Home-style food for business lunch

On the broad streets of Las Condes, where glass and stainless steel corporate office towers seem to spring up like weeds, brunch mainstay Café Melba has opened a second location for straightforward and intensely flavorful continental favorites.

Photo by Michael Snyder
Photo by Michael Snyder

Owner Dell Taylor opened the original Melba in Barrio El Bosque 13 years ago to serve the kind of serious coffee and good, hearty breakfasts conspicuously absent from the Santiago dining scene at the time. The restaurant was an immediate success, drawing as many as 140 diners for its first lunch. Since then, Melba has become an institution, beloved amongst expats and locals alike for its fresh, simple food and unpretentious atmosphere.

Photo by Michael Snyder
Photo by Michael Snyder

In June of last year, Café Melba opened its second location under the direction of Chef Karl Bro, who has been with Taylor at the original location since its first year.

New Café Melba is bright and airy, with light streaming in through floor-to-ceiling windows. Outside, umbrellas throw shade over a cozy terrace offering a glimpse of greenery surrounding one of Santiago’s many popular malls and busy Avenida Presidente Riesco. The large room and views onto the characterless high rises of Las Condes might betray its corporate environs, but Melba’s unpretentious space and friendly staff are unaffected. In the end, Café Melba is a humble neighborhood restaurant, even if its neighborhood is an antiseptic showroom for Chile’s burgeoning economy.

While a handful of favorites were carried over from the original Café Melba menu, many of the items on offer, particularly on the lunch menu, are fresh creations for the new location.

Photo by Michael Snyder
Photo by Michael Snyder

Like the space itself, the items on Café Melba’s lunch menu are clean and uncluttered, allowing the crisp flavors of herbs, spices and Chile’s marvelous produce to shine through. A Caesar Salad (CP$3,500 or US$7), carried over from the original menu, is a thinking man’s version of the diner classic. Whole leaves of crisp cos lettuce are served with croutons, strips of simply grilled chicken, whole anchovies, bacon and a judicious drizzle of creamy dressing, vibrant with the briny flavor of fish.

Another favorite from the old Melba menu is a dish called ‘Pastamania’ (CP$4,500, or US$9) - Fettucine with char-grilled chicken is bathed luxuriously in a thick sauce of white wine, cream and sun dried tomatoes, then topped with strips of fresh Parmesan. Mildly sweet and vegetal, this rich bowl would be equally appropriate in the depths of winter as it would be on a warm summer afternoon.

As autumn takes hold, the sunny, street-side terrace is a perfect spot for al fresco dining on Chef Bro’s new menu, or to sip fresh-squeezed orange, chirimoya (custard apple) and frutilla (strawberry) juices. If in need of a caffeine fix, New Café Melba, like its sibling in El Bosque, serves expertly prepared coffee.

Café Melba
Avenida Presidente Riesco 5435, Local 1
Phone: 213 5064
Metro Manquehue

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