In the third and final part of this grand tour eating and drinking in Buenos Aires au plein air, it’s back down to earth and some sexy patios and garden spaces to kick back in.
A BA party often spills outs onto street corners, which always makes for a fun if raucous occasion, and sometimes the need to sit and relax in a classically beautiful or quirky outdoor space is the perfect fit.
So, we could begin this excursion in Puerto Madero, given that every eaterie pretty much has a waterside view of the former working docks; but at what price? Dining in the regenerated dockland is extremely costly but if you’re prepared to let your credit card break out into sweat, you might as well do so on a T-bone steak and the best bottle of Malbec from Cabaña Las Lilas’ wine encyclopedia.
Naturally, some of the city’s finest hotels have wonderful gardens. Recoleta’s Four Seasons is on the verge of reopening its front garden in the first stage of a multi-million dollar refurbishment although diners will have to wait until 2013 for the Mansion’s splendid garden to reopen.
In Palermo, Home Hotel’s splendid back garden comes complete with a pool. This oasis, whose most regular guests are hummingbirds attracted by the honeysuckle, also houses a bar and restaurant serving up hearty English pub-style fare such as burgers or beef and mushroom pie. The spot is so peaceful, you’d never imagine you’re in Palermo, let alone in Buenos Aires.
On the other side of Hollywood is the Fierro, whose palm tree-decked lawn is also an extension of the HG Restaurant. Take up a seat on the decking or the grass while savouring the nine-course tasting menu and rest assured that the greenery flavouring cocktails comes fresh from their own garden: you’ll see sommelier Martín Bruno pick it himself. Early Friday evening is the time to swing by when the hotel runs its happy hour, complete with tapas made by Hernán Gipponi, nominated this past week as this year’s best chef by Cusine & Vins magazine.
Over in Soho you can find quite the zen experience courtesy of Peruvian restaurant Sipan. Named after an archeological site, anyone who’s visited the Microcentro branch will have found it claustrophobic, so it has crossed all borders to conjure up a patio with bubbling water features, a Buddha or two, and some siesta-worthy sofas at the back of the Palermitano hotel. Dig into a mountain of the house ceviche; the close-to-starving would do well to order a hearty rice Tacu-Tacu complete with seafood.
And not many people know that the steakhouse to launch a thousand guidebooks, La Cabrera, not only has a private dining room but also a back patio. The tourist ghetto located at the corner branch (there are two) means sitting on the street, which is no bad thing despite having deal with the death stares of those waiting for you choke on your steak and thereby move on. However, at the second branch, the patio awaits those in the know. Perfect for a beefed-up lunch with the afternoon stretching ahead of you.
Besides hotels, puertas cerradas also warrant some air time. These closed-door spaces, which are often set up in the chef‘s home, have the luxury of using whatever space they so please, and often have a romantic feel to them.
Take the chef Diego Felix. The patio at Casa Felix is vast, so spacious that I attended a 26-strong wedding party there recently and there was no need to commandeer a lap or two to switch between courses. In fact, there is also a thriving garden as well where the chef takes many of the native herbs that grow there for his pescatarian dishes.
If you’re veering toward southeast Asian cuisine at Cocina Sunae, why not book a table on their Colegiales patio. On a steamy summer’s evening, you really could be devouring four courses in Thailand or the Phillipines, and gently perspiring to make it really authentic…
In the same neighbourhood is Almacén Secreto Club, which moved from an adorable if overly cosy space in Villa Crespo recently. A wise move, the restaurant, which specializes in regional dishes from around Argentina now sports an enormous lawn with mature trees and foliage, and is one of the larger gardens I’ve seen in the city.
Fabulously kitsch brunch spots include Malvón and Cusic. Arrive early at the weekend to secure an au plein air space among the herbs and shabby chic furniture at Malvón in Crespo while personal fave Cusic in Hollywood offers a shady spot in which to devour scrambled eggs and smoked salmon and fresh OJ.
In a two-for-one experience in the same hood, drop by Eterna Cadencia to browse the book shelves for that elusive tome between courses.
As for delicious drinks, swank it up at Soho’s Isabel with models and pretty boys of an evening. Although the booths inside are comfy, wander out to the patio to cool off with one of their classic cocktails that mixologist Lucas López Dávalos shakes up so well. Fresh for the summer season comes the Quimey Quipán, comprising rum, Cynar, créme de aniseed, grapefruit juice and soda; and Onegai, made of sake, green tea, lime, ginger and wasabi honey, ideal to accompany sashimi.
For fun and Mexican frolicks, La Fábrica del Taco is the hot spot to go for a bucket of cool Coronas and a taco or three. Foreign regulars will always slather on hot hot sauce, while locals with a less tolerant spice palette should look for bottles labelled para argentinos.
Other worthy mentions include >Il Ballo del Mattone for Italian nosh ‘n art, and the Malba Café des Arts space, whose patio is so alluring I once missed a friend’s film to stay and scoff cheese and wine.
For Ace Terraces (2) and where to dine al fresco on high, check this out.
For Ace Terraces (1) – a guide to hot bars with cool terraces in Buenos Aires this summer, click here.
Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on November 25, 2012.
Photos courtesy of the respective establishments