Hot spots (1)

Find an unexpected outdoor spot in the heart of Palermo at Ultra Bistró.
So, eager as I am to kick this spring into action, this most capricious of seasons has been totally failing to play ball.

This bipolar weather is confusing, isn‘t it? Sunglasses on, winter coat slung over an elbow crook, boots back on, jumper off. But when the sun does endeavour to beat and blister, fleetingly, I start getting urges for slices of watermelon, juice and seeds dripping down my chin, a tropical fruit smoothie (provided those tropical goodies can get in from Brazil), perhaps a salad Niçoise, or maybe a little wafer cone stacked with pistachio ice-cream. A cooling drink of choice might be a glass of Torrontés, bursting with flowery blooms, or perhaps a minty mojito, one of the classic Caribbean cocktails perfectly suited to a warm evening. It’s all sounding very good.

The problem is that all this remains the stuff of fantasy, which means a girl has to keep on dreaming, because summer ain’t close if spring isn’t even hanging around outside the ballpark.

Still, ever game to defy this schizo season, and with my best Wellington-booted foot forward, I’ve been trying to tap into some stunning outdoor spaces to fulfill your (and my) needs over the coming months. After spending so much time indoors since May 23 (that’s right, I’ve been counting), it‘s almost time to start to live a little in the great outdoors.

Perhaps I’m particularly obsessed with the idea of being outside after living in a flat with no such space for so long, but granted, it’s always worth having a few tricks hidden up a sleeve to pull out for a outdoorsy moment, whether it’s for a quick coffee, a cocktail, brunch or dinner.

While the Evita Museum Restaurant in Palermo Chico has a delightful patio to take up residence in for a few hours, inevitably (see, Evita is even in that word) it’s a popular place and queuing is obligatory, which is a shame given that it serves the best risotto in town, in my opinion.

Over in Hollywood, the Fierro Hotel has just opened up its secretive back garden for Friday night, post-work happy hours, and it is really a luscious grassy spot worth dropping into for lunch or tea.

And those in the know head directly, without passing Go, to the Oasis Clubhouse in the heart of Soho, for poolside-cocktails and laidback tunes.

Of course it’s not always all about Palermo and L’Atelier de Céline has come up trumps with a stunning sun-trap of a terrace, ideal for a long weekend brunch session.

That’s right folks, the next six months are going to be amazing! As long as the weather treats us right…
And so allow me to introduce a rather hidden-away patio in the Palermo heartland. I’m inviting you to quite the unexpected spot one block from Honduras and hopping distance from Gurruchaga.

The Ultra has quite the credentials: it claims to be the first hotel in the world to be designed by a cool hunter, who travelled the world’s 10 most-visited cities to ascertain which would become home to his project. It was Buenos Aires, and it was Palermo Viejo.

However, it’s the grub that interests me and although I went to a PR event there a few years ago, my memory is hazy so a lunch refresher was a great option: not too busy, attentive service.

The Ultra Bistró & Bar has a New England feel to it, shabby chic that has seen substantial investment, I suspect. Large lamps that wouldn’t look out of place in a lighthouse adorn white the space. Although Mr Links and I sat at the round table, I gazed longingly through the panes of glass at the patio and its red-brick walls which have been lovingly retained, plotting ahead to warmer times when I could sit under the fairy lights and sup away at a G&T.

But back to the real world. The lunch special, which includes a main and coffee, will set you back 75 pesos, which isn’t so out of this world when dishes on the menu systematically all cost over 100 pesos (excluding the pumpkin risotto which is 95). For the heart of Palermo, it’s decent value, plus the menu has been complied by renowned chef Rodrigo Toso and is executed on a daily basis by Luis Torres Jerez, who has worked with Ezequiel Gallardo from 30 Sillas among others.

Arriving a touch late, Mr Links had his grumpy face on. He was dismayed to find the table and place-mats not as clean as they should be. A sour way to start a meal. However, spirits were resuscitated when the starters arrived, and were impeccable, both in terms of flavour and presentation. Linksy’s grilled goat‘s cheese provoleta bore the perfect stripes of a searing grill, while perfectly prepared sweetbreads were a right treat, crispy yet succulent as they should be.

My main was a fishy feast, with the largest salmon steak in a deliciously crunchy skin I’ve seen plated for a while. With some innovative coriander bubbles to dip into, all I could think of was tackling this river-born beast. Which was unfortunate, as it meant I left the vegetable tempura bedded beneath it too long, and so the veggies went soggy. Perhaps serving them on the side would have ensured I devour them faster, but I also didn’t want to wreck the immaculate presentation quite so quickly.

Meanwhile, Mr Links declared his sorrentinos to be “perfectly cooked” and was particularly taken with the pipette filled with truffle oil, and the chef certainly did not skimp on that little luxury. Delightedly, he drizzled it over his ricotta-stuffed pasta and tomato ‘n herb sauce, and retreated a happy man.

Although it’s on the pricey side — and no cool hunter is going to make cut backs on essential ingredients, now — the Ultra Bistró has definitely got an interesting menu with some quirky twists which is worth checking out — and come the warmer days, that patio space will be a place for basking and whiling away a lazy afternoon.

Wining On verdict: This could become a go-to spot if they can sort out the obvious such as clean tables, plus a little more ingredients knowledge from an otherwise keen waitstaff.

Ultra Bistró & Bar
Gorriti 4929, Palermo Viejo
Tel: 4833-9200

Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on October 14, 2012

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