By: Tracey Sheeran
With the Hurlingham Open almost defined, many of our polo fans are starting to plan their trips to Buenos Aires to watch the best polo in the world. To help you get the most out of your visit, the LivingPolo team have put our heads together and come up with our tips and recommendations for the best that the city has to offer. Our friends at Acrux Destinations, the bespoke travel experts also shared their hidden Porteño tips with us, so here it is, the Ultimate Insiders Guide to Buenos Aires! This is the first of three features, come back soon to check out more hidden treasures of the polo capital of the world.
Buenos Aires is well served with Five Star hotels, with the Park Hyatt, Alvear Palace and the Four Seasons, which is still open, but undergoing renovations at the moment, being revamped since its purchase by Dubai polo team patron Ali Albwardi. All three Recoleta hotels are favourite choices with international polo visitors. These aristocratic hotels offer the classic “Palacio” experience and are located in the elegant neighbourhood of Recoleta, just a short stroll to the Jockey Club.
However, the recent trend in the ultra-fashionable metropolis of Buenos Aires is towards smaller boutique hotels and the five star Algodon Mansion is the perfect archetype boutique hotel. The Algodón Mansion has only ten guest rooms but is proud to be the only Relais & Châteaux hotel in the city. Centrally located at 1647 Montevideo in Recoleta, guests are waited upon like visiting royalty, with a 24 hour butler service. The hotel has an incredible spa and roof-top pool, which is reminiscent of a Hollywood penthouse veranda, with its teak decks and loungers, ideal for a swim and sunbathe after a busy day.
The larger suites feature separate living areas, cosy fireplaces and wine-themed wet bars. Clean up after your polo match in their oversized steam showers (stocked with L'Occitane products) before heading up to the rooftop Sky bar and Davidoff lounge, literally one of the coolest places to be on warm Buenos Aires evenings. Start off your evening with some champagne from the Veuve Clicquot lounge, or try the in-house mixologist's specialty cocktails or private collection Algodon Wines. There is also a Davidoff Lounge for cigar lovers. Out of the peak seasons such as Christmas and New Year, the entire mansion can be also reserved for private groups (with their full complement of housekeeping and catering staff), but sorry folks - it’s too late for this year’s Argentine Open!
If you are celebrating in style or looking for an exceptional gastronomic treat, look no further than Tarquino restaurant at the Hub Porteño hotel on Rodriguez Peña 1967. Executive Chef of Tarquino, 35 year old Dante Liporace is a trail-blazer in modern Argentine cuisine, having worked on two occasions for the legendary Ferran Adrià at the El Bulli restaurant in Catalunia, which won the World’s Best Restaurant award a record five times. On a glass covered patio, this dynamic and innovative young chef conjures up dishes that delight and surprise (and almost defy description, but we will give you an example: beef cheek with chevrotin foam, green apple purée and sautéed spinach... delicious!). For the more adventurous diner, try the seven course tasting menu with accompanying paired wines from their spectacular cellar.
Another consistently outstanding restaurant is La Bourgogne at the Alvear Palace hotel at Ayacucho 2027 (the entrance is on a side street, off the Avenue Alvear). Often cited as one of the best restaurants in town, go there for impeccable French cuisine created by star Chef Jean Paul Bondoux, presented in a refined setting. La Bourgogne is a grown-up, sophisticated restaurant that never fails to impress on the plate, but quite it is traditional in its décor. Think of her as the Grande Dame of Porteño haute cuisine, dress accordingly and bring your Platinum card.
If you have overdone it on steaks and asados, make a reservation at Oviedo (Beruti 2602), probably the best fish restaurant in town with really excellent wine cellar. Or if you feel like something entirely different, head over to Astrid y Gaston on Lafinur 3222 for Peruvian fusion cuisine, including ceviche and one of the best crème brûlées in South America.
For a more informal funky dinner, check out Isabel Bar (Uriarte 1664), a super-trendy art deco style bar and restaurant located that showcases great music and the best international drinks, cocktails and Argentine wines. Inside the extraordinary ceiling has lights that change colour, following the tempo of the music, which features retro classics mixed with the latest tracks. The restaurant serves up a stylish and wholesome menu sourced from local producers, home-made breads and organic ingredients. A huge hit with the young “fashionista” crowd, there is also an ivy and jasmine garden with a fireplace for chilling out. If you still have energy left, head over to perennially cool but noisy Club Tequila, (located at Costanera Norte Avenue and La Pampa) for a nightcap and check out the local scenery (Porteño eye candy). The best tango show and late night cabaret club is still El Cabaret at the Philippe Stark designed Faena Hotel + Universe. If it ain’t broke... don’t fix it (go back time and again!)
For the serious wine enthusiasts among you, LivingPolo has just the place: Aldo’s Vinoteca (Moreno 372). Owner Aldo Graziani is a professional sommelier with over 20 years experience, gained in prestigious locations such as the Hotel Faena + Universe. As if that were not enough, he is the new Vice President of the Argentina Association of Sommeliers. He defines himself as "a communicator of wine” and his passion shows through in this Porteño hot spot. Drop in on Wednesdays from 19.00h for the jazz happy hour to sample some of the best Argentine wines and tasty snacks prepared by their restaurant.
If you are staying in Buenos Aires for any length of time (or have rented an apartment and trying Argentine recipes at home) our top tips for the best food shops and markets include the Mercado de San Telmo, in the “cultural melting pot” neighbourhood in the south of the city. Occupying an entire city block, this market was built in 1897 by Juan Antonio Buschiazzo, the same Italian-born Argentine architect who designed the Recoleta Cemetery and in 2001 the market was declared National Historical Landmark. The wrought-iron interior and glass skylights make it one of the city’s most atmospheric markets; it’s also where locals shop. Far from becoming a museum, the market is more vibrant than ever and is a “must-see” for any visitor to the city, although it can get very crowded, particularly on Sundays. The market boasts a huge range of butchers, fish markets, greengrocery, bakeries and florists, in addition to their famous antique stores. San Telmo is one of the places where the tango was born and is today the epicentre of its renaissance. Go to find authentic milonguero tango, musicians, street food (and even street dancing) or just sit and drink coffee while watching the world go by.
For convenience, quality and selection, local gourmets swear by the Pick Market. With two stores already on Libertad 1212 in Recoleta and Desmaria 4527 in Palermo, these specialist food stores stock an amazing range of delicacies from all around the world plus the finest of local products. Sometimes referred to as “a mini Fauchon”, the stores are a treasure trove for the enthusiastic cook or hungry polista looking for a snack or chilled cerveza. They stock top quality fresh fruit, vegetables and meat, farm produce such as speciality cheeses, cured meats, freshly baked breads and offer an excellent selection of wines, beer and spirits. If you miss your favourite brands from back home, Pick Market stocks many international products (De Cecco, Illy, Lavazza, Maille, Lee & Perrins). Best of all, they also deliver in central Buenos Aires and ship internationally (remember to vacuum pack fresh produce!) and provide a bespoke catering service for buffets or asados. If all of the food shopping has made you hungry, you can relax and enjoy a light meal or quick snack in the Pick Market Peak Deli Bars, which serve gourmet sandwiches, salads, cakes and daily seasonal dishes, all prepared from their own produce. A third Pick Market will open at Ugarteche 3154, Palermo at the beginning of December.
No visit to Buenos Aires would be complete without trying a tango lesson and experiencing a tango show. Undoubtedly the best tango teacher in town is Alejandro Gée, who gives tango milonguero classes in his charming turn-of-the century apartment called Casa Tango Alejandro Gée, which is located near the famous Cafe de Los Angelitos in Congreso and also close to some of the most popular milongas tango clubs, including El Beso and Porteno y Bailarin.
The apartment with its 15-foot high ceilings and ornate and original hardwood floors, cozy kitchen and an elegant dance hall where you can practice your dance or take your first tango lesson. Contact Alejandro at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a lesson!
The “Absolute Must See” recommendation from Acrux Destinations’ Tomás Menceyra: “For a fascinating peek into Buenos Aires' history, visit the El Zanjón de Granados in San Telmo, a restored 1830's mansion that was built over wide vaulted brick tunnels which served to control the flow of an intermittent watercourse that drained into the River Plate. Now a museum, El Zanjón offers fascinating one-hour tours (in English or Spanish) through a cross section of the city's archaeological layers. During the renovations of the mansion, the workmen found that the basement was built on top of the creek (‘zanjón’) that ran right through this part of the original town of Buenos Aires. The owner subsequently bought a second plot a hundred meters or so away, used the tunnels to connect the two plots, and then built a gorgeous entertainment and event space. It’s a fantastic and unusual tour into the city’s past.”
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