It would be fair to call Brit Michael Legge one of the pioneers in his field. Although other organic and natural restaurants such as Bio have been catering to a local minority keen on vegetables for at least a decade, Legge opened his first Natural Deli back in 2007 — no mean feat as a foreigner setting up business in an industry known for making mincemeat of newbies, and especially in a city such as Buenos Aires.
But two restaurants later, Natural Deli — which also operates as a café, health-food store and bakery stuffed with delicious muffins and breads in one — Legge’s enterprise has paved the way for other similar offshoots, such as Tea Connection and Green Eat, eating establishments that focus on vibrant foods in an attractive setting that makes you want to set up residence for an afternoon. “Yes, that’s right, you can catch me at the ‘other’ office today.”
One of ND’s fortes has always been its smoothies and juices and now that the Pura Vida bar has (unfortunately, as they were the people to introduce wheatgrass to Argentina) been put out of business, it now remains the go-to place for invigorating fruit concoctions.
With tantalizing names such as Berry Good, stuffed with forest fruits, pineapple, yogurt, OJ and chia, or Blue Velvet, with pineapple, blueberries, banana, oranges and ginger, it’s hard to know what to pick. There’s even a tomato, celery, carrot and orange juice named after the owner himself: the Bloody Michael. I know I haven’t made it until someone names a drink after me…
Of course, running a catering business isn’t one of the easiest jobs in Argentina, especially in a climate where spiralling inflation has a knock-on effect on even the most basic of food prices, and so a restaurant has to ensure its regulars remain exactly that. Therefore Legge meticulously updates his menu for summer and winter, undertaking tasting sessions with the people who count — his staff and customers.
This season’s updated menu, freshly whipped in along with the Antarctic winds not two weeks ago, beside some cracking eggy breakfast options, has mixed up your classic burger and healthified it, if there is such a word, and if there is a such a way.
Now I’ve eaten at Natural Deli many a time — the coffee is strong and I like to browse the produce section without being hassled by a sales assistant, which invariably means I’ll splash out on a spice I don’t need but hey, I enjoyed my shopping experience — but I didn’t know its Barrio Norte kitchen is open until midnight. One to remember.
Going to ND is also a moment to reflect on what one puts in one’s body. And so I opted for the Nutri Burger for 47 pesos, despite being the meat eater I relish being, a lentil and millet patty made in house by chef Pedro. Rammed with crunchy pickles (and I usually pull out the fast-food type if I have a lapse in burger judgement, but these ones gave the burger a great zing to it), a carrot and sesame mayo on the side for slathering onto the wholemeal bun which was dotted with sunflower seeds, and fresh-as-a-daisy rocket salad, lunch was most satisfying. And filling. At the time of writing (8.44pm Thursday evening) I am still full. If that veggie burger doesn’t represent value for money, keeping me full until supper time, then I don’t know what will. Well, I did wolf down my share of a slice of Key Lime Pie (30 pesos). I picked it myself. Well, I did eat the veggie burger, and figured I owed it to myself…
Laprida 1672,Barrio Norte
Also in Las Cañitas
Diary date: Tomorrow, July 9, is of course Argentina’s Independence Day (and not just the celebration of a clogged-up avenue). In honour of this patriotic day, Patio #378 at the Novotel is introducing a vamped-up menu of Argentine foodstuffs tomorrow. Think fillet empanadas and fabulous lentil stew at the hands of head chef Javier Marrone. Patio #378, Novotel, Corrientes 1334 Tel: 4370-9512.
Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on July 8, 2012
Photo courtesy of Natural Deli.