One of the first culture shocks that uninitiated people from the English-speaking world experience in Chile is the different meal schedules: lunch sometime after 2 pm and dinner at a time when all god-fearing foreigners have long gone to bed.
And while most eventually become accustomed to eating later meals, there’s one culinary custom that some expats can never quite kick – the big, greasy, weekend brunch.
For some reason, Chileans just don’t get excited about any meal before lunch.
Luckily for expats, semi-permanents and tourists in the capital, there is a place that caters to this habit, and does so without the grease.
Café Melba, located on 2898 Don Carlos among the modern office buildings and fancy restaurants of Las Condes, is the place to go for a morning meal that will power you through a busy day of sightseeing…or absorb the excesses of the night before.
Founded by Kiwi in Chile Dell Taylor nearly 14 years ago, Melba – “a typical New Zealand restaurant” according to Taylor – has become an expat institution and is the place to go in Santiago for a brunch-style breakfast.
Here you’ll find French toast, drowned in maple syrup, fried banana and pineapple with a side of bacon for around US$7.50 (CLP3,500), or, for the particularly hungry, the works: two eggs, mushrooms, caramelized onion, fried potato, baked beans, sausages and bacon, served with toast and freshly cracked pepper, for around US$9.50 (CLP4,500).
Melba also serves smoothies, another hard-to-come-by item in Chile, and one of the best coffees in the capital.
Knowing a good thing when she was onto it, Dell has decided to keep the breakfast menu open all day, meaning that as your covered as long as you drag yourself out of bed before 6 pm, when the restaurant closes.
Its outdoor dining, relaxed atmosphere and unique menu have made Melba so popular that it has opened a second store, at 5435 Avenida Presidente Riesco.
Though it has carried on some of the traditional favorites of the original, the second Café Melba has expanded the menu, with a greater focus on lunch items, such as gourmet Caesar salads, served with grilled chicken and whole anchovies for around US$7 (CLP3,500).