Banqueting in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires' lively streets are full of colour, music and dance but to find the best restaurants look for the old, ugly and delicious.

Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, arrives in Argentina where the food is plentiful and embraces a variety of cuisines.

Every person that we encountered had the same reaction when we told them that we were going around the world in ten days. Their head would swivel back around for a double take and they’d say "ten days?” and then look at us as if we were slightly mad. Which we probably were.

However, in between the short stops all over the world, we knew that we had quite a spectacular ending planned: three nights in Buenos Aires. BA airport is our first introduction and the baggage collection is not unlike being part of a rugby scrum. And it is 4.25am when we arrive too to add to the surrealness.

Two and a half hours later, we are through the queue we make our way into the booked car for our transfer to the Sofitel. Our drivers travels down the highway at fast speed changing lanes constantly-we later learn that the lanes are just "guides” and most drivers drive outside of the lanes. We arrive at the Sofitel on Arroyo or the 'Art District' in its gleaming, grand glory.

Harpers Bazaar named the Sofitel Buenos Aires one of the top five star hotels in BA and the lobby and entrance are designed to impress. The lobby is made out of Paris stone with marble floors and a glazed atrium roof. An enormous 48 light lampshade is suspended above the check in desk. We are just hoping that at this early hour they have our rooms ready for us. "Of course, we’ve been expecting you” they say.

We have breakfast at Le Sud, the breakfast restaurant and dining room. The smell of buttery pastry and breakfast goodies gets our stomachs rumbling and I stand there transfixed by the sheer variety of cakes on offer for breakfast from strawberry tarts to chocolate tarts, alfajores and sliced large cakes.

buenos aires food

There are also savoury items like scrambled eggs, thin bacon, smoked salmon and tomato as well as a range of cereals. Hot meals can also be ordered a la carte but as for me I’m happy with a buttery light mini brioche with wild rose jam and the omnipresent dulce de leche, smoked salmon, tomato and Swiss cheese (hehe, not all together in the one mouthful, I promise!).

Last is a medialuna which resembles a thinner version of a croissant. Unlike a croissant which is made with butter, the medialuna is traditionally made with fat. I must confess that I prefer the croissant and the medialuna is drier and reminds me of what you might make using commercial puff pastry made with mostly vegetable fat.

After a quick breakfast, we go straight up to our rooms. I am told that I have a luxury room (room 612) and it is nice and spacious indeed. Large at almost 40 square metres there is a king bed and a lounge area that has fresh fruit and fragrant tiger lilies waiting for us. On this level there isn’t much of a view except for the building opposite.

The power points have three different types of power points including Australian which is a nice touch. The bathroom has a separate shower and bath and L’Occitane products including shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and shower gel. there is also a box of nail files, cotton tips, cotton pads and shower cap.

I have some time to freshen up and work so I order a pot of tea and it comes quickly along with a rose and an alfajore biscuit. Indeed the attention to detail is impressive as when I order tea they ask if I would like skim or full cream and hot or cold milk. I take a shower and settle down to some work and talk to Mr NQN online before going out to explore the streets of Buenos Aires a bit more.

buenos aires food

And the best place to start? La Boca on the South side of Buenos Aires is one of the less affluent areas and provides an interesting contrast to where we are staying in chic Recoleta. We are being shown around by Luciano Bullorsky and his guide Francisco from Cultura Cercena. They conduct popular English speaking private tours in their native Buenos Aires. Luciano tells us that La Boca is known for three things: workers, immigrants and soccer. He also tells us that there are some streets in La Boca that tourists nor locals shouldn’t walk.

There is one restaurant in the area called "El Obredo” (meaning "the worker) where he tells us "a cab should drop you off as far as the kitchen". Bono from U2 visited recently to eat as have Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. It is a Bodegones, or in Luciano’s words, an "old, ugly and delicious” restaurant whispered through word of mouth.

A group of schoolgirls wearing matching pink laced sneakers, hot pink lipstick on their prepubescent mouths and mournful expressions slouch on the steps outside a building. Pairs of greying socks hang high from a security grill.

Colourful graffiti adorns the walls, music plays behind closed doors at stadium strength where men are most likely playing card games or having a siesta (which begs the question, how, given the noise?), tango dancers stretch and stride in front of diners and dogs patter by the colourful buildings.

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