Casa Zinc

La Barra, Punta del Este, Uruguay Book from US$195

Reviewed by Clemmy Manzo
A tranquil and charming rustic-industrial refuge that vintage lovers will adore, close to the beach in La Barra
It takes a serious design guru to make rusty banisters and old sofas look cool. And design guru is exactly what Casa Zinc owner Aaron Hojman is: he has cleverly filled his homely posada - which started off as a showroom for his wonderful antique shop down the road - with tasteful vintage finds from Uruguay and beyond, transforming a building full of random odds and sods into one of the hippest places to stay on Uruguay’s exclusive east coast.

From the outside, Casa Zinc attracts attention with its depot-style corrugated iron walls and distressed siding. Once inside, things get a whole lot prettier with the gravel courtyard and its grand olive tree, iron tables and Art Nouveau chairs. Light pours into tall salvaged windows, and the sweet scent of lavender plants wafts into the communal breakfast room. Hojman has a bit of an obsession with antique globes, which line the mantelpieces and bookshelves, as do old siphon bottles and an impressive collection of vintage dictionaries. Best of all are the the 6 guest rooms, light-filled and lovely, with vintage laboratory lamps, iron bathtubs and old desks.

Highs

  • La Barra is a quiet residential neighbourhood - it feels a million miles away from bigger, brasher Punta del Este, but you're close enough to dip in and out, and just a quick bike ride from the beach and restaurants
  • Friendly and personal service: the chatty staff treat you more like friends than guests and are full of useful tips on what to do in the area
  • The irresistible combination of a welcoming vibe and trend-setting appearance attracts fashionistas, arty types and families alike
  • A laid-back attitude towards getting up early: breakfast is served until 4pm
  • With a little advance warning, guests craving a home-cooked meal can take over the kitchen

Lows

  • Communal breakfast might not be everyone’s cup of tea
  • There’s no pool, but the beach is close
  • No in-house restaurant. However, they serve a daily snack (perhaps a vegetable quiche with a rucula salad), and La Barra’s main strip has dining options for all budgets

Best time to go

Although Casa Zinc’s room rates are cheaper at the beginning of December, true hedonists should head to La Barra in peak season (end of December-January), when the bars are full, a party atmosphere fills the air, and when temperatures hover in the 80sF (the southern hemisphere's seasons are a reverse of ours). Throughout February, things calm down slightly and families start to head to La Barra. For bargain room rates and an even more tranquil experience, wait until March to take your summer holidays: you’ll practically have the beaches to yourself.

Our top tips

If budget permits, drive an hour out to the tiny, sleepy town of Garzón and dine at celebrity Argentine chef Francis Mallman’s wonderful gourmet restaurant, Garzon. You’ll be eating beneath palm trees by the illuminated pool and it’s guaranteed to be a meal you’ll never forget.

Great for...

Beach
Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 6
  • Breakfast only (restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome 1 Feb-21 Dec
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

All 6 bedrooms are adorned with carefully selected vintage gems from the 1890s to the 1940s, from laboratory lamps to old desks. Modern amenities feature too, so no need to fret: you won’t miss out on plasma screens. High ceilings, large windows and whitewashed walls lend all rooms a fresh and airy quality, and the posada’s location on a quiet street guarantees a peaceful night’s sleep, as do the soft, queensize antique beds. Bathrooms impress with their repurposed porcelain pedestal sinks and free-standing iron bathtubs.

Cheapest are the standard rooms (Patio on the ground floor and Mirador on the first floor), both of which have views of the pretty patio and the 4-tonne olive tree. We stayed in Mirador and found it very sleek; we loved the modern/vintage blend (the iPod dock, mixed with the salvaged windows and rustic bathtub). Next up are the Estudio rooms. The clue's in the name for Biblioteca, on the ground floor, which is kitted out like a library and has a small private garden with views of the petanque court. The other Estudio room - Diseño - is on the first floor, and is furnished with original Art Deco pieces. It looks out over the patio below.

Proving this is a family-friendly posada, there’s a triple room designed especially for little ones, resembling something between a classroom and a college dorm, and appropriately called Back to School. We loved the blackboard and geometry triangles, and as there's a double and a single bed, it's perfect for parents plus a child.

Pick of the bunch, though - and the most expensive - is Arquitecto. Made to resemble an architect’s office from the 1940s, this loft-style bedroom boasts gorgeous large windows overlooking the patio and garden, and has a walk-in closet and kingsize bed.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Internet access
  • Ipod dock
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Breakfast (served 'til an incredibly civilised 4pm!) is a hearty spread of yogurts and cereals, orange juice, fresh fruits, ham and cheeses, corazanes dulces (sweet croissants) and eggs if you want.

There’s no restaurant at Casa Zinc, but they offer a tasty homemade snack which changes daily. Expect something light, along the lines of a vegetable quiche with a rucula salad. For something more substantial, head down the road to the delightful El Chanco y La Coneja. By night, pretty fairy-lights illuminate the leafy outside terrace of this cosy restaurant, which serves up good-value tacos and the most wonderful fish dishes. Leave room for dessert, as temptation will surely strike when browsing the long list of sweet treats. For other dining options, from sushi to American-style burgers, head to La Barra’s main strip, a 5-minute drive away. Café Flo is a particularly popular restaurant, serving up exotic salads, pastas and fresh fish to a classy, 30-something crowd.

Or, with a little advance warning, foodies can take over Casa Zinc’s kitchen and rustle up a home-cooked meal to eat outside on the patio under a starry sky. There are grocery shops close by.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Communal dining
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Snacks on request
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Take it easy at La Barra’s pretty beaches, lined with elegant eateries. Once you’ve ‘done’ La Barra, head to chi-chi Jose Ignacio, just 30 minutes away by car, to sunbathe with the rich and famous

  • Tone those muscles with a surfing lesson at La Barra’s popular surf school, Bagus School, or pair up for a game of tennis at Club de La Barra. Those in search of something more relaxing can book a yoga lesson at Casa Zinc - the helpful staff will arrange it

  • Choose from cross-country rides to the beach and Laguna Garzón, or full-moon rides with the Jose Ignacio horse-riding company Haras Godiva

  • Go for a bike ride around the tranquil streets surrounding Casa Zinc. The property has around a dozen mountain bikes for guests to use free of charge

  • Challenge your partner to a game of petanque - a French game similar to boules. Casa Zinc has its own court

  • Nightlife is a big attraction in La Barra, Jose Ignacio and Punta del Este; ask staff which bars and clubs they recommend

  • The neighbouring resort city of Punta del Este is rather big and brash (a concrete canyon of high-rise apartment buildings and mammoth casinos), but you'll probably want to check out its chi-chi hangouts, hip boutiques and the famous Bikini Beach

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Sailing
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Yoga

Kids

From 1 Feb-21 Dec, children of all ages are welcome, but from 22 Dec-31 Jan (peak and high season), only 7+ year olds are allowed. This works well, though. February and March are more tranquil times to take children to La Barra, when the party season has dwindled out, and children can have fun on bikes and horses, and play on the beach. Extra beds can be added to most rooms, but there are no baby cots.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Back to School is a triple room. Diseño, Back to School and Biblioteca can all fit 1 extra bed; Arquitecto can fit 2 extra beds.

Babysitting:

Available by arrangement.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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