Lead me (not) into temptation

That waffle... is healthy because it's got fruit on it.
That waffle… is healthy because it’s got fruit on it.
Ninina Bakery is a darling spot. With a very naughty side.

Breathing some fresh air into the Palermo café scene, which is increasingly overloaded with French boulangeries (all lovely but it’s becoming an overwhelming trend, much like the obligatory colourful bunting that screams “we’re a fun place to have a coffee”), Ninina holds a strong hand.

Family-run, a baking mother from excellent gastro stock (Marta Gueikian, who founded Selvi, the café chain that adorned various shopping malls), a former investment banker managing the purse strings and an innovative space, Ninina could be that New York transplant of an eatery that all other Buenos Aires eateries aspire to be.

On the edge of Palermo Soho heartland that revolves around Plazas Serrano and Armenia, Ninina is just slightly off kilter to ensure its location is hip. But temptation begins in the window front. The weakest of idle shoppers with faint hunger pangs or even half a sweet tooth will be lured in by perky meringues or raspberry cheesecake with cute names such as Lola Mora and Charlie Brown. Goddamit. This place should come with a health warning.

The former clothes store has had a considerable makeover, and combines factory chic with Scandinavian style; in fact, it is open plan to the extent that one large wooden communal table is located in the heart of the baking action.

The back table is a stroke of genius, as you can see and be seen so it acts like a private dining room although in fact it is in the kitchen. And no one is interrupting anyone else; caffeine addicts can order as many guilt-free handleless mugs as they like, as can pastry fiends. Only Bill will know the real truth…

Still, it’s no big deal if you grab a table next to the 16-metre, marble bar that runs the length of the premises. From this vantage point, you can spy on the goodies (as it were, as they really aren’t on the puritanical side) before delivering yourself directly to evil in all its forms: delicious and moreish cake, pastries, croissants, biscuits, brownies (piece of cake 46 pesos, all others from 20 pesos). An endless list of yummy bad stuff dressed up in wolf’s clothing to reel, you, in, sucker.

Ninina Bakery.
Ninina Bakery.
Actually, it’s not all bad news. A concerted effort is made to use organic where possible, so baking essentials such as sugar are hitting the green spot, while another staple, coffee (from 19 pesos for an espresso), uses an organic blend combining beans from Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia and Colombia.

Besides the resident evil characters disguised as cake, there’s a grand and original array of bespoke juices, such as cucumber and pear, or kale, apple and ginger, ideal to combat those three waffles.

Ah yes. The waffles. While the brunch menu, which includes two apéritifs and coffees, scrambled eggs and salmon and a scrummy bread basket, is 250 pesos (this week, hello inflation) with the eggs to share (not my strength), the plus points are that it is served every day until 3pm and it has the waffle thrown in. And it’s for sharing…

Not something I indulge in often, the Ninina waffle is the perfect combo of good verus evil: innocent fresh fruit stacked on top of naughty squashed batter. I delivered myself to evil at this point. Straight to hell. All the way. Lip-smacking and not the usual brunch fodder.

This is the lowdown. All the sandwiches, salads and juices are to order, with everything produced in-house. But some treats do come with a price tag. So enjoy the chicest addition to the Palermo circuit, lap up the surroundings, take over the back table if you can, and feel good about indulging in organic coffee and a slice of Amadeus cake (I can’t even bring myself to tell you about this evil marquise/ganache/mousse combo).

Valentine’s bonus track: including today, purchase a tea or coffee and receive a free cookie. Love.

Ninina Bakery
Gorriti 4738, Palermo Soho

Buenos Aires Herald, February 16, 2014

Check out last week’s review of café and bar Victoria Brown.

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