Discovering romance in the Plaza Grande

17/Agosto/2012 | 15:59

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Romance, it seems, is always cloaked in history and the ambiance of time past.

A couple in Quito looking to get lost in one another simply needs to walk through one particular set of doors around the northwest corner of Independence Plaza:  the Plaza Grande Hotel.

The Plaza Grande is the site of the former Majestic Hotel that sat on the same corner more than half a century ago.  Today’s it is the romantic getaway in the heart of Quito’s old town.

It would seem appropriate that a romantic weekend in Quito is to be found in the place that once went by the name Majestic.  

The doorman, in top hat and coat and plucked from another century, accompanies you through the lobby where the marble floors, classic wooden counter, and adjoining café are not from this era.

As you walk past the large center display of roses, you are greeted with a glass of champagne and a warm towel.  With the check-in formalities completed, you are then swept up the elevator to the second or third floor – it matters not which, because behind each deep wooden door is an elegant suite – where your comfort will never be questioned, but is continually verified.

As you get settled, you notice the welcome letter, the sweets, and the bottle of wine, which simply come with the key to the room.  You and your significant other remove your shoes and as long as you stay in the room you need not put them on again, even as you glide from the soft carpet to the marble floor of your spacious bathroom, which to your surprise, is heated.

Flower petals have been strategically placed along the counter - romantic droppings from the bouquet which rests near the jacuzzi. 

You rest, taking in the décor, much of which is for sale.  The Plaza Grande is not just a hotel, but a boutique with paintings, antiques, and knick knacks available for purchase.

Before you decide whether to freshen up for a stroll through old town or define the remainder of your day between the four luxury walls, there is a knock at the door.  A waiter offers a warm appetizer – prawns with some sort of pesto sauce.  They will go well with the complementary wine.

The warmth and attention to detail are merely an introduction, a romantic gesture, to what awaits you for dinner.

A Romantic Era

Because the Majestic Hotel was once part of a beautiful era in Quito, it was only fitting that the renovation of what is now the  Plaza Grande Hotel would takes you back even further in time. 

La Belle Epoque, the Plaza Grande’s signature restaurant, is French for "Beautiful Era,” and refers to a time in French history characterized by optism, and prosperity.

Though during the time of the real Belle Epoque you may have seen the cabarets and free spirits of the late 18th century, this Belle Epoque of Quito, in accordance with the personality of the city, is unquestionably tamer.  Its low-key romantic impulses are found in La Traviata and Rigoletto, operas entertainingly performed by a duet who moves throughout the restaurant as you dine. Together, the music, the lighting and décor, and the flavors heighten the romantic spirit.

The perfect romance often combines the familiar with something enticingly different. The menu at Belle Epoque takes its cue from the setting of this historical and romantic period. 

What could be more romantic than French cooking?  French cooking that is done in a familiar way, with products you know and love from your own country. La Belle Époque offers diners exquisite meals with local ingredients prepared with French cooking techniques.

The menu is broad enough to please any palate, but you will be most satisfied if you can try more than one dish.  For that reason, Belle Epoque offers tasting menus. 

If your partner orders crab salad with oven roasted tomato and rouille sauce accompanied by yellow potatoes, you shall go for the smoked yellow fin tuna in local spices, baby watercress & banana passion fruit sauce so you may both share the different flavors.

And as you enjoy a pan seared sea bass in anise sauce accompanied with green beans and Andean corn ragout on yucca mash with parsley, let your significant other select the prawns in kataifi, in champagne and cilantro sauce, on vegetable ragout, or the duck magret seared with physalis, bell bean pure and baby banana confit.

Dessert need not be shared.  Each of you will have the signature plate to end all meals: Crystal apple with green apple sorbet and brandy served alongside the café de Bordeaux - a coffee soufflet - and sago parfait with tapioca and peach.

Three courses is just enough to settle your gastronomic desires and help to stimulate other appetites as your evening unfolds.   A romantic evening, after all, only begins with dinner.

The morning after, when you open the doors once again to the world outside, the romantic spirit has only just awaken.  After breakfast, you take a walk through old town, hand in hand, without an agenda or a map and see Quito through new eyes. 

Considered one of the greatest, well-preserved vestiges of colonial America, Quito, you will discover, is so much more – a collection of different times and spaces.   It is not Paris by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a city that can be quaint, with shops, cafes, and its own romantic charm.

As you stroll the neighborhoods you begin to love a city for all times whose romance is found in its eclecticism – a combination of many eras, each beautiful in its own.

The Hotel Plaza Grande is located on the corner of Garcia Moreno & Chile.  Meals at la Belle Epoque, including appetizer, main dish, and dessert, average $50  not including taxes.  Rooms begin at $500. For reservations call (02) 251-0777 or  251-0800.


Ciudad Quito

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lbrashear - en Diario HOY - Noticias de Ecuador.