Buenos Aires Cafe

Royal Parade, Blackheath, SE3

The Good News:

At last! Somewhere I can wholeheartedly recommend.

The Bad News:

It’s not in Greenwich.

A couple of weeks ago, whilst out and about in Blackheath with some pals, we noticed a new restaurant being fitted out. It looked as though it had some time to go, it was still a bit of a building site, but the name intrigued us. Buenos Aires? Could it be a sister branch of the deli/cafe in Royal Hill?

Last night we thought we’d toddle across the heath and see how it was coming on. Little did we know that Buenos Aires had actually opened that night a couple of weeks before. The owner told us a very entertaining tale of his desperately trying to get it ready for the first punters. But that’s skipping ahead.

It’s got a great location – looking out across the heath (past a Lamborghini whose orange-skinned owners had parked up and gone elsewhere – more fool them) in a row of Latin-y themed restaurants – Mexican, Spanish and now Argentinian, but it also looks great, its black-painted window frames and simple mis-matched wooden furniture a particularly favourite look of mine. There are two chaps serving, one of whom is the owner himself. Both are friendly (the other guy is wonderfully sardonic without being at all cruel)

There are tables outside which I will take advantage of later in the year, but last night was a bit parky. We were greeted with a delicate, light, foody aroma – and the splendidly sardonic waiter, informally dressed and looking ever-so-slightly roguish. I liked him immediately.

He confirmed that this Buenos Aires is the sister of the Royal Hill cafe, though it is different in that there are only one or two items for retail sale and the food is much more substantially a sit-down menu than just a place to have coffee and cake.

On the tables were small jugs of good quality olive oil and proper pepper mills. I was liking this place more and more. The menu had the expected – much sausage, steak and other Argentinian meaty-type dishes, and the unexpected – am I the only person on earth who didn’t know that 55% of the Argentinian population is Italian? Home-made pasta dishes and other Italian staples were a welcome addition to the classic Argentine fare.

While we were waiting for starters, the owner saw that we were discussing the photos on the wall and came over to chat – it’s that sort of place. We ended up talking about one of the national heroes, Che Guevara. Apparently one of the waitresses in the other branch is a bit of a fan and he gets shirtless pics of him for her. Aaah

The photos are actually pretty random – including Princess Diana in shorts and some youths shouting at each other – presumably the work of one particular photographer. I couldn’t tell if it was a temporary exhibition or a permanent collection and by that point the owner was seating another family – with two small children who, by the way, seemed to have a whale of a time.

The food is simply served. The kitchen is clearly small (with a smile-ly chef who waves at you instead of scowling) but I don’t think that’s the reason. These guys actually know what they’re serving. The chorizo was firm and hearty, and a good-sized portion. The simple baby mozzarela and tomato salad was tasty, and supplied without dressing – they brought some balsamic vinegar to the table and left it to us to drizzle either that or the olive oil ourselves.

We wanted Argentinian wine, so we got our waiter to recommend one for us. The Tapiz Riserva at £ 16.95 is not the most subtle red I’ve ever drunk but it went absolutely perfectly with what we were eating. Its blackberry tones and blueish-purple colour seemed to pervade right through, a good chewy mouthful.

The mains were just as good. A veritable housebrick of steak (the mid-price choice) was perfectly cooked, exactly as my companion had ordered, the chips melt-in-the mouth wonderful (I should know, I ate most of them.) My own butternut squash raviolo (slightly oddly described as Oscar Wilde’s favourite) was clearly hand-rolled, the filling delicate and light.

I was gutted that I’d been so greedy with those chips, as I’d had my eye on at least two of the dessert dishes – the creme caramel with dulce de leche and the hand-made ice cream which is made daily on the premises. I guess I’ll just have to go back to test them another time.

We decided to just have a coffee but were intrigued by the menu’s invitation to sit downstairs in the lounge area. We went down the stairs, past the tiny inset white-wine fridge decorated with a picture of the Mona Lisa wearing a Che Guevara beret, to a little bar area. There’s a good leather sofa, some other comfy chairs, four bar stools and what must be a somewhat lonely table and two chairs, presumably for overspill diners. The bar has quite a selection of liqueurs, but we stuck to coffee – the wine was beginning to take its toll.

This must all read like one of those local paper reviews which are not allowed not to enjoy a restaurant, but I have no axe to grind with anyone on this site. I genuinely loved this place. I need to go back a couple more times with more people (to be absolutely, sure, you understand) but if it continues the way it has started, I may well have found, at last, an eaterie I can genuinely call a Greenwich Phantom Favourite Haunt…

PS

Having visited the other day and been turned away (in the most polite, friendly and apologetic manner possible) I heartily recommend booking:

020 8318 5333


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