The culture of Argentina is as varied as the country’s geography and I have some of the fondest memories of my time at a family friend’s estancia learning the rudiments of the best game in the world: polo. Equally famous for their love of meat and wine and woman and Madonna, it seemed that this world had magically been transported to the urbane and hip Waterkant with the opening of a delightfully hidden gem serving asado prepared thick cut pieces of meat.
Allegedly housed in a former club, this thoroughly modern reclaimed wood and steel culinary outpost is very much the kind of dining experience you should be looking for in this Mother City of ours: intimate, unpretentious and relaxed. Named after Daniel Toledo’s father, Don Armando is an authentic parilla and is very much the epitome of what family values are generated through tradition. Though always a hot topic of debate, their ethically sourced meat is pasture reared and more importantly local (yeah to the farmers) but not imported which a friend made a snide remark on. So, long story short their Chalmar beef is still rigorously prepared in the traditional asado method so you still get the tempering of subtle flavour combinations which does well with the South African flavour profile. Sitting there you are almost drawn to the iconic Evita soundtrack and while sipping a glass of dark milk stout (apparently goes with the beef, but okaay) you can imagine peering out from the cane wrapped balcony towards the vast lowland grass plains and Argentine pampas.
The majority of the menu is dedicated to meat (obviously) so it wouldn’t be remiss for the many vegan hipsters to decline an invitation to dine comfortably here. There are no substitutions. There are no gluten-free options. I think this is why I love it so much and keeping to trend amongst my friends, we are turning all our dinners into a harvest table ordering a few giant cuts to share between us. Though the restaurant was jam packed (it’s always like this – so make a reservation to avoid disappointment) the waiting time for our platters of sirloin, picanha, short rib and t-bone arrived perfectly grilled and buttery soft with that unmistakable charcoal flavouring. I didn’t have any myself, given my aversion to raw tomato but the many bowls of chimichurri sauce and hand cut and twice deep-fried potato wedges disappeared very quickly and a second serving had to be ordered. Disappearing just as quickly, I managed to grab a few and they lived up to their reputation.
One of the draw-backs of having health nut friends, is that when staple favourites like pancakes with dulce de leche appears on the menu, you know that you have to indulge yourself. For those of you who grew up under the rocks of the Groot Karoo, dulce de leche is a Portuguese confection from caramel condensed-milk. Admittedly not the best thing when you have a dental appointment the next morning their sorbets were amazing but it was their chocolate fondant which left wanting. However, having one recently oood and ahhhh’d at the genius that is Babylonstoren where we shared one over lunch which may have also influenced the bias in this decision I am happy to visit again and rethink the verdict.
*And for G’D’s sake Tommy, don’t mention the [Falklands] War.