B is for Buenos Aires brunch

Now that I’ve defined that I’m an expatrigrant (see The Expat: Bruce Thompson), allow me to briefly clarify some general gastronomical desires which derive from the other side of the Atlantic.

Residing in Argentina for the past five years, it would take a hard, hard heart to claim to not miss any sugary or savoury treat from the motherland. And during this bitter, bitter winter, I’d be pressed not to admit I’ve got a rampant urge to wolf down some of the mothership’s roast potatoes and a Yorkshire pudding slathered in gravy one Sunday lunchtime.

Although the Argentine palette may find a great British breakfast fry-up hard to handle, it has absolutely no problem in consuming all the orifices a cow has to offer. All positively stomach-curdling, depending on your origin.

But somewhere between all the grease and stomach linings, albeit not that much healthier, comes the brunch. A fairly new-fangled dining option in Buenos Aires, expats, foreigners in transit and other expatrigrants heaved a sigh of relief, then began fasting in preparation, once brunch menus became easier to track down and didn’t require defaulting on credit-card payments.

Although it isn’t necessarily a British “thing”, brunch is certainly a meal northern Europeans from the island can easily adapt to. Used to a BLT sandwich slathered in ketchup, or the Full Monty combining a heart-attack-stirring scrambled eggs, fried bacon, fried (naturally) mushrooms, sausage and even black pudding with buttered toast, an American-style brunch comprising eggs over easy or in a Benedict or Florentine style is not so far removed for the Great British brekkie. Throw in some pancakes, muffins, juice and a mimosa or two — and it’s no wonder many say brunch is absolutely their most favourite meal of the day. And in a city where it’s often tricky to source some smoked pork, the mixture of sweet and savoury is becoming a weekend favourite.

The self-proclaimed purveyor who brought brunch to the southern cone is the Alvear Palace Hotel, which I have had the greatest of fortunes to breakfast at, although it was more of a post-Saturday night meal rather than the early morning Sunday one. Why stick with tradition, even if it is the Alvear?

Despite unkempt hair and the wrong kind of bags, they were good enough to let my fabulous and, of course, beautiful friend Bella and I in (must have been the double-barreled surname dropping,) and I can guarantee the scrambled eggs are a creamy delight fit for any ravenous king. An enormous hot tray of crispy bacon means calorie counting flies out of the window for those who have a yen for some sizzling rashers, but invariably those without titles, blue blood or the right breeding may find themselves sent directly to the kitchen for washing-up duty. Breakfast or Sunday brunch at the Alvear certainly aren’t cheap but then again, Recoleta’s grande dame of grand hotels isn’t your common or garden setting either. Don’t forget to dust down the most elegant casual attire in your wardrobe which has likely been gathering particles from various unqualified sources…

Easier on the purse strings but still in Recoleta is Sirop Folie. Two people can tuck into cheese, cured meats, even some gravlax, which I so rarely stumble across, as well as chunky potato wedges with scrambled eggs among other dishes and for AR$180, a glass of fizz included. I’m not sure why this charming, French-inspired sister eaterie to the grander Sirop just opposite on Pasaje de Correo feels the urge to use those Nespresso coffee capsule things, which snobs like me sneer at, but a cup of steaming beans is also included in the fixed menu.

Despite the relaxed ambience and excellent service, Sirop Folie is not for the faint-stomached, however, and one should definitely turn up hungry. Mr. Links unfortunately had to pack himself off home, so rich and cream-laden were those eggs.

Meanwhile, another preferred brunch haunt is in Villa Crespo. Set in a shabbily yet chicly restored 1930s home with a back patio and stained glass ceiling, Malvón has its own bakery, busily preparing muffins and carrot cake by hand.

The weekend brunch menu sets you back AR$55, and also includes a fruity alcoholic beverage. Choose from eggs Benedict, and New Yorker favourites smoked salmon bagels and pastrami sandwiches among other dishes. A veritable feast, accompanied by a vegetable side, a muffin, a red berry pancake, a juice and even a salad to pretend it‘s a healthy meal, time your Malvón brunch for 1.30pm (with a reservation), and there really won‘t be any need to dine in the evening.

Similarly priced and serving up a Bloody Mary strong enough to knock any Friday night blues on the head is Magdalena’s Party in Palermo Soho. An Argentine-US led enterprise, the owners know what kind of brunch they want to eat, and correspondingly serve it up. Give the Cali coast omelette a whirl — a delectable twist on the original incorporating bacon, avocado, sour cream and black beans into the mix. And if you’re cunning enough to pick a grim and grey day for brunching, you might be able to take advantage of the two-for-one offer.

Bog-standard bacon, soggy lettuce and a grimy tomato in a sandwich back in the motherland? You can keep it, frankly.

Alvear Palace Hotel, Alvear 1891
Sirop Folie, Vicente López 1661
Malvón, Serrano 789
Magdalena’s Party, Thames 1795

First published in the Buenos Aires Herald on August 7, 2011
Photo courtesy of Chris Bernay

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