, but hey, I’m on the other side of the bloomin’ planet, visiting a new country and continent, so I reckon it’s legit!

Anyway, while still unsure of what to do on the supper front, I was having a chat to my sister back in blighty, who suggested I got some fajitas.  Genius idea, especially as that reminded me that I’d seen a fajita restaurant at some point today.  I was dreading getting lost again, as I’d gone all over the place earlier, but luckily, it turned out that said restaurant was about three doors down from the hotel (is that handy or what?).  I walked down and perused the menu outside, reaching into my pocket to discover that I’d forgotten my dictionary! Alas alack and woe is me (to plagiarise a phrase)!  I popped back up to the room to recover the dictionary (getting an amused look from the chap on reception on the way).

Armed with the dictionary, I ventured into Fajita Express only to find that the word I wasn’t sure about wasn’t actually listed.  Nice.  Oh well, C’est la vie! ¡Es la vida! I decided to back myself, and order anyway (well why not?).

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On the drink front, I elected for the more conservative agua sin gas, and was asked if I would like any ice.  I replied in the affirmative, but only a little.  The waiter promptly came back with the bottle of water, and a small bowl, containing ice cubes (as well as a large pair of tongs) in order that I would be able to decide exactly how much ice I wanted in my drink.  I’ll be honest, I think that’s a brilliant idea. Admittedly, it doesn’t really apply to water, but I mean, who hasn’t had a drink full of ice, which, when the ice then melted, tasted super diluted?  By putting the ice in yourself, clearly, you can decide how much you add, and then tailor the drink to your own taste.  British establishments, please take note!

After all this excitement, it was time for the crowning glory of the evening.  The fajitas had arrived.  It was a marvellous sight to behold. Three tortillas, with three sauces (guacamole, sour cream, and some spicy sauce) to put on, and six toppings.  This was a very good move, and I thoroughly enjoyed eating it.

My scrummy supper.  Topping dish (in white), clockwise from top left: Refried beans, chicken, mushrooms, cheese, lettuce, and rice.

My scrummy supper. Topping dish (in white), clockwise from top left: Refried beans, chicken, mushrooms, cheese, lettuce, and rice. Note tongs and ice bowl on right hand side.  (Click to enlarge)

Sadly, the inevitable happened, and soon the experience was over, and it was time to pay the bill (CLP 6300 – about £8).  The dictionary came into play here, to see if service was or was not included. Luckily, although I’m leaving Santiago tomorrow morning, I shall be back at this hotel for a few days in a fortnight (when I have scheduled leave from the mine), and so I’m sure I’ll be back.  This place also does takeaways by the way!

Until Next Time London!

Another grey day dawns over the Home Counties in South East England, the terraced inter-war houses of the London boroughs streak past as the train rushes to Victoria.  Thousands of homes, thousands of lives, each going about their own business, each with hopes and dreams, and worries and fears, and each trapped in their own small world, a harbour, an oasis from the vast stormy oceans, and baking arid deserts of the real world.

A large sweaty man in a blue vest cracks open a can of energy drink, the strong stench permeates the carriage, reminds me of unpleasant nights out, and ruins the imagery I’ve just constructed (aided by a bloke with a broken arm and a Big Mac who enters stage right).  This is London, the real London, not the London that is polished and made presentable to tourist boards and foreigners the world over.

The train arrives, the crowd surges towards the ticket barrier like some frenzied swarm of hornets.  A sudden thought strikes me, is my ticket valid before 10am?  I put it into the machine. And hope.  “Take ticket, seek assistance”, are the words that greet my eyes.  Ah.  I frantically scour my pockets for my railcard and show the inspector.  He waves me through.  I breathe a sigh of relief, and descend into the labyrinthine abyss of the tube.  That venerable underground rail network, keeping London moving for a century and a half beneath the streets, like arteries throughout the body.  Two stops, two lines, and I’m out, out of the baking heat, the stale air, and the cramped, crowded trains.

I emerge in St. James.  The tall Georgian buildings standing proud, built as a testament to the wealth and power of a long forgotten and hushed up era, when this tiny island really did rule the waves.  The only reminder of the past that dares to show that chapter of history today.  British embarrassment and awkwardness have taken hold, making the subject seldom spoken about in the 21st century.  War memorials and statues of famous leaders greet me as I pass them on the way to the office, a monument to Crimea, and a Viceroy of India.

Looking towards Regent Street from Piccadilly Circus.  Note statue of Britannia above the clock, and generic fancy looking buildings (click to enlarge).  Fun fact: Britannia featured somewhere on all British coins made between 1672-2008.

Looking towards Regent Street from Piccadilly Circus. Note statue of Britannia above the clock, and generic fancy looking buildings (click to enlarge). Fun fact: Britannia featured somewhere on all British coins made between 1672-2008.

The medical is over, and once more I’m spat out, back into the sprawling metropolis.  I sit in a café and nurse a cup of tea, waiting for my friend XYL.  She, like TKC, is returning home after university. However, she is from Shenzhen.  The result?  Much greater difficulty to meet up if she stays in Mainland China.  We both require visas to visit one another’s country.  Great expense and hassle for all parties. A good friendship put at risk by two powerful governments with an obsession, reverence, and adoration of the gods of bureaucracy. Modern life is fraught with complications.

We elected for 火锅 for lunch, and it was a feast for both eyes and stomach.  Lots of food, with plenty of variety were boiled in the bubbling soup, and we lunched and chatted for around 3 hours.

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火锅 in London – Yum yum yum! (Click to enlarge)

Time now for the return journey, back through the warren of the underground, followed by the slow journey through the suburbs, back to the verdant Surrey Hills.

All in all, a good day!