Wining On: Spilling the beans

Who wouldn’t want to sit at La Esperanza de los Ascurra’s bar and gaze longingly at tapas?
I can’t keep it to myself any longer. I’ve tried as hard as I can. But I simply have to tell you about my favourite place to eat and drink in this city.

I’ve fought with myself, I tell you that for nothing. Because on the one hand, they’re mine, all mine, and I just couldn’t decide whether to share my discovery or not.

In fact, there are two discoveries. One, I’ve been keeping under my hat for a good six months. We have an extremely faithful relationship, given that I go there every weekend for brunch and they keep their part of the deal by being open and serving up impeccable food time after time. The other, however, I came across thanks to a new Brazilian friend, who, as soon as she uttered the words “Vermouth Bar” and “Truco Tournament and Tapas” I knew I’d feel right at home.

Deep breath. It’s about to all come tumbling out.

Wandering the streets of Palermo Hollywood in search of a bruncherie one Sunday with Mr Links and Dan (see Recipe column below), we had arranged to meet at Gringa, a nice sunny spot on a corner which serves up a decent eggs benedict.

We were wandering the streets given that all the tables were only a quarter full, the upstairs alcove was free yet not cleaned and no wait staff showed any sign of interest in first, our pesos, and second, cleaning up so we could sit down.

Off we stomped, and wandered about that day of sun, on the hunt for Somewhere Else.

I had no idea as I had recently moved to that area just days before, but suddenly some perky plants caught our attention. It was Cusic. Pull the wooden spoon to ring the bell, peek through the iron window at the little patio, wait for the wooden doors to swing open — and you’re in.

For the past six months, which amount to around 24 weeks, I have only steered away from huevos morados once. My favourite brunch dish, served up by the most charming of staff is: a large, verging on vat of, white coffee; fresh fruit of the season chopped and served up to be as pretty as a picture on old English china; hand-squeezed orange or grapefruit juice in a glass goblet (not an electric juicer to be heard or seen); perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs with a jolly decent portion of smoked salmon, doused in dill, and a choice of oven-roasted, rosemary-infused potatoes, or toast.

Of course the white and brown breads are baked in-house (Mr Links declares it to be the tastiest in the city), the jams are made in-house and may be hibiscus or marmalade flavour, in fact everything is made by Cusi who owns Cusic (and whose recipes you can find in the yummy Limonada magazine), and an added bonus is the cookies and croissants, available for takeaway. Like you’ll have any more room…

This brunch is brought to your table with the best onda in town. Those of you who require brunch to arrive at a first-world speed may get a little angsty over the time it takes food to reach mouth, but trust me, it’s worth the wait. And if you can’t take five every once in a while, Cusic is not for you.

However, Cusic is my favourite place to eat in Buenos Aires, and now I told you, god dammit.

The second favourite place I discovered just this week and is where I will be spending my evenings for a cheeky beer or a Campari and orange, if the rain ever stops: La Esperanza de los Ascurra. A family affair, this bar has so much going for it, I don’t know where to start.

Fine, the gingham green tablecloths. So pretty! The artwork. Pegged to a clothes line! Cañitas of draft lager. Six pesos! What? Six pesos? You heard me right. That’s like an espresso in beer format. Tapas perfect for singletons or to share. Anchovies in fabulous olive oil and garlic, tortilla, Serrano ham and other delicious Iberian treats. Starting from nine pesos. All in a watering hole that is so cool, it’s hot, and simply must be the next big thing.

Seriously, the Ascurras have got it going on, even if co-owner María does say running the bar is one big learning curve for the siblings and cousins.

The following boxes are ticked: cheap prices, excellent food with genuine Spanish ingredients, friendly service, decent drinks, quirky interior (check out the white-tile wall menu and old-school touches — one of the owners is a graphic designer) and great prices offering amazing value, something I cannot reiterate enough.

Throw in drinks specials for ladies, tapas deals, dreamy burrata cheese and a forthcoming truco tournament, and I am sold. Forever.

Goddamit, I spilled the porotos again.

Photos courtesy of María Rohde and Mr Links
Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on February 5, 2012.

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