In the very first batch of reviews we posted when Luxury Latin America launched was Hacienda Xcanatun, just outside of Merida, capital of the Yucatan state in Mexico. It’s a lovely, atmospheric, and gorgeous hotel that is more easily accessible than the Starwood Luxury Collection ones scattered around the countryside.

Unlike those, it’s also more lively and less snooty. When my family stopped in Hacienda Temozon (one of the Starwood ones) on the way back from Uxmal to have lunch, they acted like they were doing us a big favor by allowing us to come spend our money in the dining room, even though it was almost empty. A friend of mine from Merida has been there three times and says it’s their regular routine: the guard looks you over and makes a big deal about calling the boss to see if you will be allowed to enter the sanctum.

There’s none of that silliness at Xcanatun and many people who have never spent the night dine there at Casa de Piedra whenever there is a special occasion. The restaurant has been rated as one of the best in Merida almost since it opened and despite lots more competition lately, it’s still a favored spot with both travelers and moneyed locals.

On my visit last week, it didn’t disappoint. From flatbreads before the meal to an incredible chocolate cake with dulce de leche at the end, each dish was well-prepared and pleasing to the eye. In a sea of restaurants with interchangeable menus, Xcanatun gives each menu option a twist: sometimes a little tweak, sometimes a full 180. It’s a refreshing array accompanied by service that’s beyond the normal Mexican norm—as in the waiter doesn’t just take your order and then disappear for a half hour.

In the photos here, you can see a few sample plates: shrimp ceviche with a Caribbean twist, a local fish served up with plenty of trimmings, and that luscious chocolate cake. (A few divine truffles arrived gratis just before and were equally delicious.)

As would be expected in a place filled with so many beautiful spaces, the dining room itself is a real showpiece, with massively high ceilings and natural light coming in from several angles. The lush gardens outside are in view through windows and French doors.

To see more about the hotel and restaurant, see our full review of Hacienda Xcanatun. Or if you’re in the area soon, here is a link to their website for making reservations for lunch, dinner, or a week’s stay. See some more authentic photos of the hacienda hotel at StayAdventurous.