And so the obsession with al fresco dalliances continues and this week it’s all about eating under the stars.
Although plenty of spaces, just like the bar scene, are based at ground level, it has been trickier to uncover restaurants providing outdoor dining with a view — and not just a smoking balcony. But I’ve found some places that might get your wallet screaming out for a loan as well as some more budget-friendly joints, which are all outdoors and upstairs.
With blossoms scenting the ambience as they gracefully fall to the floor at this time of year like confetti, dining outside can be a romantic experience, so let’s start this guide — which will fill your heart and your lungs — with a dose of fresh Recoleta air at one of the most visually heart-stopping places in Buenos Aires.
The Piano Nobile Salón is steeped in history, and thanks to careful refurbishment several years ago by the Park Hyatt hotel group, the Palacio Duhau has retained its turn-of-the-century splendour — including the restaurant overlooking the garden.
Boasting a strong seafood menu that includes octopus and shrimp ceviches as well as Patagonian oysters, book ahead for a terrace table overlooking the pristine garden and a lawn fit for an uphill croquet match — don’t forget to wear your finery.
Recoleta is also home to Buenos Aires Design, a rather offensive yellow construction hanging off the Cultural Centre, but has an enormous terrace with several eateries overlooking Plaza Francia.
Unfortunately, it’s the high-street names that occupy this plot of prime real estate and tends to attract foreigners who have had their fill of tombs and mausoleums, but it’s worth refuelling for a coffee there.
Down in San Telmo, two options stand out. The first is the open top floor of steakhouse stalwart La Brigada, where the waiters’ standard party trick is dissecting slabs of beef with a spoon. This grill house doesn’t take bookings after 9pm, so dive in for an early supper or at lunchtime. The second is relative newcomer L’atelier de Céline, run by the eponymous lady from Lille. Her French fare is second to none, and the interior, born from an old casona, is spacious yet cosy. Walk through the first-floor dining area straight onto the roof top, a space that Sunday brunchers dipping into Eggs Florentine and French Toast will be keen to linger over.
And further south in La Boca, the views of the working harbour from the café at the PROA museum are unique, but because it closes at 7pm, it’s best to drop by for a piece of cake, lovingly baked by Lucas Angelillo, and a coffee while watching the distant commuters go about their business, buzzing down the motorway.
Naturally, it’s the various Palermos that fare better with respect to the great outdoors. Although there is no shortage of pie places, Fornería is ideally located overlooking Plaza Armenia on the southern side. Half-kitsch, half-classic pizza parlour, the menu also includes antipasto such as burrata cheese, Spanish-style octopus and mussels as well as panini and pasta. I’ll be trying Popeye Not Dead, a spinach, egg and mascarpone pizza from the terrace bar stools next time.
Another pizzeria which can be depended on for some terrace action is the Romario chain, distinguished by the orange paint job the owners favour. Firing up ovens since 1989, 12 eateries make up the Romario family dotted around Belgrano and Barrio Norte, but there are two Palermo jewels with huge rooftops: Gurruchaga, and Fitzroy on the corner of Soler branches. Also serving up calzoni, I normally go for the mushroom, garlic and basil pie, which has a relatively thin base in comparison with many porteño pizzas.
Another Hollywood favourite is Osaka, which has become so successful at fusing Peruvian and Japanese food (Japaruvian sounds more fun than Nikkei), a smattering of its restaurants have opened across the Americas, including in Los Angeles, California. The BA establishment was the second to launch after Lima’s, and it’s said that owner Adolfo Suaya has a team of ceviche and sushi hitmen secretly visiting each restaurant to ensure that flavours and fusions are the same across the board.
Make the most of the cold menu on these warmer evenings upstairs on the bamboo-fenced terrace: I recommend the Osaka tiradito (a delicate slice that is ready to be rolled) with sole, marinated in soy sauce, lime, sesame oil and shoyu, a Japanese spice that crumbles over the slivers. Mouth-watering. The ceviche selection is also delectable, in particular the wasabi-infused version.
Of course, an asado barbecue is supposed to be cooked and devoured outdoors, and one steakhouse in Palermo with a terrace is La Carranzita. Attentive staff serve up classic meat beefy cuts on the intimate terrace that overlooks main Hollywood drag Carranza — be sure to order a juicy lamb empanada as a starter.
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Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on November 18, 2012