If I had to choose some kind of epicurean fantasy, it would be my own particular adaptation of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. It would comprise two essential ingredients — cheddar cheese and copious amounts of red wine — and the whole affair would be jolly, if slightly surreal. And more like a drinks party although the liquids would be served in fine bone china…
The extra-mature cheese would be busy slicing itself in time to the bouncy baton-waving led by said Hatter (in a similar fashion to the many-spouted teapots dancing in the celluloid version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), obediently cutting up chunks for my approval, while all about my person, green and yellow and transparent bottles would float above the dining table, delicately pouring out wines into teacups so as not to spill a drop for my tasting pleasure. Ahhh.
In chapter seven of Lewis Carroll’s book, Alice is in fact offered some plonk at the tea party:
“‘Have some wine,’ the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.
Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. ‘I don’t see any wine,’ she remarked.
‘There isn’t any,’ said the March Hare.
‘Then it wasn’t very civil of you to offer it,’ said Alice angrily.”
And of course she was totally within her rights to get cross, as I would, at such a cruel trick.
So if it is bottles and bottles of wine and wine that you require, then Aldo’s Vinoteca is an excellent port of call. The restaurant enclosed in a wine store located just a few blocks from the Economy Ministry (and if I were in charge of this nation’s finances, I’d have a shortlist of watering-holes I could dive into when things — inflation, pot-banging — took a turn for the worse) in Monserrat is pretty much one of a kind in Buenos Aires.
Step into Aldo’s, and the urge to start stroking tempting glass bottles is quite strong, let me tell you. The art deco-style interior, which has plenty of mirrors to ensure that you really are seeing double, is alluring and the cosy, padded wall seats are exactly that, sufficiently alluring to encourage a longer-than-average session of vino-sipping.
In fact, there is a lot of replicating going on as Aldo’s is also the restaurant to the Moreno Hotel next door — and it certainly is not a shabby place for breakfast.
Opening more than year ago, I like to take those partial to a wee glass of plonk for dinner there, because it is really rather fabulous to be surrounded by so many encased liquified grapes, just waiting for you to select one and release its alcoholic juice.
As I had popped in for a starter after joining the Fuudi’s neighbourhood tour, and it was indisputably the best meal of the three that evening, I decided to pop back for lunch the following day.
I’ve always forgone the rib-eye there, letting someone else order it and so this time it was all about me. And the ojo de bife.
I took up a corner table so I could keep an eye on proceedings, and lunchtime business was certainly brisk. Although the maître d’ attention was a little on the curt side, once she knew I’d booked via the Restorando website, which was easy peasy and worth remembering, the tone changed rather.
The dining menu is simple with meat, veggie and a catch-of-the-day options, while the lunch special is 85 pesos — the cost of my steak alone which I had my heart set on. Choose a side or two, chips, mash or some greens — I went for the potato gratin which came in a delightful individual frying pan.
Despite warm and friendly service, I had to ask twice for some bread, and for a brief moment felt singled out for lunching with only a notebook (and a Moleskin at that) for company. Did it take two to merit a basket? It finally arrived with my steak, but it meant I was twiddling my pen rather than chomping down some bread. No bad thing to miss out on evil carbs for once, I suppose.
My rib-eye was perfectly grilled and seared, a picture-perfect Argentine slab of meat. My plate was hot, which I do like, and is a custom often forgotten. And there was no need to upgrade to a steak knife, as it was tender enough with an ordinary one.
But then came a service dip at around 2.40pm when I, and other diners, wanted or needed to leave. It took a really long time — a good 15 minutes — to get the bill, which I found frustrating given that I was on a tight timeframe.
And when it did arrive, none of the prices corresponded with what was listed on the menu — the second time in a week this has happened (and the previous time at Cumaná). It slightly marred what was actually a truly tasty steak, and once again is a sharp reminder that inflation is so prevalent, that restaurants can’t even keep their menus up to date.
Wining On verdict: Great steak, super-attractive venue to waste away an afternoon in, but shame about the price differentials.
Moreno 372, Monserrat
Printed in the Buenos Aires Herald on October 7, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Aldo’s Vinoteca