Wining On: Hot Spots (2)

Peer through the glass doors to find the real Sheldon within.
It’s like a dirty obsession, following all these crazy weather fronts. But there’s plenty to talk about, and it seems the effects of Sandy may even have a part to play in the outcome on the US presidential election, so those in the know are saying…

Following a light-by-comparison downpour at the start of the week compared with what was happening on the US’s East Coast, the clouds passed, the puddles dried up and nasty body odours started to waft around public transport. Thursday seemed like a true signal that, gulp, spring is in town.

When tourists are sporting shorts, it isn’t exactly a clear sign that the weather is truly warm, but when all and sundry are cycling around topless with sweatbands, it’s an indication that it’s verging on hot.
And so it’s back to resuming the search for cool terraces and hot spots (hurrah!) and where to find a table for lunch while soaking up a few rays. Finally.

Now, I’m not one for loitering around the heart of Palermo, at Plaza Serrano or Plazoleta Cortazar to give its original name, unless it’s in the hunt for some kind of handcrafted gift or a really, really late night drink. Most of the watering-holes circling the regenerated neighbourhood’s new spiritual home, the little square itself, cater to plenty of visitors who are up for a long night drinking and watching the world go by.

I don’t remember many firsts but I do recall the first time I went drinking on Plaza Serrano. I’d already been wowed by some bright lights at a restaurant on Borges, Henri’s, and although I hadn’t made it down to the square that time, I had worked out that it was all go there. That was five years ago.

We traipsed up the stairs of Utopía, a resto-bar overlooking the square, which was slightly rougher round the edges than its current status, and sitting on hard, straight-backed chairs, let the cool breeze wash over us. I’m pretty sure I had a mojito that night, cooling and refreshing.

And as the years go by, in the immediate vicinity a few more clothes stores pop up and vanish, a few more bars pop up and vanish, while some clothes stores and some bars manage to stay in business. In these past five years, Cabernet restaurant has remained a neighbourhood stalwart, modern leather store Calma Chicha still gets shoppers in a frenzy for its folding cowhide seats, and of course, Utopía is still going strong.

One new kid on the square has revamped a former family home, and Sheldon has done a most excellent job in retaining elements of its past. Walk past the pavement tables, and it could pass as AN Other bar. But peek through the glass and a whole new world beckons.

Sheldon opened three weeks ago to quite a fanfare and in terms of attention to detail, the bar-slash-restaurant has got plenty of great moves. A large tiger mural gives a nod to street art in the front sitting room accompanied by mismatching chairs, thereby assuring its status of rustic chic, while the back bar is rather more orderly with 80s retro chic seating.

But it’s the outdoor space that got me excited, and Sheldon also has the huge advantage of a vast roof terrace resplendent with (at the time of writing) unfilled swimming pool, which I am assured will be protected from unsteady drunkards, and hopscotch painted on the slabs.

The whole space, which has been musicalized by the local, known DJ SRZ, a lovely lady with a show on Radio Metro, certainly has a homely feel to it.The beautiful touches which make a house a home, remain. Mature wisteria creeps up the curved iron staircase, the downstairs patio is painted a bold yet calming off turquoise, while the terrace takes inspiration from the purple wisteria tones while some of the original flooring and tiles are right where they began life.

And it’s important to mention the music, because in a nod to the retro feel comes plenty of surf music, 50s tracks and tune that make you think “ah, so someone else did record that first,” it’s loud enough to block out the busy roundabout that Plaza Serrano has become, but isn’t annoyingly obtrusive. I do feel ashamed I didn’t know Midnight at the Oasis was first performed by Maria Muldaur…

Also of importance is the shade, because sometimes outdoor eating is the order of the day but not at the risk of watering down a tasty salsa with sweat dripping into it.

Two picadas kick off the menu, at 120 and 150 pesos for two people, and the rather deceptive starter menu is fairly lengthy. I say deceptive, because Martín and I decided to give three a go, and frankly the portions were so large they would have done us. The Spanish papas bravas (35 pesos) were cut length ways instead of being round, no big deal, but the deconstructed sauces (as in, they came separately) really could have had the heat ramped up, plus the alioli needed to make friends with the garlic. However, the grilled squid with black olives, capers and sun-dried tomatoes (45 pesos) was tasty and it was nice to see said seafood on the menu which hadn’t been abused (AKA battered).

We also tucked into BBQ Ribs Sheldon style (40 pesos) which were skewered, and that should have signalled the end of lunch.

Except I’d ordered pork belly (80 pesos) and Martín went for a prawn pasta (75 pesos). Accompanied by a sweet potato mash, the highlight was the fresh-cut tomato dip, a modern salsa criolla, which when combined with the pork, made for a tasty refreshing mouthful. There was plenty of teeny round pasta (amuniciones chinas in Spanish) and a good handful of prawns to wolf down, although there was a little too much soy sauce for my lunch mate’s liking. I minded that less, and liked the fact quite a bit of ginger had been used.

What I also liked was the fact that this resto-bar is trying to cook up something more original than burger, chips and pizza in an area whose establishments are more interested in turning over hundreds of covers a day and give little thought to the menu. So although a burger is on the menu, you can also dig into something different such as provolone spring rolls for starters or a rib-eye with marinated mushrooms main. Creativity is flowing — and not just in the interior and exterior design.

Most of Sheldon‘s dishes can be shared, so a few starters plus a main would do for two people, which for the zone, would get you change from 200 pesos (throwing in some drinks) — a decent price for the location — plus, feel safe in the knowledge you’re definitely in one of the square’s hotter spots..

Wining On verdict: Sunny yet shady spot away for the Serrano bustle which is ideal at lunchtime. Can’t believe I didn’t notice a burrata salad on the menu. Aim to return and check out the terrace of an eve to eat burrata and do my best to stumble into the swimming pool.

Sheldon, Honduras 4969,
Palermo Soho
Tel: 4832-6195

Photos courtesy of Carola Chaporro and Martín Rosberg

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