Life in BA – two famous restaurants and some popstar

I was put in touch with Cheryl on Facebook. A French-Canadian, fellow Aussie, she is a cycling buddy of one of my besties back home, Lisa. We met face-to-face the first time at the polo finals, and quickly realised we had a shared love of bubbles and other wine. We made plans to catch up for lunch one Thursday and decided on Cafe San Juan, which had been widely recommended to both of us by locals and tourists alike.

Cafe San Juan is a small and popular place, and fills up quickly so we’d decided to arrive “early” at 1pm and try our luck at getting a table. We were lucky, and timely, as the place soon filled and people were waiting for tables. We sat outside on the footpath – I guess that’s the Melbourne in us – and the service was probably a little slower than inside but we were eventually presented with the blackboard menu. Cheryl chose a dish of rabbit with polenta, which was delicious. I was tossing up between partridge and a steak dish, and the waitress pushed me in the direction of the steak, I guess because it’s one of their specialties and a hit with the locals. It was nice, and FULL of garlic, but I think I would have preferred to try the partridge. We shared some wine, and both agreed that the food was great and it was a place to revisit. There is an ample tapas menu, and we planned to return and share several tapas dishes rather the a main each. We didn’t realise we would actually run out of time!

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Thankfully, I had enough time that afternoon to have a decent siesta, and clean my teeth numerous times after so much garlic, before the Madonna concert. I had arranged to meet Gi and Andy, two young Porteña girls that I had been put in touch with on facebook by a mutual friend back home, Adrienne. I had first met them when they’d taken me out to a club until the wee small hours of the morning and I was looking forward to seeing them again … on a week night … when, surely, they couldn’t stay out so late!

20130121-223120.jpgAfter some initial challenges, we all located each other in our non-assigned seats and settled in to wait for the concert. And wait, and wait. With no support act other than some crummy DJ who lasted an hour, Madonna didn’t appear until at least three hours after the ticketed time. Kids who had dressed up to see her started to fall asleep in their parents’ arms, the wooden slats of the seats were becoming very uncomfortable, and I hate to think how it was for those in the standing area. In short, the natives were getting restless! When she finally appeared it was to cheers of “Gaga! Gaga!” from us, who had seen Lady GaGa the month before, and “hija de puta” from a large part of the crowd. I’ll let you Google that one!

After such a late start, it took a while to bring the crowd back around, but eventually people got into it a bit more. Her rendition of “Don’t cry for me Argentina” received mixed reactions, probably more because she was writhing around the floor in her underwear at the time. By the time we left the stadium, most seemed happy with the performance, but not so happy with the taxi situation. It took us over an hour and lots of walking before we finally got cabs home and, without partying in a club, still got home pretty late for a school night!

That weekend, I arranged with Gil to check out another widely recommended restaurant, La Cabrera, for their Gringo special, or Happy Hour. An acclaimed parrilla, their early bird special involves arriving at 7pm, being gone by 8.15pm, and getting 40% off the bill. Of course, no locals eat that early so it is, by default, a Gringo special.

Gil was in line from 6.45pm, with a line of tourists quickly building by the time I joined him. There were menus provided outside to study in advance, the doors opened right on 7pm, and we were all promptly seated. Restaurant full, and they knew we’d all be out and the place would be cleaned up again before the regular service got going around 9pm. Good move!

We had been smart enough to work out what we wanted in advance, and ordered shared entrees of empanadas and provoleta with sundried and prosciutto. I think I’ve mentioned provoleta before, but it’s a slab of cheese that gets cooked on the parrilla until it’s charred on the outside and soft and gooey in the middle. When it hits the table, you need to eat it quickly before this molten delight turns into, well, cement. It was good, and we were so quick to get stuck into it, that we forgot to take the photo!

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The empanadas were also delicious, and were followed by our main course, a piece of steak to share, joined by lots of pretty little accompaniments. We ordered a bottle of wine between us, ambitious for a little over an hour time block, but we did it! The whole meal was amazing, and it’s easy to see why so many people rave about it. We both agreed we’d be happy to pay full price for food of this quality.

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Roxana was waiting for us after dinner to have a post dinner drink before she headed off to a party. I had met Roxana, a BA local, at an Expat event and she quickly became my “social director”, sending me emails of events happening in BA and inviting me to parties etc. We’d had a lot of fun times together and she also introduced me to a lot of her friends, including Maru and Virginia.

We had a drink first at a little Mexican “torta” (sandwich) bar before Roxana headed off to her party, then Gil and I went to the beautiful Rey de Copas (King of Cups) bar, that Roxana had previously introduced us to, to enjoy the open air environment and the unique cocktails. Gil then headed off to meet friends for a nightclub, and I headed home to Skype my family for Christmas.

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