Text: Tracey Sheeran
As the Abierto de Palermo gathers pace in the race to see which team will be crowned the de facto best in the world on the 8th December, the POLO+10 team are packing their bags and preparing to travel to Buenos Aires to cover the event. The POLO+10 team will be present at Palermo, the “cathedral of polo” to report on all the tournament action!
Many will be also travelling to Argentina to enjoy the world’s best polo, so when you are not at Palermo enjoying the games and great après polo (check out the Chandon champagne bar or try the new Royal Salute pavilion) make the most of your Porteño experience with the top tips for your stay: some of the best addresses on where to stay, eat and party in the most vibrant of South American cities!
Where to stay:
Buenos Aires offers wonderful Five Star hotels which meet the expectations of the most discerning of guests: The beautiful Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau (Avenida Alvear 1661) is a firm favourite with patrons, expect to see some of the leading international polo players taking coffee on the garden terrace in the mornings. The hotel is, of course, sponsoring Lolo Castagnola’s La Natividad team for the Argentine Open. At the Palacio Duhau, belle-époque elegance meets tech-savvy modernity, as the hotel is comprised of a historic 1930’s French style palace on one side and a more contemporary residence on the other, separated by a lovely garden. The hotel offers the Ahin Wellness Spa, the Paseo de las Artes art gallery, two restaurants a bar and cosy vinoteca, where you can sample some wonderful Argentine vintages and tapas.
The newly renovated Four Seasons hotel (Posadas 1086) is another polo hot-spot, belonging as it does to Dubai Polo Team patron Ali Albwardi, who also owns the spectacular Desert Palm resort and polo club in Dubai. The hotel has a fabulous spa (try the signature Porteño Tango massage, which employs grape oil and red wine to hydrate the skin, set to tango music). There is a beautiful outdoor heated pool, surrounded by lush gardens overlooking La Mansión, where every Sunday they serve the most spectacular brunch in the city, with a ceviche & oyster bar and a carvery featuring Argentine beef, of course. Coming soon, the revamped Polo bar!
The Alvear Palace (Avenida Alvear 1891) is a more traditional Palacio, with gilded interiors and an old-word, turn of the century charm. The lobby bar is like stepping back in time, and you should also try the Orangerie for an elegant afternoon tea. The Alvear is also home to one of the best restaurants in town, La Bourgogne, where French chef Jean Paul Bondoux conjures up stunning cuisine in the only Relais Gourmand restaurant in Latin America.
If you prefer smaller boutique hotels, Buenos Aires has some wonderful ones, as benefits such a design-conscious and trend-setting city. The new 11-bedroomed HUB Porteño on Rodriguez Peña in Recoleta is the perfect example of such a chic, modern design hotel. The concept is “a home away from home”, with every guest’s individual wishes anticipated and catered for. Tell them your interests before you arrive and the attentive HUB Porteño staff will organise everything, from polo lessons to tango, guided tours, personal shoppers and exclusive access to the city’s cultural secrets with their expert bi-lingual guides and a private car and driver if required. The HUB Porteño has a very pretty roof terrace bar and is also home to the fabulous Tarquino restaurant. Executive Chef Dante Liporace is an innovator in modern, inventive Argentine cuisine, having worked for the legendary Ferran Adrià at the El Bulli restaurant in Catalonia (the five times the World’s Best Restaurant award winner).
© HUB Porteño
Probably the most exclusive bed & breakfast in the world is Francis Ford Coppola’s Jardín Escondido on Gorriti 4746, in Palermo Soho. The Hollywood Godfather legend transformed the elegant townhouse and beautiful tropical garden into a miniature country estancia in the heart of Palermo. The B&B has only six bedrooms and although it does not have its own restaurant, there are lots of great restaurants close-by in the trendy Palermo Soho neighbourhood. The Jardín Escondido serves delicious breakfasts and guests can also enjoy traditional asados in the pool garden on prior reservation with the Manager. Mr Coppola is of course a famous wine aficionado with his own vineyards in California, so you would expect, the Jardin Escondido has an impressive wine cellar and on-call sommelier, who can teach you about Argentine wines and even deliver wines to you back home!
© Jardín Escondido
Where to eat : local flavours
The parilla is to Argentina to what the steakhouse is to America – the backbone of authentic grilled meaty pleasures ! From autoruta – side improvised shacks to the more tony city centre establishments, they are everywhere : so get ready to eat a lot of meat during your stay ! With such a huge choice of places to eat in Buenos Aires, here are some of the best.
© La Brigada
The traditional Argentine Parilla open-fire
La Brigada: What can we say about this legendary parilla restaurant located on Estados Unidos 465 in the historic San Telmo district. Owned and operated by a butcher, the meat is fabulous – they proudly cut it with a spoon to show you how tender it is. The restaurant has a nice old fashioned, cave-like decor, with dark wood panelling… covered with football memorabilia, most of it autographed by the players. Order the Lomo, (tenderloin) or for the more adventurous, try their veal kidneys cooked exactly to order. Not the cheapest parilla place in town but consistently good and a real Buenos Aires institution.
For an authentic Porteño experience, stop off first at La Biela (Av. Quintana 600 in Recoleta) for an aperitif outside on their terrace and watch the world go by, before heading over to the legendary Munich restaurant, located nearby at Ortiz 1871. This quaint, traditional Argentine / German restaurant is a favorite gathering spot for the high-brow, artistic crowd and its traditional menu has barely changed since it opened in 1956. Premium cuts of meat, milanesas, creamed spinach, shoestring potatoes and chucrut (cabbage) are served quickly and in generous portions. The reasonably priced wine list is extensive and well chosen. The lively atmosphere attracts young and old alike although the waiters are mostly slightly cantankerous “old timers”. Arrive early to avoid a wait!
The Rio Alba (Avenida Cerviño 4499) in Palermo offers some of the best value for money in town: It is a real local favourite, in particular, with cattle people – who really know their meat! Portions are very generous, for instance: the “medio lomo” or “half a filet mignon”, easily serves two people – in fact, you should always ask your waiter if a certain dish could serve two – he will answer you honestly! It is a great place to experience old-school, classy food, washed down with a good local wines and followed by a choice of interesting local deserts.
If you have overdone it on steaks and asados, make a reservation at Oviedo (Beruti 2602), probably the best fish restaurant in town with really excellent wine cellar. For a more wallet-friendly fish restaurant, you can choose Dora in Av Leandro Alem, Retiro – a cantina style restaurant and an authentic, family- friendly and intimate place. Dora serves some of the best fish in a city otherwise better known for its beef and pizza! There is a wide selection of fresh fish, all prepared to perfection. Feel free to mix and match fish and sauces: The attentive waiters have great knowledge of their menu and will advise you honestly on whether your fish and sauce combination will be well-balanced! They also offer amazing hams (called jamon crudo, which is like pata negra) and regional specialities such as “Pulpo a la Gallega” (Gallician style octopus)
The cool hangouts: For the younger people (or at least “young at heart) looking for a more fashionable Porteño experience, try the Gran Bar Danzon (Libertad 1161, Centro), Buenos Aires’ longest established wine bar and a fashionable place to hang out, drink and people-watch. The interior is slick, the drinks list extensive and the crowd is hip and happening.
A really favourite “chic” modern restaurant is Sucre (Sucre 676, Belgrano), a-three-story concrete and metal space with a backlit bar, an open kitchen dominating the rear, and concrete-and-glass wine cave. Sucres Chef Fernando Trocca is the cutting edge of cuisine and though it’s a bit off the beaten path, it is well worth the trip. Enjoy their famous spit-roasted bondiola (pork shoulder) and melt-in-the mouth Patagonian lamb, straight off the wood-fired grill. The atmosphere is very hip and lively.
Another fashionista and media-type hangout is the cocktail bar at Casa Cruz (at Uriarte 1658). Check out their wines, cocktails or long drinks while enjoying great people-watching and music. The restaurant at Casa Cruz serves up modern, urban Argentine cuisine in a sophisticated atmosphere and is a very popular hangout for local trendsetters.
You could also try the nearby Isabel Bar (Uriarte 1664), a super-trendy art deco style bar and restaurant with great music. The extraordinary ceiling has lights that change colour in time with the music, which features retro classics mixed and current hits. The restaurant serves up a stylish and wholesome menu sourced from local producers, home-made breads and organic ingredients.
A top spot to “see and be seen” is Tegui (Costa Rica 5852, Palermo Hollywood) for more great contemporary cuisine. Hidden behind a graffiti-riddled façade – by artist Nico Monti – and located down a side street in a 110-year-old town house, from outside Tegui looks like an old-fashioned speak-easy. Try the set menu proposed by star Argentine Chef Gérman Martitegui, and enjoy the chic atmosphere. This hidden gem is hard to find but incredibly popular, so reservations are recommended, call: (0)11 5291 3333
If you still have energy left, head over to perennially cool but noisy Club Tequila, (located at Costanera Norte Avenue and La Pampa) for a nightcap and check out the local party scene.
The favourite pick: Ocho Once – Maison du Chef, the ultimate Porteño insiders’ secret: The Spanish term “puerta cerrada” literally means “closed door” and you have call and make a reservation in order to discover the restaurant’s address! Chef Gonzalo Bazterrica, composes a different 5 course set menu every week, based on organic ingredients from their own bodega and finca located in Agrelo, Mendoza. Co-owner of the restaurant is Deiter Meier, the renowned Swiss artist and avant garde musician, who is passionate about organic produce, so naturally they have spectacular organic beef and wines including the Ojo de Agua Malbec and the Dieter Meier PuroCorte D’Oro. The dining room is home-like and so an evening at the Maison du Chef is like having dinner at a friend’s house – where your friend just happens to have worked for the legendary Bernard Loiseau in France!
© Ocho Once – Maison du Chef
Call Gonzalo on 5491-3614-5719 or Angeles on 5491-5108-4375 to make a reservation and find out address of Ocho Once Maison du Chef, and prepare for a memorable puerta cerrada experience.
Must Do & See Activities:
1.The Total polo, golf and wine trip!
If your trip allows you to venture further afield than Palermo and your favourite local polo estancia, you can choose the “Full Monty” Argentine experience, combining great polo with a trip to the vineyards of Mendoza (a 2 hour internal flight) and a spot of golf or tennis! The five star boutique hotel Algodon Mansion in Recoleta, which only has ten guest rooms is the only Relais & Château in Buenos Aires and offers a personal butler to organise your stay! They have an incredible spa and roof-top pool, which also boasts a Veuve Clicquot champagne bar and Davidoff lounge. In their Chez Nous restaurant, Chef Hernan Griccini creates traditional regional Argentine with a twist, dishes using French techniques and ingredients from their own Algodon Wine Estate in Mendoza, which has a charming lodge with eight suites. Sample their own produce in their gastronomic restaurant Chez Gaston, check out the Algodon vineyards, wine cellers and try the different vintages after a couple of rounds on their 18-hole golf course or a game of tennis.
© Algodon Mansion
2. Authentic Tango experiences
No visit to Buenos Aires would be complete without trying a tango lesson and experiencing a tango show. Undoubtedly the best tango teacher in town is Alejandro Gée, who gives private tango milongero classes in his beautiful turn-of-the century apartment, with its elegant dance hall where you can practice your dance or take your first tango lesson. Contact Alejandro at email@example.com to book a lesson!
© Faena Hotel + Universe
The best tango show and late night cabaret club in town is still El Cabaret at the Philippe Stark designed Faena Hotel + Universe in Puerto Madero. However for a more rustic and authentic tango experience, you should take in a late-night dinner and show at the following clubs – but check their websites in advance to check the programme of events!
La Esquina de Carlos Gardel
Cafe de los Angelitos
3. The historic San Telmo neighbourhood
The San Telmo district: San Telmo is the “cultural melting pot” neighbourhood in the south of the city and a cultural and shopping hot-bed! The district is at the heart of the tango culture, with many excellent and authentic tango milongero clubs such as La Catedral, El Beso and Porteno y Bailarin.
Go to people watch, shop, drink coffees on the many cafe terraces or enjoy street musicians and dancers.
Check out the fabulous Mercado San Telmo market, which was built in 1897 and occupies a whole city block. The wrought-iron interior and glass skylights make it one of the city’s most atmospheric markets, although it can get very crowded, particularly on Sundays. The market boasts a huge range of butchers, fish markets, greengrocery, bakeries and florists, in addition to their famous antique stores.