George Clooney. He is the reason every other new Buenos Aires café is wafting Nespresso coffees under my nose.
Questioning last week why restaurants are using these new-fangled machines, huddled under a blanket on a windy Tuesday night, George Clooney popped up on the TV. From the suave-and-smooth school of good looks and talent, I’ve always considered him to be on the furry side. But given those qualifications and the fact he was mildly amusing in the ad, it all now makes sense to me. (Apparently, you’re meant to choose a coloured capsule, but no one ever has offered me one. Maybe that’s why I’m not getting it.)
Now I’ve cleared that crucial matter up, let me take you back in time, to an evening when I probably could have done with the strongest caffeine dose in a pellet going, instead of another glass of wine.
I foolishly decided to take out a new Irish friend, a food blogger and chef about to publish her first cook book, to a former speakeasy whose reputation for making incredible drinks and being ultra hip precedes it – and it was foolish because I now regret it. (Not because of her. The Irish are alright and you don’t see them looting high-street stores for bicycles and HD TV sets.)
I’ll admit, we’d been on the sauce that day, having a delicious steak-and-kidney-and-sweetbread heavy lunch at Rolaso, but by nightfall, past midnight, no one was out of hand or slurring, although a coffee might have taken the edge off the midday Patritti Primogénito 2008 pinot noir.
Actually, I’ve never seen that many chitlings and kidneys laid out on one side dish before, and given that Maldon sea salt had found its way to the Villa Crespo restaurant and was sitting on the table, it seemed rude not to slather the food in it.
Rolaso wasn’t terribly busy for a Friday lunchtime, but so much the better for us. Careful service, two bife de chorizos anchos seared pleasingly bloodily, and plenty of food. The three of us rolled out stuffed and merry, Martín to a meeting and the ladies who lunch to Palermo Soho.
This particular weekend to which I refer was at the end of June, the time I loosely commemorate the consecutive years I’ve lived in Argentina (2011 marks five).
Perhaps after those 1,826 days residing in the southern hemisphere, I’ve changed. In fact, I definitely have. Let’s not go down the better or worse path today, but my current indifference to customer service indifference has probably been enhanced by these five years. There are, however, two things that still make me really angry.
Some might lump them together. But rudeness is the subject for my debate (read as rant).
After checking out Virasoro jazz bar, a little after midnight, Niamh from Ireland, Silver Pear from London and I hit the ultra hip spot.
Opened as a speakeasy several years ago with nothing but a burly man on the door to suggest anything might lurk behind it, Silver Pear took us through to 878’s larger, buzzing back space.
I loitered at the end of the extensive bar for several minutes, but no tender deigned to glance in my direction. I moved to the busier end. Still nothing. Next to me, a man rose from his bar stool and as I moved in for the kill, he told me: “You can’t sit there. My friends are going to sit down.”
I was livid. I wasn’t that drunk and it’s not like it was summer and I’d staggered up to the wrong beach tent, only to try and clamber onto someone else’s sun lounger. With someone else on it. I was livid and I was speechless.
But, I continued to wait for the wink. All for the sake of a drink. And then it came. But in the format of being told to move out the way by the head bartender, as I was blocking the service area.
I agreed that I was — annoying as hell, of course. I worked in a bar for two years so I do know — and I commented that punters were apparently “renting” stools, then subletting them out. I’d already been waiting at the other end to no avail, so where did she suggest I wait?
She said she didn’t care, and that I was to move. And stalked off.
My anger was exacerbated by the fact that 24 hours earlier I had written the most glowing of reviews for a guide book about this bar. I’ve been there a few times over the past three years although I’m not familiar with the staff or the owner. All I wanted to do was delete that glowing review and if possible, delete the bar, its stools, and its bottles of spirits and everything in it.
Shame on me, I actually pulled out the journalist card and told them all this. But you know what? I was part of a group of customers and in many countries, the customer is always right.
Perhaps being “right”, regardless, is over the top. But how about some eye contact, a fake smile to indicate you’ve seen me? Why not shove a wine or cocktail list under my nose to keep me occupied for a bit? The staff must have seen it done before.
I would swap rudeness for indifference. Because that was a whole new level of bad customer service, bad attitude and absolutely the worse rudeness I’ve been subjected to in these past five years.
878? Hate seven hate.
Not one to keep things to myself, the owner got in touch with me after hearing about that night from a friend of a friend. Keen to rectify the situation, Julián invited me back whenever I so pleased “in order to give me the correct impression of 878.” I declined. To be treated like something brown and sticky on a shoe sole to top dog in one fell swoop doesn’t work for me.
However, we came up with a deal and it goes like this. I will turn up one of these evenings as a mystery drinker, and then call Julián once I’m ready to leave. And let you all know in due course how it went…
Rolaso, Julián Álvarez 600
878, Thames 878
Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on August 14, 2011