Archive for the Retiro Category

Buenos Aires – Centro – Calle Florida

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Calle Florida with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2015 by gannet39

Leading from Plaza San Martin is Calle Florida, the BA’s most important shopping street. It’s kind of the equivalent of Oxford St in London except that it’s a pedestrianised.

It starts at Plaza San Martin in the Retiro and goes through the barrio of San Nicolas before finishing at Avenida Rivadavia in Monserrat. Together San Nicolas and Monserrat are known as the Centro.

There are heaps of fantastic buildings along the length of Floridabut its easy to miss them unless you look up. Most people are too busy avoiding the numerous buskers, salesmen and money changers pestering them at street level.

I managed to see a few thanks to this architecture tour.

Coming from Plaza San Martin, the first stop is Centro Naval at 810 Cordoba, where it meets Florida. Unfortunately the sun was too bright for me to get a good close up of the golden statue that sits above the doorway on the corner. It’s of a naked sea god blowing a conch while sitting in a Spanish galleon. The cast stone façade is also very impressive.

As always please click on these pics to get the best view.

Next stop is Galerias Pacifico (on Florida between Cordoba and Viamonte), BA’s most famous shopping mall, built in 1889. It was inspired by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan and has quite a history, some of it quite dark.


The cupola in the basement level has some frescoes that were painted in 1946 and the upper levels house an art gallery.


Next at 460 Florida is the Sociedad Rural Argentina with its beautiful Belle Epoque doorway and balconies.





On the west corner of Florida and Corrientes you’ll find was has to be the world’s most beautiful Burger King. Go inside, walk up the stairs and look up to see the stunning stained glass ceiling of the rotunda. The ornamental plaster ceilings in the other rooms are beautiful as well.



Midblock on the eastern side between Corrientes and Sarmiento you’ll see Galeria Mitre. The building was designed in classic colonial style and has an astonishingly ornate frieze above the doorway.


Not sure what building this is but the balconies are great.


Midblock on the west side before Peron is what used to be an optician’s shop, as alluded to by the pairs of spectacles on the bronze plaques.


If you look up at the tower on the western corner of Peron you’ll see the name Gath & Chaves, as the building was once a British department store.


On the other side of the road there’s a Spanish Gothic building with a big bronze door.


At 165 Florida you’ll find Galeria Guemes which looks like nothing special from the outside but has a stunning interior and beautiful ornamental elevators. It was designed by the same architect who designed the Confiteria del Molino (see my Avenida de Mayo post).


At 99 Calle Florida (on the corner with Diagonal Norte) there’s another Spanish colonial building with bronze doors made in England. The cupola is one of a row of five that mark the intersections along Diagonal Norte.


In front of the latter is the Art Deco monument to Roque Sáenz Peña who was president of Argentina between 1910 and 1914.



This statue marks the end of the walking tour I was following but on other occasions I’ve found some other gems on the streets around Florida.

Such as the Art Deco Teatro Opera at 1860 Corrientes, built in 1936.


Also Iglesia San Miguel Arcangel Bartolomé at 886 Mitre.


This stunning statue of Ophiuchus is in a square nearby but I can’t remember the address for the life of me.



Buenos Aires – Retiro – Plaza San Martin and around

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Plaza San Martin, Retiro with tags , , , , , , on November 10, 2015 by gannet39

Plaza San Martin is my favourite square in Buenos Aires, mainly for the beautiful trees that grow in it, but also for the impressive buildings that surround it.


Several types of tall exotic trees shade the southern end of the plaza. My favourites are the purple flowered Jacarandas that are a symbol of Buenos Aires and can be found all over the city.


The south-eastern side is dominated by El Edificio Kavanagh, the Kavanagh Building, which was South America’s highest skyscraper when it was buiilt in 1936. The architects took a Rationalist approach to a combination of Art Deco and Modernism which has resulted in a beautiful, slender construction. It has quite an interesting history.

Next door is the Plaza Hotel. The restaurant in the basement was the top spot for the elite to dine and socialise for more than a hundred years. The bar is a good spot to treat yourself to a posh cocktail in classy surroundings (see my post on eating and drinking in the Retiro).

In the north-western corner is the imposing Circulo Militar, a club for retired military offices. We tried to sneak in to get a glimpse of the interior but were ushered out straight away. I think you can get in when the cafe is open.


Part of the building looks like it should be in the Loire valley.


The square has many allusions to Argentina and Britain’s love/hate relationship. In 1807 (the square was created in 1883) the land was the site of Britain’s defeat when it made a second attempt to conquer Buenos Aires during the Napoleonic wars.

At the southern end of the square is the Falkland’s memorial; a long wall bearing 645 names of the fallen. Argentina lost more than twice as many men as Britain during the conflict.

Opposite the memorial is the Torre Monumental, a clocktower that was a gift from the local British community to commemorate the centennial of the revolution of 1810. It was once know as Torre de las Ingles but was renamed in 1982 after it received minor damage from an angry anti-British mob.

Beyond the memorial is the Retiro Railway Station with its three terminals. The most historical is the Retiro Mitre Station, built by the British in the early twentieth century. The steel frame, like many similar structures in South America, was cast in the UK (Liverpool in this case) and shipped over.

As ever, please click on the photos for an enlarged view.


I find it hard to believe (as I think it’s quite ugly) but for a long time it was considered an engineering masterpiece and one of the most important buildings in the world.

I do like the station’s beautiful cafe though and it’s a good place to stop after a fair bit of walking around. The station also appears several times in The Secret in Their Eyes, an excellent Argentinian movie which one the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009.

I did this architectural tour which gives a lot more detailed information about all these buildings.


For a few days in November 2014, Plaza San Martin hosted this amazing outdoor exhibition of alien figures made entirely with plastic water bottles.

This seems to be a major art form in Buenos Aires as I’ve seen ingenious plastic creations on numerous other occasions.


Buenos Aires – Retiro – Places to Drink, Eat or Avoid

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Retiro with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2015 by gannet39

Floreria Atlantico (Intermediate A) 872 Arroyo,, Tel. 4313 6093

This is the kind of place I’d like to open at home. They should sort the décor out but the space itself and the concept are great. To the outside world it just looks like a florists but down in the cellar it’s a whole different world.

The flower shop assistant is actually the bar greeter and the solitary customer is in fact the security guard in casual clothes. Just go in as if you know the score (with just a ‘hola’, no password necessary) and one of them will open the secret portal (a fridge door) that allows entrance to the bar below.

Downstairs there is just one long room with a very long bar and high stools, and on the opposite wall there are tables that seat four that can be reserved (a good idea, do it with the greeter for next time). I’ve been here several times and have tried a few of their cocktails. They are a bit expensive (around AR$100) but top quality.

My favourites were firstly the bar’s version of Agua de Valencia, made with fresh orange juice, triple sec and gin I think (A+). Secondly, the ‘smoked’ Negroni, made with the bar’s own distilled yerba mate gin ‘Principe de Los Apostoles’ (I bought two bottles from the bar it was so good), Campari, Amaro Averna (unusual, it’s usually vermouth), Agua de Mar (no idea), Eucalyptus leaves and pine nuts, aged and served in its own little bottle. I was told the gin had been put in a bucket on the grill so that the smoky flavours could infuse into it. For a lover of Negronis this is all very original and highly delicious (A+). The gin cocktails served in a mate gourd with a metal straw were also a nice touch.

DaDa Bar (Interemediate A), 941 San Martin, Tel, 4314 4787

This is another little spot that I adore. The downside is that, as it deservedly gets great write-ups in all the guides, it can get crowded and queues can form at peak times. It’s a small place, about 30 seats, so go before 9 if you want one. In 2004 it was just over the road from the Dazzler Suites San Martin where I was staying, so it became my regular after-work haunt.

The walls are covered with period paraphernalia, particularly surrealist and pop art and there’s a swinging, jazzy soundtrack. The bar staff are really on the ball and highly attentive to their customer’s needs, which isn’t always the case in BsAs.

Mattias the mixologist in 2004 was a master of his trade and knocked me up ‘the best Pisco Sour in the South’ (A+), even if he said so himself. However, his personal recommendation of a ‘Mexico City’ with tequila, curacao and lots of lime juice was ok but didn’t blow me away (B).

The tipple of choice in this town is Fernet, an Italian bitter (amaro) with Coke, which to my mind would be totally unappealing, but I decided to try it here to see what all the fuss was about. It’s basically alcoholic coke with a bitter aftertaste, refreshing but it’s nothing to write home about (C+), although I am.

They have a good selection of wines too and I had a glass each of Malbec (B) and Cabernet Sauvignon (A), both from bodega Ruca Malen, one of the better cantinas on their list, to go with my Caesars Salad (B+). In 2014 I came for lunch and had the lomo which was fantastic (A+). A great little bar that should definitely be experienced.

Marriott Grill (Advanced A), Marriott Plaza Hotel, 1005 Florida,

For a posh cocktail in nice surroundings there’s nowhere better than the Marriot, where they have been serving the rich and famous for over 100 years. I can vouch for the G&Ts and Negronis. They aren’t cheap at about US$18 a pop but you do get plates and plates of nibbles to go with each drink. I’m sure the grill restaurant is good but I’ve never tried it.

Irifune (Intermediate B), 426 Paraguay,

A decent bit of fish is very hard to find in Argentina so I came here to get my fix before shipping out to the provinces. They have a good rep for Japanese food and apparently are one of the few places in town where you can get tuna. I’m not keen on the ambience (C) as it’s very brightly lit and not particularly attractive but the food is okay (B+).

I had the Chirashizushi and loved the rice (A) as I’d been craving it for a while. Also the Salmon ‘Geisha’ with Philadelphia cheese and tiny avocado was okay (B), as were the Kimchi (B+) and Misoshiru (B+).

There’s another Japanese place called Sipan just down the road at 626 Paraguay which also has a good rep. I just popped in for a look and haven’t tried the food. The atmosphere is darker and more intimate, and the staff seem nicer, but it’s more expensive. Eat Like A Girl recommends it.

Dora (Advanced B), 1016 Avenida Leandro N. Alem,

A very good, if slightly expensive, traditional restaurant with old waiters in black and whites and an air of formality. I came here in 2004 for one of my first meals in BsAs and hopefully it’s still okay. I remember having a good steak and bottle of wine.

And some places I’m not so keen on…

Filo (Intermediate B+ or D!), 975 San Martin, Tel, 4311 0312

Just a few doors down from DaDa you will find this trendy modern pizzeria that’s plugged in many guides. It’s massively popular with office workers and you’ll find it hard to get in at midday due to their business lunch deal. I used to be a big fan (modern decor, live DJ playing chilled tunes while you eat) but then they poisoned me with their Patagonian mussels when I first came in 2004 and I still haven’t forgiven them. Stick to the pizza (thinner than elsewhere) and you should be ok.

Fervor (Advanced B), 1619 Posadas

This is a posh high end restaurant that seems to attract richer tourists. I came for the seafood grill, supposedly the best in town, but it was too expensive. I ended up with half a grilled chicken, Pollo a Las Brasas (A), and some rice as I’d been craving it. On the plus side the Alamos Torrentes was one of the best I’ve ever had (A), even if it wasn’t cheap at $139. The glass of Santa Julia Tardia (late harvest) dessert wine I had was okay too (B). Total cost $463 which priced me out of going again.

La Dorita (Intermediate C), 798 Avenida del Libertador

20141119_213437I ended up here after discovering the place I wanted to go to was closed. It’s very popular with locals, perhaps because it’s fairly cheap. I wasn’t keen on the Ribs de Ternera y BBQ con Papas Fritas (rack of veal ribs with fries) that I had, although I did eat it all out of sheer hunger (C). The Imperial Lager was a new one on me (B).

Broccolino (Intermediate C), 776 Esmeralda,

This Italian place was recommended to me by a school director who loves his food and a personal friend, so I was really disappointed when I had one of the worst meals ever in Argentina.

20141120_205834I started with the house special their ‘most famous dish’, Calamaretti Broccolino; a huge portion of squid flambéed with white wine and onions. It was absolutely rank and I couldn’t eat it (D).

I drank the wine and left as I’d lost my appetite but they were generous enough not to charge me for the food. When I reported back to my friend she said, ‘Oh, you should never eat seafood in Baires’. Well thanks for telling me…

And so to finish, here’s my rant…

I’ve been to Argentina three times and have never been overly impressed by the standard of cuisine anywhere I’ve been in the country (or in Chile and Uruguay for that matter). In Argentina you’d think that a society of people predominantly descended from Italian and Spanish immigrants would know how to cook but it’s almost as if these two great national cuisines cancel each other out.

The chorizos have no spice, the pasta is never al dente, the Fugazza pizza is horrendously thick and drowned in gloopy ‘muzzarella’ (and is never the ‘real’ buffalo milk version), the limoncello is always warm and good chocolate and decent coffee are really hard to find (thank god the Kiwis have arrived). The national dessert Dulce de Leche (made from caramelised milk that has been browned very slowly) is far too sweet and is seemingly used in every single dessert, although admittedly the ice cream and pancake versions can be quite nice.

Obviously there’s no disputing the quality of some of their ingredients, the beef (from the North) and the lamb (from the South) are fantastic but they’re always overcooked. If you want a rare steak (vuelta y vuelta, muy jugoso) it will come medium rare (poco hecho), although if you know this and order one level down from what you actually want, you can get round it. However, decent seafood doesn’t happen and vegetarians will struggle.

My advice is to keep your choices simple and generally avoid anywhere with pretensions. If you stick to what they do best, parrilla, it will mean eating a lot of meat which can get quite samey when you come here for a month or more as I do. Thank God the wine is good!

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