If you’re visiting Lake Atitlan, fancy a day out exploring Tzununá and love fresh-from-the-garden, organic produce then we’d highly recommend a trip to the charming Bambu Guest House Restaurant.
It was late one beautiful Guatemalan morning when my friend and I decided to treat ourselves to lunch there. It’s our favourite Tzununá restaurant for many reasons, not least the magnificent views afforded from its outdoor, shaded roof terrace.
Off we set, followed by the usual troupe of street dogs, returning cheery waves to smiling children and exchanging pleasantries with passing locals. One of the lovely things about living in a small village is how people acknowledge each other with a simple ‘buenos dias!’ when passing each other on the street, to friends and strangers alike.
The 20-min walk
As we approached the village, the road veered off to the right and then to the left, in an ‘S’ bend. Local women in traditional dress with huge baskets balanced on their head walked alongside, heading up to the river to do the family laundry. Others were headed downhill carrying enormous bundles of sticks on their backs – fuel for cooking – and we marvelled at these awesome women’s strength and resilience.
Continuing uphill for another few hundred metres, the Bambu came into sight, perched high up the mountain on the left-hand side of the road, just opposite the bridge over the river where the locals were heading to wash their laundry. Walking the steep road up to the Bambu Guest House Restaurant is all part of the charm, dear reader, but for those who’d prefer to take it easy, you can always flag down a tuk-tuk (ask the driver for ‘El Bambu’ and expect to pay 5Q per person).
We climbed the roughly cut, stone steps that lead up through Bambu’s lush, semi-tropical gardens, full of delicate flowers, emerald green foliage and lush banana and avocado trees, stopping every now and then to gaze in wonder at the beauty surrounding us.
The menu – fresh from next door’s permaculture farm
Arriving in reception, we were told that the day’s vegetarian option was a courgette lasagne, accompanied by a straight-from-the-garden green salad, sweet potato fritters and tempeh with a tangy homemade cheese. Sold! What’s more, much of the ingredients are supplied by owner Shad, who happily, also runs the permaculture farm, Atitlan Organics next door. These guys are super passionate about permaculture and if you’re interested in the subject, Shad runs a whole heap of courses and workshops, just check out their website for more details.
To drink, we decided on a cheeky lunchtime cocktail, ‘Dark and Stormy,’ a refreshing and tangy combo made from dark rum and Kombucha (a fabulous probiotic), served on the rocks. The Kombucha is supplied by our good friend Max, who runs a small permaculture chicken farm a little further up the mountain (more about Max in a separate post – watch this space!)
The roof terrace
Our order made, we climbed the few wooden steps leading to the covered, cosy roof terrace, the only sounds the rustling of the wind through the trees and a symphony of birdsong.
The terrace was pretty quiet, with maybe 8 other diners happily tucking into lunch, with a few tapping away on their laptops taking advantage of the Bambu Restaurant’s decent wifi connection. Others, like us, were simply sat, drinking in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains, volcanos and forest-fringed Lake Atitlan.
The drinks took around 10 minutes to arrive and lunch took maybe half an hour. Fast food (or fast anything) it is not. The vibe is unhurried, relaxed and the absolute antidote to the usual frenetic pace of modern life. And that, dear reader, is exactly why we love it!
When the drinks and food did arrive (served with a big smile I might add) oh boy was it worth waiting for. The lasagne was absolutely stuffed full of brightly coloured veggies, layered with thinly sliced strips of courgette in place of pasta. It tasted like pure health.
The green salad was freshly picked, crispy and garnished with vividly coloured, edible flower petals with a simple dressing of olive oil and salt. The sweet potato fritters were deliciously crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside, whilst the tanginess of the tempeh mixture perfectly complimented them. One word. Yum!
We took our time eating and chatting quietly and congratulating ourselves on having made such a splendid lunch decision 😉
The food and drinks were truly delicious and the ingredients are of exceptionally high quality. The price was more than reasonable too, at around 40Q for a main and between 10-20Q for a drink (a total of less than $8 US).
The portions were medium-sized, perfect for yours truly, but I’m medium build with an average sized appetite. My more statuesque (and ravenous) friend commented that whilst she had enjoyed the food immensely, she wished that her plate had been a bit larger, so, a piece of advice. If you have a big, man-sized appetite or are particularly hungry, maybe ask for a larger-than-usual portion and offer to pay a few more Quetzales for it. We’re sure that the lovely staff at Bambu will do their best to accommodate you.
If you’re coming from out of town, then the Bambu Guest House Restaurant is located on the outskirts of Tzununá, about 25 minutes walk from the dock and it’s easy to find. Just walk over the playing field and take the road that leads up to the village – you’ll see a health centre (Centro de Salud) on the corner. Walk uphill, following the road through the village and carrying on past the centre. Bambu is a few hundred metres further up on the left-hand side, it’s the building that’s made completely of…you guessed it, bamboo!
A word from the Bambu Guest House Restaurant
Atitlan Organics works closely with the Bambu Guest House, which is a five minute walk from the farm. The Bambu Guest House has a Farm to Table Restaurant that serves up delicious and filling plates mainly composed of Atitlan Organics and other local farm products. Currently, Atitlan Organics supplies all of the milk, yogurt, cheese, salads, cooking greens, honey, coffee, chicken, taro root, pigeon peas, and herbs to the Bambu Guest House Restaurant. The restaurant is run by three young, local, aspiring chefs named Antonio, Juana, and Petrona, all only 19 years old. They are amazing!
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reservations not necessary.
Words: Jane Charilaou | Photos: Jane Charilaou