Although the Spanglish verb lunchear has long formed part of the porteño vocabulary, it now needs to budge up and make room for brunchear, an Argentina food trend which has burst onto the scene – and probably popped a few seams as well, given the number of eateries which have mushroomed to serve up brunch of late. Buenos Aires does offer Argentine twists on classic American, English, and even Scandinavian midday meals.
Although foreigners and porteños have been saying Sí Sí to Palermo Hollywood’s Oui Oui, for years, a host of bars, cafés, hotels and restaurants have upped the ante, and dare I say it, are serving up more delicious Eggs Benedict than our original French friend.
Show Me Your Huevos
Take Malvón, which means geranium. The beautifully restored 1930s old people’s home in Villa Crespo dishes up an excellent 55-peso weekend brunch menu which includes explosively delectable huevos benedictos with a generous helping of hollandaise, a muffin, a side dish plus salad, a red berry pancake, juice or coffee and a flute of alcoholic cheer. No dinner required. Stained glass ceiling, heated herbalicious patio and in-house bakery aside, there’s more than one reason that the famished are queuing during brunch rush hour at this epitome of shabby chic.
A Palermo Hollywood favourite is Gringa. With its bacon crisped to perfection (although two slices is never, ever, enough in my humble opinion), this friendly, luminous corner spot whips up excellent French toast and even has an alcove especially designed for brunching couples who would rather their conversations stay intimate.
Other haunts on the Palermo brunch trail include Magdalena’s Party which takes pride in its original egg, bacon, avocado, sour cream and black bean Cali coast omelette. This also comes with a Bloody Mary, all for 55 pesos. Bar 6’s open steak sandwich isn’t classic brunch fodder, but it’s perfected its role as a tried-and-tested hangover cure (mine). Self-styled American greasy spoon Randall’s is a newish kid on the block, which is bound to do better than its predecessor (Kosher sushi, anyone?) as its brunch menu, uniquely, is available every day. Phone ahead, however, if you’re having sausage gravy fantasies, as it was off mid-week and mushrooms were sadly omitted from my three-egg omelette. And although Olsen is undergoing refurbishment until the end of July, its Scandinavian pick ‘n’ mix menu includes hard-to-find gravlax and a mini bottle of bubbly, making it worthy of a mention regardless.
Hotels are also an excellent bet for a better-than-average midday feed. If you feel like taking it up a level or 10, the Alvear in Recoleta puts on a swanky buffet, but only on Sundays – “elegant sportswear“ a prerequisite. Close by, the stylish Algodon Mansion is whipping up Eggs Florentine at its Chez Nous restaurant, which is so welcoming you might be tempted to stay on for tea, or even dinner. Meanwhile, chef Hernán Gipponi has put his stamp on a multi-step breakfast at the Fierro’s HG Restaurant and, I hear, has a specific brunch menu in the offing. Watch this space.
But don’t think Buenos Aires’ offerings are limited to Palermo army soldiers. Rest assured San Telmo is rustling up a few brunch heroes of its own. Cheese specialist El Baztán, elegantly painted birds and roses adorning its sky-blue walls, only offers an American breakfast but has got it down to a tea(pot). Comprising translucent bacon, scrambled eggs, utterly moreish homemade bread and delicately cheesy pancakes designed for dripping honey syrup onto, El Baztán’s Argentine-style combo hits the spot. Although cereal lets the side down, OJ so fresh it was surely squeezed in the grove tops off a delightful brunch in this country-kitschen restaurant. Take away a dainty marmalade muffin with you “for later”.
Those in the know ask directly for their eggs to be scrambled with bacon and tomato with a side of chunky toast at María Rojo as it doesn’t currently feature on the menu – and priced at a piddling 16 pesos, the café-slash-clothes store is getting taste-ability and bargain-ability down pat. But for a classic English breakfast, head to Telmo stalwart The Gibraltar for a fry up (although the pub’s chef was rather miserly on the mushroom front on my last visit).
And allow me to give a little kudos to the ladies who brunch. Although founder Marina Ponzi set up the monthly bash for networking, it’s the bruncheando part which has made the concept popular with porteñas, who know a good thing when they see it.
Now, if none of these eateries clog your arteries how you’d hoped (I challenge you to loathe them all) and you can handle the local indifference to mushrooms (which I’m dealing with in therapy), contact the “delivery bacon man” Lucas Lescano – and never let it be said out loud again that you can’t find the streaky stuff in Buenos Aires, even if you do have to cook it yourself.