Queen of industry

Gordon Bennett HRH Victoria Brown is set to become the bar of 2014.
Gordon Bennett. HRH Victoria Brown is set to become the bar of 2014.
What Florería Atlántico was to 2013 and Rey de Copas to 2012, the opening of 2014 has just taken place and I assure you it is an absolute blinder. Naturally it’s located in Palermo, within spitting distance of Plaza Serrano, and naturally it has a crack team in place to service eating and drinking needs. And of course, its interior raises the game for other establishments in the city. Big words, eh?

Using the quirky muses of her very royal highness Queen Victoria and Britain’s defining industrial revolution, Victoria Brown combines industry punk with contemporary chic.

From the outside VB looks warehousey, not an unfair assumption given that the space most recently acted up as the storeroom for a supermarket around the corner. A vast mural of HRH in all her glory covers the left-hand part of the entrance, and although it looks a little urban and possibly intimidating, a closer look and there are glass doors that lead to something rather smart.

A compact space, there is room for around 25 to sit at the bar, at tables or alongside the wall. I love a black-and-white check floor and the wall seats have the most fabulous of cushion prints: a Victorian era global map so you are actually sitting on top of the world. And while so many cafés have cute-looking, butt-numbing seats, these metal chairs sport welcoming pads, in royal purple and gun-metal grey of course.

Industrial revolution
But it’s the attention to detail, given that Her Madge presided over the Industrial Revolution, that makes the café section a sure-fire winner, looks wise. The brick-shape ceramic tiles that cropped up at Astor, Pérez.H and others cover the back wall behind the bar, which in turn adorned by blackboards outlining the menu and lit up by recycled Balthazar-size wine bottles. It’s a clean look, fresh with the bar and tables sporting potless plants.

Above tables, extendible lights stretch over for subtle illumination, brightening the exposed brick on one wall, and this flexibility is repeated in the shape of lift cage doors in the bar to divide up seating areas.

Hang on a second, what bar? That’s right, folks, Victoria Brown is also hiding a super-exciting bar, a fabulous monster of a space tended to by Frank’s original barmaster Ezequiel Rodriguez, of which the likes haven’t been seen for a while in Palermo.

But before I give the game away, back to the café. Innocent tourists were tucking into vast slices of Key lime pie made by Ana Paz and team from the The Queen’s Bakery or rib-eye meatballs from the Full Monty part of the menu, oblivious to the prep work going on behind the best hidden entrance in town (it’s behind the red brick wall, and in fact there’s a way in and a separate way out).

Full monty
The great British humour (of course) is perfectly worded on the menu and I will be returning to share the Gordon Bennett brunch, probably today. I haven’t heard the phrases Fully Monty or Gordon Bennett, each with their own connotation, for quite a while and the touch of Anglo appreciation contributed to my warm, fuzzy feeling (probably a cuppa from the Belt & Braces hot drinks section dripping into my lap) within. From brekkie to brunch to lunch to tea, VB’s café has got all meals covered. My lime pie was impeccable, sharp and fresh with a fabulous cheesecake base, crumbly and crunchy in one. My watermelon juice appeared in the cutest of corked bottles, again, great attention to detail and with an eye to offer something different.

Come nightfall
At 8pm, VB closes for an hour before dolling herself up for the night. Knock on the metal door, liaise with the enormous man mountain before passing through the café, and push open the secret door, the wall with a portrait, to stumble into a jaw-dropping venue. Despite the secrecy, Victoria Brown is meant to be inclusive. “This is not a speakeasy,” says Ezequiel Rodriguez, “and anyone can get in.”

Enormous, unexpected, sexy and an indisputable tribute to all things industrial (check out the enormous timepiece mechanical works above the bar), the love story between Victoria and John Brown is also suggested.

The bar opened last Saturday, a few weeks after the café, so there has been little time to cock my tail there, but with Rodriguez and one of the original partners from Frank’s Bar on board, the super-fresh, super-original Victoria Brown is going to be a veritable 2014 hit.

Victoria Brown
Costa Rica 4827

Buenos Aires Herald, February 9, 2014

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