The muse

It's time to play "Where's Héctor?"
Where, can you find, a living, breathing muse in Buenos Aires?

Where can you find a living, breathing muse who is the waiter and owner of a restaurant specialising in food from northern Argentina, in Buenos Aires?

Okay, I’m nearly done with this. Where can you find a living, breathing muse with the most impossibly inflated lips in Buenos Aires? Ña Serapia Pulpería is exactly where.

Walk into this tiny little place (Ña refers to a shortened version of doña) and the image on the left wall is instantly recognisible, if you’ve ever tried to get served at Milion. Héctor Yepez is the rubber-lipped martyr hanging behind Milion’s first-floor bar, disinterestedly clutching his chest as blood trickles over his fingers, ruining his dishwater brown suit, not a hair out of place.

Well, Héctor from Salta has been part of this infamous joint since the 1960s, and the co-owner became just as infamous as his locros and tamales when photographer Marcos López found inspiration in those pneumatic kissing tyres. Click on López’s site and boom! there’s Sr. Buenaño. The original now forms part of a collection in the Malba.

Visiting Salta in April, I got a substantial load of locro and tamales down my gannet in four days, mainly because I had no other choice. I’m all for corn-based dishes but crammed into a short amount of time, it gets a bit samey, and that fare pretty much takes up the menu apart from a selection of pizzas. Sorry Salta, but you’re linda regardless.

In one of our final lunches before Silver Pear dumps me and ends our homance to head back to Londonlandia and the gory glory of music television, I was in Barrio Norte slash the Palermo borders and summoned her presence.

While waiting for her to clamber down 13 flights of stairs (probably, that lift is always broken but luckily not when I’m around), I ordered in a meat empanada. Enclosed in flaky pastry, the steak was cut so finely cut it had a mince-like texture and was a bit slimy. But it kept me occupied and essentially, it was breakfast.

Someone must have had a big night Thursday, because at 2.20pm, in sloped Lippy himself, the dirty dog. Whipping off his khaki green bomber jacket, Héctor headed straight to the enormous brick oven as if he’d been in charge of not burning the empanadas the whole time. Héctor, I like your style.

Normally, some kind of red wine would go with a hearty meal such as the potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, corn on the cob, peach and a bit of unnamed beef stew. If I’ve ever said to you: “Pineapple on pizza. Discuss” then you’ll know, or at least gather, that I’m not a huge fan of warm fruit in savoury dishes. But to try and deal with a Room 101 moment, I went for the carbonada.

However, vino colapso – as that is the only possible outcome if you drink any wine from this menu, which is only ever-so-slightly saved by the penguin jug – was not an option. Not at lunch time. Check out the photo and you’ll see what I mean. Not only that but Silver Pear needed to locate her lost spectacles (a total nightmare, clearly, if one needs to wear them to locate anything) and I had a date with a doctor (but sadly not like that).

I lapped away like a pug at that carbonada. A perfectly wrong choice for the warmest day of winter so far, but it was filling and plenty of deliciously juicy meaty bits had infiltrated their way under the corn’s skin.

Some say Ña Serapia’s locro is the best in this goddamned city. I’ve had it but I’ve forgotten what it was like. I’ll concur that the carbonada is the best I’ve ever eaten, although it’s the only one I’ve ever eaten. I did only leave two peach slices.

But in terms of random muse spotting and for a fascinating cross-section of porteño society in one tiny little greasy spoon serving up reliable stews and empanadas, Ña Serapia is your place of reckoning. Héctor is far more jolly and more smiley in real life and he doesn’t have a knife protruding form his heart. If you ask nicely, he’ll even let you pretend to stab him.

Ña Serapia Pulpería, Las Heras 3357

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