Estación PenitenteMagical hill-top restaurant
Sierras de Minas, Lavalleja
Overlooking the Sierras de Minas in Uruguay, with views reminiscent of Greece, Estacion Penitente serves up traditional cooking including Uruguayan BBQ & wild boar.
Estación Penitente is an enchanting hill-top restaurant housed within three restored 1950s-era train cars. It’s set in the Sierras de Minas, Uruguay, a rolling hill region studded with rocks and olive groves. Under two hours from Montevideo and less from Punta del Este, you’ll enjoy superb views and homemade, locally-sourced Uruguayan cuisine.
In 2009 owners Sara and Gonzalo decided to move their family to the country and choose Minas. Their first stop was to this property, a location popular with visitors as an incredible place to shoot photos. Instantly they fell in love, knowing it was where they wanted to create something special. At first they were told they couldn’t buy the land because the deed had been tied up in difficult litigation for the last ten years. Yet when Gonzalo called the court, as if by a miracle, the case had just been resolved that very same day.
The transportation and restoration of three vintage railway wagons was no mean feat. The idea for the cars came via a friend, who insisted Gonzalo come see them at an auction. In spite of having gone out of curiosity, he realised immediately he had to buy them and use them somehow. The logistics were another issue altogether. It would take almost six months just to find movers to transport the cars to the hilltop. And another two years, to design and build the working restaurant. But it was SOOO worth it.
What you should know
In keeping with the owners’ belief in sustainability, all materials used in the building are reclaimed and food is sourced from local producers.
What they serve
Traditional parrilla–as Uruguayan BBQ is called–featuring beef, lamb and wild boar (jabalí), clay oven dishes, homemade bread and fresh pastas. Lunch is offered at a set price of 850 pesos for starter, main course, dessert and a soft drink. A children’s menu is available.
When are they open
Weekends and some holidays for lunch and teatime. They plan to be open on weekdays in the near future so watch this space. They also host private events with a maximum capacity of 150.
Close by (Minas, Uruguay)
The restaurant is near the entrance to Parque Salto del Penitente, a popular destination featuring a waterfall.
Where to stay
The owners have a boutique hotel and spa nearby. There are charming accommodations around Villa Serrana, an artist’s community further down the main highway. It’s a short drive from Minas, the capital of Lavalleja.
Ruta 8, Km. 134, Minas Uruguay.
It’s about 140 km from Montevideo and 100 km from Punta del Este.
Call or WhatsApp Sara and Gonzalo on +598 99 195 392 / +598 92 748 275 or write to them at [email protected]
Photos: Estacion Penitente, Guru’Guay