Buenos Aires is a terrific city to eat and drink in. There is all that great steak, those sweetbreads, empanadas, Peruvian food including my favourite ceviche, and lots of fine dining too. There is lots of Italian food as a result of a large immigration from the Piedmont primarily from the late 19th century, but I chose not to explore that as we can get a lot of that here. One of the great things about eating out in BA is that when you compare prices to London, it can be a bit of a bargain, although prices are really climbing.
To drink there are pisco sours (a gorgeous Peruvian cocktail), and all the Malbec you can drink. Don’t just focus on the malbec though – Argentina has great Cabernet Suavignons and the Torrontés is delicious (especially from Salta – thank you Fiona Beckett for that tip!).
Notes on eating in Buenos Aires: the portions are large, the Argentines don’t like spice (even pepper) and they love beef as much as you’ve heard and they like it well done. So,you need to learn the following: jugoso is rare – pronounced WHO-go-so and medio – jugoso is medium rare. A word of warning though, Argentine beef isn’t aged like it is here so it’s a little bloody and you will really feel this on some cuts if you get them cooked rare. Otherwise, pack a little tabasco and some spices, and you’ll be sorted.
My favourites and recommendations are:
La Cabrera is wonderful. In Palermo, the prices reflect it but the food is very good. It is touristy but lots of locals dine here too. You can wait for a table and while you do they will give you a glass of sparkling wine. Meals come with a tonne of extras. Have the beef, and definitely have the sweetbreads.
A friendly welcoming place in Palermo, Don Julio has a terrific wine list and excellent meat. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend here is the vegetables (marrowfat peas anyone?) but the ribs are great and the dulce de leche pancakes are a must for dessert.
An unassuming hidden gem in Palermo, the steak here was one of the best that I had in Buenos Aires. They do a terrific 40 peso lunch deal too (which I had when I went) which will get you steak, chips & wine plus another course – at the current exchange rate, that’s just under £7. One of the owers used to work at Don Julio I believe. And you can tell when you have the Dulce de Leche pancakes – delicious.
Go to La Brigada but don’t go there on the weekend. It’s horrible, like a theme park. Queues of tourists snapping like Will & Kate have just walked by. I thought I might die. Mid week though (and only in the off season I suspect) it is a gem. Great steak, lots of brilliant offal (try the goat sweetbreads), buffalo meat, wild boar, good empanadas and lovely provencal fries (chips tossed in parsley and garlic). Great wine list too. They do the gimmicky cutting of the steak with a spoon, but it’s worth seeing that once, even if it is shamefully touristy.
Hernán Gipponi at the Fierro Hotel
Hernán cut his culinary teeth in Spain, spending time in kitchens at the Guggenheim Bilbao and Quique Dacosta’s El Poblet in Denia, Valencia, both recipients of two Michelin Stars. He has returned to Buenos Aires and runs a terrific restaurant at the Fierro Hotel. I did the 9 course tasting menu with wine matching, the menu was 190 pesos (currently £32) , the wine matching 90 pesos (£15) or 150 pesos for the premium (£25).
I treated myself to the premium one and it was so lovely, and an education on Argentinian wines. It was a great launch pad to explore as I ate there when I arrived. Considered expensive for Argentina (and worth it- there were lots of local there), but for us, a bargain. I had a – watch out I am overusing it – terrific meal. Hernán is a brilliant chef and I loved the food and the experience. It echoed experiences in Spain and London but had its own character.
Highlights were the sweetbreads with fennel and lemongrass matched with a terrific Rutini Gewurztraminer. In the summer, there is a garden out the back where you can enjoy your apertif.
Astrid Y Gaston
Astrid Y Gaston’s Lima sibling was the first Peruvian restaurant to make the Worlds 50 Best list this year. Housed in big old house painted in vibrant (and tasteful) red and green, Astrid Y Gaston is quite formal (I thought I saw the Maitre D flinch when we arrived) but the service at our table was well informed and friendly.
We did the tasting menu (from memory 6 course) for 240 pesos (£40) and instead of wine matching, ordered some Animal Brut (you just have to, right?!). Highlights were the ceviche and the veal cheek. Recommended although sadly they don’t use chilli as they do in Peru as the Argentines just don’t like it.
Sipan was an absolute highlight of my trip. A brilliant example of the Buenos Aires fixation of ceviche and sushi joints, the food is excellent, if pricey. Dishes circle 100 pesos (£17) but they are to be shared between at least two. Definitely have the salmon with passion fruit and some causa (cold Peruvian potato dishes, much better than they sound). Wash it down with some pisco sours Also eat in the downtown one, I have been told that the food is better there.
Osaka in Palermo is quite Japanese to look at but serves up lots of ceviche too. Sit at the bar and watch them work, it’s fascinating. I had a ceviche tasting plate for 100 pesos (£17), where you choose three of their ceviches. I had a classic and two fusion ones and tow fusion osaka style (the best Japanese technique with the finest Peruvian ingredients). I should have known when I was told it was only a medium portion that it would be huge.
PIZZA & EMPANADAS
Pizza?! Not just any pizza but cheese thick and rich Buenos Aires fugazzetta. Try the faina too and the empanadas. It’s positively buzzing here and expect queues but it’s a great experience.
I was told the best empanadas in Buenos Aires, and I would have to agree. Try the branch in Recoleta.