20th September 2017

Nota Bene’s six favourite Buenos Aires restaurants

Dubbed “the Paris of South America”, the striking behemoth of a city that is Buenos Aires has – much like it's European counterpart – made a hefty name for itself thanks to its intoxicating blend of architectural prowess, dynamic atmosphere, characteristic cuisine and lively local culture.

A buzzing metropolis – enamoured with tango home to international icons such as Diego Maradona and Ernest ‘Che’ Guevara, and final resting place of the beloved Evita (Eva Perón) – lives and breathes fire, football and flair in all its incarnations and the sparks in the air are invigorating.

Porteños (as born-and-bred Buenos Aires locals are colloquially called) are formidable forces to be reckoned with

Porteños (as born-and-bred Buenos Aires locals are colloquially called) are formidable forces to be reckoned with and don’t believe in doing things half-baked – everything they do, they do with ‘gusto’ and panache – and this applies to all areas, from the Avenida 9 de Julio – the widest avenue in the world; to the impossibly effervescent La Boca, with its breath-taking kaleidoscope of brightly-painted houses and fervent tango and football heritage; to its mouthwatering, meat-focused cuisine – the most famous of which is manifested in its ‘Parillas’ or grill steakhouses where it’s quite common to be confronted with an entire carcass or two slowly cooking to perfection in a restaurant kitchen over an open fire.

it’s quite common to be confronted with an entire carcass or two slowly cooking to perfection in a restaurant kitchen over an open fire

The result is the juiciest, most flavoursome and succulent slab of steak you’re likely to ever come across – and only the Brazilians and Uruguayans can lay claim to anything that comes close. The city is positively saturated by these steakhouses – and while most will not disappoint, finding the star stand-outs in this vast concrete jungle is a feat in itself.

The capital is formally divided in 48 barrios (neighborhoods), and grouped into 15 comunas (communes), each of which encompasses one or more barrios – the most captivating of which, in terms of dining, retail, luxury and lifestyle are – Comuna 1, comprising Puerto Madero, San Nicolás, Retiro, Monserrat, San Telmo, and Constitución; Comuna 2: Recoleta; Comuna 3: Balvanera and San Cristóbal; and Comuna 4: La Boca, Barracas, Parque Patricios, and Nueva Pompeya; and Comuna 14: Palermo.

While San Telmo, Puerto Madero, La Boca and Recoleta each embody colonial charm, exclusive and waterside modern living, European downtown pizzazz, and the city’s chic cultural heart respectively, the latter ‘barrio’ of Palermo is probably one of the most diverse and dynamic districts in the city and is split into several smaller ‘de facto’ neighborhoods, each with their own unique vibe.

Palermo is probably one of the most diverse and dynamic districts in the city

‘Palermo Chico’ (otherwise translated to ‘Small’ or ‘Exclusive’ Palermo and sometimes also referred to as Barrio Parque), is on Palermo’s north-eastern edge, and represents the most upmarket part of Palermo, home to many of the wealthiest families in the city and several celebrities including television and sporting stars.

Here, the art scene has bloomed, and “the maze of picturesque tree-lined streets, embassies, and lavish homes with a sprinkling of notable galleries” and museums to browse makes it the perfect spot for a relaxed afternoon stroll on your way to Recoleta for a spot of designer shopping or to the beautiful, green sanctuary that is the Jardin Japones.

However, as a quiet, residential sector, when night falls – most locals head out of ‘Palermo Chico’ and across to ‘Palermo Hollywood’, known for its nightlife, and bursting at the seams with some of the city’s best restaurants, bar and clubs

‘Palermo Hollywood’, known for its nightlife, and bursting at the seams with some of the city’s best restaurants, bar and clubs

Casa Cavia, nestled within an original 1920’s noble building known as the Bollini Roca residence, is one of the key exceptions to the ‘Palermo Chico’ rule when it comes to late dining. Perfect for both lunch and dinner, the setting is peaceful and elegant and the house – fully refurbished and renovated by international design firm KallosTurin – is sleek, airy and perfectly converted into a restaurant, which also boasts several sections comprising a publishing house, bookstore, flower shop and perfumery, all of which reflect the owner’s love of history, books, and the finer things in life.

It attracts most of the mid-age elegant/stylish crowd of the city, drawing its clientele by day with “outdoor tables in the perfectly manicured garden terrace” with a corner bar, and seducing them with sophistication by night with stylish white table cloths, and candlelight. The menu is at once simple, tasty and fresh – with the perfectly cooked octopus dish a standout and a good selection of wine by the glass to match.

The menu is at once simple, tasty and fresh – with the perfectly cooked octopus dish a standout

Across the way in Palermo Soho – a chic, creative and cool sector which splinters off from Palermo Viejo – you’ll find some of the best known ‘Parillas’ in Buenos Aires: Don Julio and La Cabrera.

While the latter is better known and as such attracts a mostly young, hip crowd along with a swathe of tourists which have heard its name down the grapevine, the former is all about the food with a more tranquil atmosphere, more locals and meat dishes that are slightly more authentic.

Each boasts simple settings, a varied array of meats and cuts – all grilled to perfection – and are ideal for al fresco lunches, so deciding between the two is basically a question of which mood and ambience you’re after. If a lively spot with some spice is what you crave, then La Cabrera is the place – they bring a smorgasbord of different sauces to try together with the meat – whereas those in search of great food with a more low-key, local vibe should head to Don Julio – rest assured, both are sure to satisfy any carnivorous craving.

Tucked among the historic cobblestone streets of San Telmo, lies La Brigada – another local favourite for those in need of a meaty fix with no fuss. Here, father and son duo Hugo and Pablo will welcome you as perfect hosts into a simple, bare-boned space, with patriotic memorabilia adorning the walls and a minimal wine list with a selection of only the best labels from the area – but when the waiter comes to the table and cuts your piece of meat with a spoon, appearances will mean little for those on the search for a truly succulent meal in the district.

Circling back to Recoleta, widely regarded as one of the capital’s most affluent neighborhoods and the ‘bourgeois’ hub of the city’s aristocracy, you’ll be met with stunning French architecture, designer retail and leafy sidewalks, and it is here that you’ll find the high society crowd with cash to burn dining at Oviedo restaurant on a simple and delicate degustation of some of the best sea fish in the city. The owner, Alberto waits on each table in the vein of a polished trattoria and the lovely wine cellar on the ground floor provides a wine menu full of exotic selections to choose from.

Recoleta, widely regarded as one of the capital’s most affluent neighborhoods and the ‘bourgeois’ hub of the city’s aristocracy

In the same suburb is The Four Seasons restaurant “NuestroSecreto” , which is considered a hot spot in the city and caters to an upscale clientele who regularly flock to this oasis – complete with a terrace immersed in a gorgeous garden – for a relaxed glass of wine, accompanied by appetizers of hand-made bread and tasty olives in a cool atmosphere, topped up by a meal of classic grilled meat dishes, prepared by chefs from an open kitchen.

Definitely the place to be for those on the hunt for the coolest spot in the area with a hot set up and excellent local cuisine.

For more, expanded information on the top restaurants, bars and luxury suggestions from the Nota Bene shortlist, contact us.