City Chic Dining Arrives in Colonial San Miguel

by Anne Dimon

Opened in August in the fancy new Codigo Postal Design building just a short stroll from San Miguel de Allendes’ historic Plaza, the upscale Bovine Brasserie is a new concept for this Spanish Colonial city in Central Mexico.

While the name Bovine conjures up visions of cows, buffalos and bison – and red meat is, indeed, the cornerstone of the upscale menu – thankfully, there is a also a good selection of dishes for those of us who choose to, as a healthy lifestyle practice, avoid red meat.

First of all there is a seafood bar with fresh fish, oysters and clams flown in from Ensenada, a coastal city in Baja California. On the menu, appetizers include items such as Grilled Octopus with Chick Pea Sauce and Tuna Tartar. For vegetarians there a various salads including an Endive Salad with Pecan Nuts and Anchovy Vinaigrette, Roasted Baby Beets with Raspberry, Orange Oil, Goat Cheese and Macadamia Nuts and Tomato Buratta with Tomato Juice, Black Olives, Basil Oil and Peaches. The menu also includes Wood-Fire Roasted Chicken with a selection of vegetable sides such as roasted asparagus. The evening I visited The Catch of the Day was served with a house-made fennel sauce.

A collaboration between hospitality guru Bruce James, director of Hotel Matilda  – named Mexico’s Best City Hotel in Travel + Leisure s 2017 World s Best Awards, and the #1 Hotel in Mexico in Condé Nast Traveler s 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards – and Australian chef Paul Bentley, a rising star of the Mexican culinary world, Bovine Brasserie is a major player on San Miguel’s developing culinary scene.

While celebrated chef Bentley was not on duty to pop by our table for a quick “hola,” we did have a pleasantly unexpected visit from the charming Señor James.  A native of my own hometown of Toronto, James took the time to sit and chat with us, and I learned first hand that he has quite the sense of humor.

When I asked him: Why the focus on cattle when many are shunning red meat in favor of healthier lifestyle choices? He smiled and said that healthy eating was overrated. “People want a big piece of meat. There isn’t a Canadian, American or Mexican who doesn’t like the occasional piece of meat,”  he says with a smile. The man behind Hotel Matilda and its equally celebrated Moxie Dining Room – candidly admits he got bored so he opened a new restaurant. He partnered with chef Bentley and opened Bovine Brasserie to “fill a niche.”

“My idea was to create a relaxed, comfort food, family place, but I failed. It’s too fancy.” He says with a grin. And, fancy it is.

For beyond the menu, the attraction is also the ritzy décor and upscale environment – one of just a very few such places situated just steps off the main Plaza of this very popular Mexican city.

Black and white geometric floor tiles, brass tabletops studded with silver rivets, hand-painted lamps, comfortable chairs and setties upholstered in rich fabrics, along with an imposing antique bar, are all reflected in a mirrored ceiling. A private dining room is elegantly outfitted by the world renowned Casa Dragones Tequila. Also impressive is the precise attention to detail. The silverware, for instance, is embossed with the head of a steer.

James says he spent time in London and New York and wanted a “big city feel.”   But it’s also about being local. Along with many of the fresh food ingredients, furnishings, too, have been sourced locally. Lamps and tiles, for instance come from nearby Delorus Hidalgo. James tells me he came across the imposing antique bar in a junk store on the way to Delorus Hidalgo and bought it for just 35,000 pesos (under $2,000 U.S.).

By San Miguel standards Bovine is not inexpensive. It’s more on par with any “fancy” restaurant in any big city. Appetizers range from $125 – $426 pesos (roughly $7 – $23 U.S.). Entrees are priced between $275 to $550 pesos (roughly $15 to $30 U.S. ). Sides are extra.  But for any foodie who appreciates dining “city chic,” Bovine is definitely worth a visit.

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