Individual Spirit Lives On In Café Central

After spending the day sightseeing or trawling through the endless and indistinguishable department stores in Santiago's teeming shopping area you may need a cup of coffee, or perhaps something harder, before attempting the metro home – and just across the Alameda is the perfect remedy to shopping rage.

Photo by Matt Bostock
Photo by Matt Bostock

In the early evening, lit with the warm sulphur glow of the streetlamps, tree-lined Calle Londres is only disturbed by the chatter of patrons sitting on pavement tables outside Café Central. The atmospheric area of cobbled streets seems like a different continent – and a different age – from the proliferation of fast food and mobile phone shops in central Santiago.

Cafe owner Rodrigo Flores started the business in 2001 when he and his brother were running their graphic design company from an office on the second floor of the building. "We noticed a lot of backpackers walking up and down the street," he said. "As there wasn't even an internet cafe in the area at the time we decided to inquire with the landlord about the ground floor rooms." Since then, the café has grown to include most of the ground floor of the historic building along with the outside seating.

Photo by Matt Bostock
Photo by Matt Bostock

Everything in the rock-chic cafe was designed and made by Rodrigo apart from the original artworks on the walls: from the signature red star lights to the wrought-iron furniture. The café has an eclectic style held together by dark wood furniture and red walls, giving a bohemian air of a Parisian-Moroccan hideaway. Their distinctive playlist ranges from blues classics to electropop.

The menu is strong on simple, yet fresh bar snacks such as mini-pizzas and sandwiches, the most popular of which is the Fugassa - delicious herb bread with gouda cheese, rucula, lettuce, tomato, onion and fresh basil. You can buy a whole one for CP$6,600 which feeds four or a quarter for yourself at CP$2,100.

Another specialty sandwich is the Italiano – fresh cheese, spinach, sweet pepper, mushrooms and mayo on a ciabatta for CP$2,100. There are a lot of vegetarian items on the menu including the delicious pancake – cheese, tomato, avocado, and alfafa sprouts with a yogurt-chive dressing for CP$1,500.

Photo by Matt Bostock
Photo by Matt Bostock

Café Central has a great selection of wine and beer to wash it all down, along with a variety of real coffees from espressos to indulgent bean-infused cocktails. Artisan ales come in at CP$1,800 but the very acceptable house wine is a more economic CP$1,300 a glass. They also have a sumptuous breakfast if you’re in before noon, which includes coffee, juice and a sandwich or pancake.

Rodrigo grew up in a village 900km to the south of Santiago where his grandmother ran Pension Central and his father Bar L'Estrella just three blocks apart - the name and the logo of the bar were created in homage to them. "The pension was always full of people – eating, drinking, listening to music – enjoying themselves," said Rodrigo. Café Central is a perfect place to do just that.

Café Central
Londres 45
Santiago Centro
Phone: 02 638 6133

Metro: U. de Chile

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