After dicking Matt around, who was desperate to get out the house and far away from his manuscript to have a not-drink, the evening took on a whole new dynamic when Hannah from XL Recordings jetted into town to give some talks at the MICA cultural conference.
An upgrade from drinks to dinner worked perfectly, and was in fact better than perfect given that Silver Pear had taken charge and booked us in to Bodegón El Obrero.
Me and El Obrero, we’ve got a thing going on. Well, we would if I hadn’t been foiled at every darned opportunity to head to *shriek* La Boca for a Spanish-Argentine chow down.
Alright, so that makes me an Obrero virgin, I can handle that, but in fact wandering in, flat cap clad, it was a bit like the three never-been-touched virgins entering a testosterone-pulsating den of iniquity where burly Argentine boxers floss their teeth with young lassies between courses. If I wasn’t down with bronchitis syndrome (this week’s trendy Buenos Aires disease), I could surely have smelled the fate of other young innocents like ourselves.
We were the only unchaperoned ladies, and certainly the only English-talking sorts. And despite rolling up in a taxi, the area was less intimidating than I’d have expected. Shame. I’d prepped myself for a bit of rough.
Settling into the middle of the room next to a pillar with fading photos of long-forgotten Boca Juniors players, my instinct would usually scream: “Gringo alert! Steer clear of the wine that’s already on the table.” But I gave the list a browse, and the D.V. Catena, all coy and waiting to be opened – and also, importantly, within grabbing distance, is often loftily placed out of my reach on restaurant menus. However, Hannah, star that she is, said she’d splurge. It was 144 pesos, a Malbec-Malbec 2007.
Hopefully you know, and I also know, that I know relatively little about wine. But I like it. And you know that, as do I. But the little I do know meant I could wow with my double Malbec knowledge. Basically grapes are harvested from vines at different altitudes (in the Catena case, from Lunlunta and Gualtallary, at 860m and 940m more or less.)
We shared a giant, not-quite-as-bloody-as-hoped-for, but flavoursome steak, ojo de bife. It seemed to have had some additional grill loving as it was tad crispy on the outside, but it worked a treat. Obrero portions are definitely shareable, and we also snapped up a chorizo tortilla after making the grand error of ordering rather dull, flat, Spanish chips. Silvia, the adorable and delightful waitress with perfect teeth, had no issue in changing them for us. Thank God. I want fun food, not lifeless, half-dead food, unless of course, it’s a cow.
Plummy, juicy, smooth. The hue of the three English virgins’ blood. Catena worked for me. And it also felt a bit wrong but oh-so-right to be slugging back a decent wine in this “restaurante notable” whose reputation has been established for being an eaterie for the workers.
One more glass for the ladies, except the best “by the cup” option El Obrero can offer is a half bottle. And the best of the halves was a Valmont. Previously an acceptable dinner-table Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Pinot Noir blend some 15 years ago, it ain’t no more. It reeked of petrol. Looked like dyed henna water. But to redeem my poxy decision that was based in quantity rather than quality, it was only for slugging down while waiting for the bill.
Silvia then suddenly appeared with a regular size bottle of Valmont. “It’s an invitation from the table behind you.” What? Didn’t they see we were drinking the good stuff? I practise a lot with the aim of people noticing what I’m swallowing… and then, when they finally do, they see me holding my nose while gulping down a Valmont. The shame.
The upshot was that a boxer called Gustavo had taken a shine to Silver Pear, while his Uruguayan mate went straight for the kill with some palm reading. We scoffed at the Valmont, and managed to upgrade to a Trumpeter, sending the former back to the kitchen where it rightly belongs – in some stew or other. In the meantime, Gustavo was caught up in his own stew over my fruity friend, but we drank the wine, Hannah practised her Spanish and I said I’d sort the boxer out with an English teacher. That was before I squished his nose. It had to be done. There was no bone in it.