Chic Jose Ignacio
The seaside architecture of Jose Ignacio is unlike anything you’ve seen: Modern wooden beach houses often perched atop stilts and painted in bold tropical colors.
A once sleepy fishing village, Jose Ignacio has already been called “arguably the chicest spot in Latin America” by the New York Times, “chic but not famous.”
While there are fewer tourists, less commerce and a decidedly low key flavor, in the last five years, José Ignacio has evolved into one of the chicest spots in Latin America, favored by jet-setters from around the world.
Back in 1877, a lighthouse erected on a rocky peninsula became José Ignacio. For much of the 20th century, the area remained largely uninhabited except for a small group of wealthy families from Montevideo and Buenos Aires who began summering there in the 1970s. Their Mediterranean-style homes were built by the sea.
José Ignacio still appeals to the more bohemian with its informal atmosphere of dirt roads, hand-painted street signs, mom-and-pop boutiques and bed-and-breakfasts.
Typical days include leisurely lunches at 3 p.m., late afternoons sunbathing at the beach — the sun sets at about 9:30 p.m. in summer — and midnight dinners of braised lamb and sweet potatoes, and late-night parties.
A bit off this path, however are hot-buzz restaurants like Marismo and Namm, both hidden down a winding dusty road, surrounded by pines, eucalyptuses and acacias.
Marismo, known for its slow-braised lamb, is strictly alfresco, with candlelit tables set around a bonfire on the sand. One of the area’s trendiest eateries, Marismo also offers a quirky tiki bar overlooking an open-air dining room with sand floor that’s often standing-room only in January high-season.
No tablecloths or crystal stemware, but a well-worn wood bar is lined by knotty pine chairs. By night the upscale vibe intensifies with live DJs or musicians spinning sexy music while bonfires roar and subtle flirtation ensues. Locals order-up carafes of Rose and white sparkling wine.
Namm, which serves sushi and grilled meats, is housed in a wooden hut furnished with dim lanterns, low tables and pillowed bench seats.
Namm and Marismo just got a new perky lounge neighbor called Sarava. A short drive away from Marismo with its fish-shape road markers and Namm at the very end of the road is Sarava. This tiki-themed supper club pavilion has become a hot late-night stop for a little excitement in this otherwise sleeping fishing village of Jose Ignacio.
Marismo’s exterior looks like “Robinson Crusoe meets Bora Bora party pad:” An outdoor bar with sandy floor, bonfire and oversize lounge seating, Jardim by Sarava invites the beach beer culture.
La Huella, directly on the beach, is the coolest restaurant in Jose Ignacio, a favored hangout of actors, models, wealthy business folks or wannabe celebrities.
Located along the entrance to Brava Beach, one of the town’s largest and most popular beaches, this lively place operates as a restaurant for most of the day. Its exposed open-air architecture offers a daytime gathering point and shade for surfers and beach goers.
By night, La Huella comes alive and takes on an another identity after 10 pm. Light groove music fuels a seductive crowd of semi-singles congregating within the inside bar or along the patio and beach. The bar makes a fine version of the caipirinha as well as a great fruit daiquiri, accompanied by a platter of sushi or appetizers from the adjacent restaurant’s clay oven.
The famous Lacoste party at La Huella starts the high season. But even during off season, it’s a hot spot on the weekends with its Mediterranean inspired menu. There’s even a neighboring Lacoste boutique offering preppy outerwear and hip local scene.
Celebrated Argentine chef Francis Mallmann’s latest venture, Garzon, about 20 miles northeast of Jose Ignacio, is a charming brick structure where Mallmann fires up his signature Parrilladas and sears brotola, a local fish, in what he calls an infiernillo, an iron griddle suspended between two open flames. The best table is in the garden under a date palm where lanterns hang from the fronds. Upstairs at his establishment are five guest rooms, in case you don’t want to leave after dinner.
Boomtown growth is apparent just few minutes from town where Laguna Escondida, a 200-unit lakefront resort was designed and built by Florida real estate mogul Jorge Perez.
Playa Vik, a new art-filled hotel in Jose Ignacio, designed by owners Alex and Carrie Vik and noted Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott, offers six- stone-clad guest pavilions whose planted rooftops brim with colorful wild flowers. Within the sharp-angled titanium and glass, eco-friendly structure are works by a number of contemporary Latin American artists. A nearby sister property, Estancia Vik, offers an equestrian experience with its own polo field. Vik’s next project which will open in Fall 2014 and was the former Setai in Jose Ignacio be named Bahia Vik.
The luxury Bahia Vik hotel with its 25,000-square-foot beachfront lodge, 10 rental villas and 40 residences, opened in 2014. Bahia Vik’s restaurant La Susana is frequented by celebrities such as polo champion Ignacio Figueras, also known as the face of Ralph Lauren’s Polo Black fragrance.
Another, Casa Suaya, is a secluded hotel facing the Atlantic with 16 stone-wall suites and three thatched-roof bungalows. Its Butiá restaurant, which opens onto an infinity pool with ocean views, serves brick-oven sea bass and other local specialties. The owner, Adolfo Suaya, is very plugged into the area’s active social scene.
Posada del Faro offers Mediterranean-style rooms surrounding a small pool that faces beautiful José Ignacio bay. In the center of the village is Arbol, an elegant guesthouse with six loft-style suites and a new pool area.
Mutate (moo-TA-tay), across from Jose Ignacio’s picturesque main square, is the perhaps its most fashionable boutique. Owners Santiago Barriola and Gonzalo Massa’s offer men’s and women’s clothing, Mid Century Modern furnishings, vintage design objects, jewelry and other accessories. An intimate coffeehouse and bar in front of the store is furnished in classic Scandinavian modern. Please call or e-mail us when you want to buy Real Estate in Jose Ignacio.