A night at San Marcos
By: Belén Guerrero
San Marcos is famous because it still looks like one of Quito’s old colonial era neighborhoods. Over time and thanks to a great community effort it is, once again, a beautiful area. Among the neighborhood businesses, each one decorated in very individual fashion, is Octava de Corpus, a restaurant that is gradually becoming well known for the wonderful experience all its visitors enjoy, be they locals or foreigners.
Jaime Burgos gives us a warm welcome as we walk into his restaurant, where he spends almost all his time, every day. He started ten years ago, full of enthusiasm and committed to improving Quito´s colonial era downtown. Jaime recalls that, a few years back, Octava de Corpus was the only business on Junín Street. At that time, the Municipality had just finished an urban regeneration project that repaved the streets, improved houses and sidewalks and painted house fronts. That´s when Jaime opened his restaurant.
His cuisine is contemporary with an emphasis on healthy food. The menu is varied, including meat, chicken, prawns and shrimp, but the key feature is that everything is fat free. Tourists who are constantly on the move, and who usually are burdened by Quito´s altitude, are quite pleased to eat delicious light meals.
The average bill per person is about $45 dollars not including alcoholic beverages. However, the wine list is so tempting that it´s hard to eat without complementing each dish with a particular wine. Octava de Corpus is open from Monday to Friday from 1:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. As an exception, with advance reservations, it will open on Sundays to provide an exclusive service. Parking is easy because Junín Street has so little traffic that spots are usually available right in front of the restaurant.
The house where Octava de Corpus is located is a box of surprises. It may seem to be an art gallery but Jaime explains that it´s really just his passion for art and decoration. His intent was to blend pieces from different centuries in order to reconstruct a historical memory of Quito. Octava de Corpus tries to transmit to its visitors a collection of traditions and, to that purpose, it displays art works and ornaments that belonged to Quito colonial era houses. Most customers are foreigners, quite attracted to the idea of spending an evening in a place that can transport you back in time, transforming a simple dinner into a memorable experience.
Jaime built his collection of art and adornments solely with his wife´s help. With time, it has grown enormously. Almost every day Jaime finds a painting, a straw basket, a folding screen, a lamp, a chair or some glassware that wind up as additions to his collection.
Everything was purchased in Ecuador, even though several pieces were originally imported, such as the Chinese folding screen brought from Pekin in the 1930s. Following successive inheritances, they ended in Jaime´s hands. Given their different natures and styles, it has taken a surprising amount of creativity to create a proper layout.
From time to time, the decor is changed. Maybe only one corner, sometimes an entire room, but things are always in motion. Consequently, each visit to Octava de Corpus discovers something new. For Jaime, moving furniture and adornments is his therapy, creating and decorating new spaces is his hobby and doing it creatively is his challenge.
The house´s layout is a mix of aesthetic and functional criteria. The restaurant is on the upper floor, divided into three rooms, each with its own ambience. On the ground floor is the wine cellar with temperature control to ensure optimum storage. The wine list is extensive so that any dish can be perfectly combined with the most appropriate wine.
Jaime believes his restaurant meets the three key requirements for a great meal: the chef, the atmosphere and the wine. In his own words, “Our customers don´t eat in thirty minutes because a meal here means spending at least two hours enjoying yourself”.
Octava de Corpus was one of the first establishments to earn Quito´s “Q” award, as well as the Ministry of Tourism´s “Q” award for top quality. It was selected as one of the Top Choice 2015 restaurants and is a perennial recommendation in Lonely Planet.
Monday to Saturday: 1:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Junín Street E2-164, San Marcos Plaza
2 952 989