Mere hours after hate-seven-hating, I headed north east in the stalest, smokiest taxi in the world to Recoleta for dinner.
I knew Chez Nous at the Algodon Mansion would be beautiful in all senses, so I was obviously devastated that my finery was going be to ruined thanks to the 60-a-day driver. (I recently gave up, so let’s hope I don’t find God any time soon as I would be in-tol-erable.) But L8 7 L8-ness was beckoning, I bit my tongue – unlike last night – and away we went.
My dining companion had recently mentioned he thought there was a lack of places in Buenos Aires worthy of his Murano cuff links, so when the invite came through, he and his linkage were my natural choice. My contribution to glamour was a mirrored anchor-and-fish brooch on my lapel.
The mood lighting may have been a little too moody, given that our beautiful waitress Natacha had to turn Mr Links’ menu up the right way but despite that ice-breaking hitch, we chose to dive into the seven-step French menu.
I always think I can get seven courses down me, but the truth is, it’s a tough job. But I do wonder why an amuse bouche counts as a whole course? Surely consumer trading standards should have something to say about that. Importantly, however, seven courses equals 14 minus four amuse bouches, and frankly 10 taster dishes will suit me, sir.
Once Mr Links had chosen a Pinot Noir, I was delighted to let head maitre d’ and sommelier Ramiro Hernández then take charge. He produced a juicy, plummy bottle from the Algodon estate in San Rafael which whipped its way up my tobacco-free nose as soon as it was opened.
A goats’ cheese obsession – my favourite in Argentina is slathered in black pepper and can be purchased on the road from Salta to Cafayate – meant a ricotta-ed up version with pine mushrooms, asparagus and truffle was my first port of call. It was dreamy, creamy, and a little piece of goaty heaven. Reluctantly, I offered up a tiny forkful to Mr Links.
The saffron-doused Spanish octopus (pulpo) was simply perfect, flavoursome. And perhaps I hang around at the wrong kind of establishments but I don’t believe anyone has ever asked me how I want my lamb cooked. (Pinker than the Floyd, that’s for sure.)
Lured in by prawns, lemongrass, curry, pumpkin and brie in gnochhi, this was my let down. There were too many flavours vying for attention. Conversely, Mr Links happily finished it off while passing over his risotto which he was less than enamoured with but worked for me.
Every course was lovingly explained by Natacha who seemed relieved we could understand Spanish and who kept a sharp yet unintrusive eye on water, and more importantly wine.
In fact, when another waitress brought out the lamb and Ecuadorian mahi mahi (which was utterly delicious although the wasabi jus was aimed at an Argentine audience and could have been vamped up substantially), I missed my Natacha. She must have tuned into my brain waves as seconds later she re-appeared to point out I had lamb sweetbreads wrapped in filo pastry, which, despite this being dish six, I could have eaten a number seven of. I’m a big fan La Brigada’s lamb glands and chitlins so it was a welcome treat to munch them down.
After last night’s appalling service at that Villa Crespo bar, I’ll admit I might have been on my knees at the slightest sign of a staff nicety.
But I actually think Natacha might have fallen a tiny bit in love with us as well. Maybe it was the tip (thanks Mr. Links). But aside from her beauty, friendliness, and not minding us ogling her chest to get a closer look at her name tag (the lighting was moody, remember?), she kissed us goodbye on both cheeks. How many waiting staff you don’t know, do that?
Algodon Mansion, Montevideo 1647