The air is impregnated with the fragrance of newly-baked bread and freshly brewed coffee; the smell is of sweet basil, of home, of remembrance, of a cozy moment of happiness.The house where restaurant El Mercado is located, at the Historical Downtown of Cuenca, gives the impression of a typical upper class home of last Century’s 50’s: French caissoned ceilings, wooden eaves, ceramic tile roofs, a tea parlor, bar, a shop, bakery, plants, a sightseeing spot overlooking the Tomebamba River, an open kitchen…
Truly, the place rather resembles more a colonial home in the city than a restaurant. It is the meaning of its name: the marketplace where you can shop, representing the possibility of purchasing things that give satisfaction. In addition, it exposes you to the culture of a given place. Yes, walking thru the entrance to El Mercado is a most agreeable experience.
The facade exhibits a blue sign intriguing in its own way. Just going past the threshold we face the first ambiance of this place: The Store, an element that ratifies the name of the venue where jewelry by designer María Fernanda Cisneros is exhibited, next to straw hats exported by the Ortega Brothers; sculptures by Julio Machado, artisan
textiles representing the culture of Bucay and Gualaceo. And there is also the exhibition of preserves, marmalades, fresh-ground coffee, “chimichurri” for BBQs, El Mercado handcrafts, and those of Don Joaquín Gourmet.
The El Mercado Filet or the Orange Glazed Salmon; desserts include Royal Macarons filled with chirimoya (custard apple).
At this point, it is best to be tempted and led by the scent that guides us into the second area, the bar: square tables, sunshades, the bar per se, a wooden pergola… This one, the most informal of spaces, is like a sight-seeing area due to the harmonious décor; it is like entering an intramural garden, a shielded place where you feel protected.
El Mercado has 1,200 ornamental plants distributed between handrails and hallways, which in a certain way symbolize the cycles of the harvest: “a large number of elements and resources pertaining to a widely diversified country”, according to Roberto Mora, the manager who explains that the purpose of this proposal is to “obtain not only food, but also an unforgettable experience”.
Connected via a wooden hallway across from the bar lies the English style tea parlor, a familiar nook with armchairs, tapestries, open cupboards holding exquisite china, provided with a small kitchen counter and a large bay window overlooking the emblematic Tomebamba River, and the El Barranco zone. The tea parlor is a well thought space for people looking for a place in which to chat, have a drink, some dessert, and relax.
The restaurant is located at the ground floor and specializes in rustic cuisine: “unpretentious, generous, conventional”, where the ambiance is more formal, but likewise comfortable. Its kitchen can be seen by all clients because the owners think it is important to ensure that products are fresh and have been appropriately grown. Just as it happens in the best marketplaces, this restaurant uses organic, fresh produce of the season.
Managing a place that can easily cater to an average of 100 clients spreaded throughout the various sections is no easy job; a crew of 25 people is devoted to this preparation, all of them fundamental in creating a successful experience. The owners Isabel Mora, Rafaela Pons, Laura Vintimilla and Roberto Mora, draw together their professionalism to manage details and ensure that they give their best every day. Just like Roberto Mora is fond of saying: at El Mercado “people are in command; we are but the means through which they obtain what they want”. Summing up, El Mercado is a 360 degree experience.
Calle Larga 8-27 y Luis Cordero, Cuenca, Azuay
Martes a sábado / Thuesday to Saturday
12h00 – 00h00
Domingo / Sunday
11h00 – 15h00
(593) 7 282 3089, Para reservaciones / For reservations
$2 el costo promedio de un taxi desde el aeropuerto al restaurante /$2 is the average taxi drive from the airport to the restaurant