Little Black Book to Buenos Aires

Want to know where to eat, stay and play in Argentina’s charismatic capital? TNT has the answers…

credit: Thiago Santos

Until recently the Paris of the South was starved of direct, affordable flights from the UK but - happily - change is on the horizon.

From Valentine’s Day, budget airline Norwegian Airlines began showing its love for the South American giant with the launch of the longest-ever nonstop route from Gatwick to Buenos Aires.

On arrival, spend the money you have saved on fantastic food (Argentina’s steakhouses are legendary), Malbec (Argentina’s signature grape) and futbol games, before tangoing up a storm.

Here, TNT’s Argentine aficionado, Kaye Holland, opens her address book and shares some of her favourite spots in her beloved Buenos Aires.

Eating out: Peron Peron restaurant

For a politically charged dinner, pop into Peron Peron - a Palermo hotspot where food and fun are always on the menu.

The heart of Humboldt Street (a popular haunt of Buenos Aires’ middle classes) isn’t where you would expect to find a restaurant paying homage to Evita and her husband, General Juan Peron - champions of the working class - but this place is always packed.

The menu features Peron’s favourite foods - think Pastel de papas (shepherd’s pie) and loco (pork and red chorizo stew), while Evita memorabilia and graffiti adorns the walls.

Expect your meal to be punctuated by Evita's passionate speeches to the Peronist masses, which play every so often from loud speakers - as does the Peronist march, with diners rising to sing along while slapping the table.

www.facebook.com/ElPeronPeron

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The Clubhouse credit: Kaye Holland

The Office: The Clubhouse

Looking for somewhere to work? You’re in luck: co-working in Argentina is on the rise but, as remote offices go, The Clubhouse stands head and shoulders above the competition.

By day this Palermo Soho destination for all things cool serves as a much needed work sanctuary for the creative industries, in a metropolis plagued by poor WiFi.

By night it’s a lively scene straight out of a magazine: model-esque staff serve top notch cocktails around the prettiest of pools, while other ‘after work’ events include art exhibits, tastings, talks by opinion leaders, theme parties, fashion shows and private dinners.

The Clubhouse also features four distinctive rooms for those who are keen to make their ‘commute’ to the ‘office’ as short and sweet as possible.

www.clubhouseba.com

Shop to it: Feria de Mataderos

An excellent market - and one of BA's best kept secrets - is the Feria de Mataderos, which is held every Sunday in the working class barrio of Materados.

Admittedly Materados is a bit of a schlep to reach (you’ll need to take bus 126, 155 or 180 from downtown for around 90 minutes) but it’s worth it to watch gauchos (Argentine cowboys) and folk singers entertain the crowds, while chewing down on hearty dishes such as humitas (corn cakes).

However the standout of La Feria de Matadero is without a doubt the La sortija show: gauchos gallop at their fastest along a corridor of sand, before rising up out of their saddle – leaving just their feet in the stirrups – in an attempt to spear a small ring, all the while cheered on by rowdy locals.

www.feriademataderos.ar

Sleepover: 133 Libertad

Most people will tell you to stay in a hotel in Palermo but personalIy I’d advise avoiding the pre-packaged path and checking into Airbnb abode, where you’ll get character and local charm rather than inflated prices.

There are lasting memories to be gained from staying at 133 Libertad – a gorgeous courtyard apartment that will have you checking house prices before you leave. Many of the rooms boast patios and all are tastefully furnished – proof sophistication is possible on a shoestring budget.

The atmosphere is instantly relaxing and the hosts, Matias and Cande – a friendly and unfeasibly good looking young Porteno couple – will go out of their way to make sure you fall under the spell of their city.

The central location can’t be bettered either, enabling you to hastily tick of the sights and then lose yourself in the street life.

http://life.www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/2087059

After dark: La Bompa del Tiempo

Buenos Aires may be famous for its sultry tango – a passionate dance that has seduced the world – but La Bompa del Tiempo is out to change this.

Every Monday in Abasto’s Konex Cultural Centre, this hugely talented percussion group takes to the stage to blend Argentine rhythms with Central American and African beats to enraptured gringoes and locals alike. It’s fast becoming one of Buenos Aires’ biggest and best parties and is an experience not to be missed.

One tip: unless you like a queue arrive early (by 7pm the queue snakes half way around the block).

www.labombadetiempo.com

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Las Violetas credit: Kaye Holland

Coffee break: Las Violetas

Buenos Aires has a great and enduring obsession with coffee. Caffeine runs in the blood of Portenos, bringing them out of their homes and onto the streets, in search of a coffee house like Las Violetas - a French style 1884 patisserie and cafe that’s located over in Buenos Aires’ Almagro neighbourhood and was declared a Heritage Site back in 1998.

Here the cortado (a shot of espresso, with an equal amount of steamed milk) is served on silver platters by waiters in white jackets, in stunning surroundings: think black and white floors, stained glass windows and marble columns. This special spot offers more than merely a cup of Joe: it guarantees a thick slice of middle class Porteno life.

www.lasvioletas.com

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credit: South_agency

Tango time: La Viruta

Only a philistine would leave Buenos Aires without taking in some tango (arguably Argentina’s greatest contribution to the world).

One caveat: skip the overpriced tango shows (the preserve of tourists) and make for a milonga (tango club).

Even if you’ve got two left feet, milongas like La Viruta are worth visiting for the atmosphere and phenomenal people watching alone.

Just don’t forget to factor in a power nap before you head out: Buenos Aires is all about the night and, as such, if you leave a milling much before 4am (when it comes to partying, Portenos don’t do things by half), you’ll be labelled an amateur.

www.lavirutatango.com

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credit: Kaye Holland

Culture vulture: Buenos Aires Street Art

The Argentine capital is one of the world’s best cities for street art. Graffiti artists have quite literally made BA their canvas, helped by the fact that there are almost no restrictions as to where they can paint in the city: all that spray-paint Picassos require is the permission of the home-owner. As such, expect to see inspiring murals brightening up every barrio from Villa Crespo to Colegiales.

One of the best ways to see Buenos Aires’ spectacular street art scene is by signing up-to a walking tour with Buenos Aires Street Art.

Founded by Matt Fox-Tucker, a Brit who co-authored the book Textura Dos – Buenos Aires Street, the tour takes guests through the grime and glamour of the ‘Paris of the South’ via the streets of number of different neighbourhoods in the northwestern part of the city.

www.buenosairesstreetart.com

Read all about it: El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore

Book lovers rejoice! Book shops may be shutting down left, right and centre in every other city, but Buenos Aires is brimming with brilliant bookshops including El Ateneo Grand Splendid – voted the world’s second best bookshop by The Guardian.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid was once a theatre – as the balconies, white and gold-leaf boxes, crimson stage curtains and high painted ceilings bear testimony to.

Subsequently El Ateneo attracts as many photographers - and gourmands (the stage has been turned into a majestic cafe) - as it does book-worms. It’s a must see.

www.yenny-elateneo.com

Bar chick: Floreria Atlantico

Floreria Atlantico – a secret, basement speakeasy – is arguably the hottest bar in BA right now. And that’s saying something in a city with no end of trendy places to go….

Upon entering the rather charming flower shop, look for the industrial freezer door and then descend the stairs to this decadent drinking den – the brainchild of renowned Argentine mixologist Renato ‘Tato’ Giovannoni.

Thanks to its modernist lighting and decent drinks mixed (plump for the Principe de los Apóstoles, aka gin mixed with yerba mate, Argentina’s iconic herbal tea) by cool staff, this long and narrow bar is great place to meet both hip locals, expats and a perhaps a few celebs: Mexican actor and director, Gael Garcia Bernal, is a fan.

www.floreriaatlantico.com.ar

Vegging out: Vita

Argentina’s meat obsession is intense, but veggies are far from neglected either.

If you’re looking to go meatless in the metropolis, venture to Vita which serves as refuge from the madness of nearby Plaza de Mayo – an always lively square. Choose from an array of homemade vegetarian and vegan salads, sandwiches, soups and hearty hot dishes like lasagne. Desserts don’t disappoint either: the coconut tart is definitely worth the calories.

The complimentary and reliable (a rare thing in Buenos Aires) WiFi is a further treat.

Hipolito Yrigoyen 583, Buenos Aires, Argentina (43420788)

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Queen of Tarts credit: Kaye Holland

Tea time: Queen of Tarts

A British tea room serving the daintiest of sandwiches, fluffy freshly-baked scones and a selection of cakes, is the one thing you almost certainly wouldn’t expect to find in Argentina’s capital.

Think again. Queen of Tarts - a traditional British tea room - was opened 18 months ago by Brits, Emily Farmer and Claire Griffiths, and business has been better than either expected.

Homesick expats, curious locals and inquisitive travellers, in need of a break from beef, who are looking to experience BA’s secret world of dining (the exact address of the tea room is revealed, once a reservation has been made) are flocking to Queen of Tarts in their droves.

They come for the classic afternoon tea but also for the antique-style furniture, that’s aimed at transporting guests to olde England.

www.queenoftarts.com.ar

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credit: Grafissimo