Sometimes, sitting in your own puddle of sweat at home is just too much, so go and sit somewhere else, adding a cool drink to that clammy hand. From high-end, poolside luxury in Recoleta to grabbing a bottle of something fun and chilled from a fridge in Botánico, I’ve been terrace-traipsing once again. This week, however, is specifically about one recent opening that’s been long awaited and part of a huge US$50 million revamp – so it’s got fabulous written all over it.
Possibly the finest outdoor eating space to be revealed in the past 12 months, Nuestro Secreto is the final piece in the great refurbishment puzzle that completes the Four Seasons picture. Over the past year, the Recoleta hotel had already opened up Pony Line and its first-floor cigar bar as well as the much-lauded and award-winning Elena restaurant, but this third establishment has been the most radical addition to the stable. Radical, because it’s very much not in keeping with the staid and traditional image the Four Seasons had, but is successfully shaking off with a move towards a fresher and fun approach to eating and drinking.
Take Pony Line. It’s popping. In less than a year, Wednesday nights are now legendary there, with other bars pushed to keep up in the popularity stakes. As for Elena, again, barely open a year but she snuck in the back door in Latin America’s 50 Best to rank at number 50 back in September 2013. And that’s all part of the new DNA at the Four Seasons.
KEEP A SECRET
Unseen from the street (unless you happen to be driving very slowly into town on 9 de Julio Avenue) and tucked alongside the mansion at the back of the main building, the double space that comprises Nuestro Secreto is both in and out, although the in can also morph into an out. Kind of like bellybuttons. Confused? Allow me to explain.
Cunningly, so as to deceive the crappy and turbulent weather Buenos Aires is increasingly prone to, the heart of Nuestro Secreto is located inside a greenhouse if you will – complete with elaborate grill, fans and AC within so you don’t start sprouting roots or leaves – whose very glass walls and ceiling can seamlessly fade away. It’s a bit like dining in Kew Gardens. I’m not sure whether a vote to go al fresco or not is taken from all the diners in the establishment at the time, but I do like the idea of touching a button and magically converting the space into a kind of airy nothing, the sky as your roof.
With seats for 40 diners, the feel is intimate but it’s also relaxed with ample room – there’ll be little eavesdropping going on. Warning, though: it sounds obvious but it gets toasty next to the grill.
But, as elaborate and original as the “in” is, perhaps the best part is the “out,” and you should make a beeline to be out on a Sunday. Park yourself on a cushion around the open fire pit and enjoy the grilling show with an aperitif such as a refreshing Timba (Skyy vodka, Malbec Rosé, pink grapefruit, hibiscus and old spice bitters). In fact, splash out on a pitcher concocted from the outdoor bar – all cocktail jugs are 160 pesos, the same price as at Palermo Hollywood’s Negroni bar, and the poolside view is a whole lot hotter than roadside drunks on Fitzroy.
Lamb and suckling pig grilled on the metal cross are regular features on the Sunday menu (375 pesos at lunchtime) and the idea is to kick back, family style, gathering around the open pit before heading to your table to tuck into the forthcoming feast. The setup is most convivial, with wrought-iron love seats for couples to cosy up on, and stretched white awnings keeping everything totally al fresco. This urban garden is unique given its location, and although it doesn’t smack of pumping pool and barbecue party, there is a laid-back and fun vibe.
Starters include 14-month aged Prosciutto, marinated aubergines and beef empanadas. No asado is of course complete without some weird cow body part, but the sweetbreads are immaculate, with perfect doses of salt and lemon. With four salads to balance out affairs, prepare for a succulent and spot-on bone-in steak (like a T-bone), or short ribs and flank and pork steak, seared on the vine and blackberry wood grill. Just when you think you’ve got no more room, make some for the Patagonia lamb and suckling pig you were watching earlier.
Desserts include apple pancake flambé and an oddly refreshing dulce de leche mousse with an orange salsa, that makes it infinitely less heavy than it sounds.
Of course, you don’t have to only dine at Nuestro Secreto on a Sunday. Although Mondays and Tuesdays are days of rest, a regular and extremely ample menu is available the rest of the week. Starters to share (boo) also include extremely tender baby squid in a paprika sauce and roast potatoes (half portion 45 pesos) that I could easily devour as a main and without sharing (yay!) and a delectable seared goat’s cheese accompanied by a stunningly fruity onion chutney (half portion 55 pesos). They should bottle and sell that stuff. The blood pudding croquettes served with slivers of green apple (half portion 40 pesos) are pretty original and filling, although they were my least favourite and not just because they are stuffed with pudding made of blood…
Delicious Nuestro Secreto touches include watching your glass of Malbec being poured straight from the Achaval Ferrer barrel (90 pesos); broadsheet menus whose every last word should be digested like any good weekend newspaper; and wine-by-the-bottle prices that aren’t out of this world – the Ricardo Santos Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 is a respectable 145 pesos, while the most economical white is the Crios Torrontés 2012 at 120 pesos.
In short, the secret Sunday sessions are no longer hush-hush. Their secret is now our secret.
Posadas 1086/88, Recoleta
Buenos Aires Herald, January 5, 2014