The Tegucigalpa branch of the Guatemalan steak house 'Hacienda Real' (*****/$$$, Blvd Juan Pablo II, tel. 2239.6860) recently opened. Sure enough, my expectations were exceeded. You see, I go to Guatemala City every year for business, and I always eat at least one meal at the 'Hacienda Real' in Zona 10. I've been doing this for over ten years!! Recently, during my last trip to San Salvador, I also dined at the branch there. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw an advert in Taca's Inflight magazine and I noticed a small blurb saying 'proximente Tegucigalpa'.
Why do I like 'Hacienda Real' so much? For all the reasons that make a restaurant a great dining experience...
First, the food is amazingly good. All the steaks are grilled on an open bbq pit in the middle of the restaurant, the portions are generous and the meals are consistently good- consisting of quality meats, cooked to the specified temperature, tender and juicy. (Obviously, I'm not a vegetarian). The meals are always introduced with a cup of complimentary broth served as soon as you are seated.
Secondly, the ambiance is informal yet elegant, decorated in a colonial Spanish style. You can eat inside or on the terrace. There is even a rooftop terrace here in Tegucigalpa offering cozy, romantic dining in the evening.
Third, you receive real value for the price. While 'Hacienda Real' is not cheap, it is not overly expensive. Most items cost less or the same as other similar restaurants in town.
Finally, 'Hacienda Real' raises the bar on the level of service if offers its patrons. The wait staff actually knows what they are doing and are eager to please...attentive without being overbearing, friendly in a sincere sort of way. They even walk differently from waiters in other Honduran restaurants, not the typical slouchy walk that connotes 'I'll eventually get to your order, but don't bother me too much'. Instead, its a determined gait that makes you know they are ready to serve and are good at what they do.
As an aside, my wife commented that it's impossible to find waiters like this in Honduras, and she was skeptical as to whether they were actually Honduran or not. So I told her to ask, and sure enough, all the waiters are from Guatemala. They come here for rotating three month stints. While I feel bad that the management does not feel that they can find competent locals to do the job, I also feel reassured that they are so quality conscious as to their product, that they make sure every detail is just perfect, even down to importing the wait staff.
I'm sure diners will notice the difference in the level of service, and maybe, just maybe, they will start to expect the same level at other establishments. If so, other restaurants will feel the pressure and be forced to actually 'train' their staff. Imagine that...going to restaurants in Honduras where the staff is competent, knowledgeable, and make you feel welcome.
New standards have been set for Tegucigalpa dining, and I highly recommend 'Hacienda Real' to all (even non-carnivores as the salads will most certainly please).
'Hacienda Real' is one of Don Godo's favorites.