by The Daily Telegraph, February 3, 2017
Why Buenos Aires?
I first visited Buenos Aires at the end of 2015 while filming the latest series of Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railways, and I liked it so much I’ve been back twice with my wife. It’s so much nicer than I expected – like a warmer, bigger, wider version of Paris. The city is bright and colourful, it’s a meat eater’s paradise, there’s lots of street music and the nightlife is fantastic. My favourite parts are the heritage district of Recoleta, with its colonial-style houses and French-influenced buildings, and Palermo, ideal for foodies.
Anything special I should pack?
Dancing shoes. I once went to La Boca district, where you can watch street performers doing tango, and joined in. But it’s very hard to dance in Birkenstocks.
What do you miss most when away?
The steaks and the malbec wine. A big percentage of the Argentine economy is founded on beef ranching, and they produce steaks the size of dustbin lids. Malbec is the finest red wine in the world, and most restaurants have a wide selection.
What’s the first thing you do on arrival?
Head for the Florería Atlántico (0054 11 4313 6093; floreriaatlantico.com.ar ), a basement cocktail bar in Recoleta, which you access via a florist and wine shop. It serves Spanish tapas, and smells beautiful because of all the flowers.
Where’s the best place to stay?
The five-star Palacio Duhau (0054 11 5171 1234; buenosaires.park.hyatt.com ) dates back to the Thirties and has a very Spanish-looking frontage. It’s comfortable and the staff are smart and pleasant. It isn’t particularly expensive, either.
Where would you meet for a drink?
The Harrison Speakeasy at Malabia 1764 in Palermo (no telephone or website) is a Prohibition-themed bar and supposedly members-only, but I don’t think it’s too hard to get in. They serve an outstanding range of cocktails. It’s very busy at lunchtimes and open late.
The best place for lunch?
I’d recommend Estilo Campo (0054 11 4312 4546; estilo-campo.com.ar ), an excellent steakhouse in Puerto Madero. A lot of locals dine there but it has an international feel, too. The staff make you feel very welcome and it was so nice, I dined there twice. In addition to steak, they serve delicious gratin dishes.
And for dinner?
Steaks by Luis (0054 11 4776 0780; steakbuenosaires.net/steak ) is probably the best steakhouse in Argentina. It’s a premium, closed-door restaurant in the heart of Palermo Soho. Guests sit around a communal table and the five-course asado [grill] includes a traditional picada, salad, offal, steak and dessert. Each course is paired with a carefully chosen Argentine wine.
Where would you take a first-timer?
La Boca, the neighbourhood famed for its brightly painted houses. It’s one of the rougher areas of the city but it encapsulates South America, and there are hundreds of open bars where you can sit in the street and enjoy the sunshine. It’s also home to one of the best football teams in South America. Diego Maradona came from this area, and Boca Juniors quite often win the Argentine league.
What should I avoid?
It’s best to avoid the station area and La Boca at night.
What should I bring home?
As many bottles of malbec as you can fit in your suitcase and some cigars, which are huge and cheap.
Public transport or taxi?
Taxis are efficient, but I’m pretty sure I was ripped off a few times. One or two drivers didn’t have meters, so I agreed a price in advance. But when I got out, they said, “Oh, you misunderstood, Signore. It’s another 20 pesos. ”
Manbag or money belt?
I don’t do manbags! But don’t flaunt your money, your most expensive camera or your best watch. And don’t use a cashpoint in the middle of nowhere, or carry anything loose; it might get stolen by someone racing past on a scooter.
Anywhere that isn’t your kind of town?
Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe. It has some beautiful buildings, but every shop window had huge steel bars because the glass had been smashed. I felt ill at ease on the street and you wouldn’t want to wander around at night. Travelling by car, we were met at roadblocks by guys with AK47s, asking for money. It was pretty scary.
Extreme Railway Journeys by Chris Tarrant (published by John Blake; £20) is out now.
Interview by Angela Wintle
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