June 21, 2011

Cafe Las Violetas, Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is gritty, loud, busy–everything a big city should be. But it's overwhelming for the newcomer, and while its world-class offerings parallel a city like New York, Buenos Aires goes on and on–unlike the Big Apple, which can be taken in bite-sized chunks because it's contained on an island.
Buenos Aires sprawls on forever. The quickest way to cross town is using the subte a.k.a. the subway. With the traffic, the crowds, the speed of the city, and by the time you arrive at your destination, a person is liable to feel depleted, dirty, and cranky. Which is pretty much how I felt when we trekked across town, on foot and by subte, to Las Violetas.

ARGENTINA 2011 Cafe Las Violetas
Enter the oasis of this refined and elegant–if a little faded–cafe. At 125 years old, it's a relic of Argentina's golden age–a Belle Epoque that rivaled that of Paris (the city it is so often compared to), a time when the nation of Argentina was new, powerful, and full of hope.
The story goes that then president Carlos Pelligrini, dressed in a top hat, attended the inauguration of the magnificent space–a place where ladies and gentleman could take tea, or coffee, along with sandwiches and a fancy cake, in peace from the hustle of the outside world.
Today, what's left of that elegance is seen in the waiters in their white jackets, silently whisking from table to table with curt, if resigned, efficiency. The glorious stained glass windows, of curling flowers and women in gardens that transport a visitor to another era (the Las Violetas website has a very nice gallery of the restored restaurant's finer points). And the pastries. Oh, the pastries…
Palmiers, some made into a type of alfajor with dulce de leche sandwiched in between. Little apple galettes covered in apricot glaze. Alfajores stuffed to bursting with dulce de leche, edges rolled in delicate flakes of coconut. Palm-sized Pasta Frolas, Bizcochuelo cakes dripping in chocolate ganache, Napoleons…enough to make even the most prudent among us crave a decadent treat.
And then there are the chocolates, a selection of truffles like a cache of jewels, packaged with a neatly tied ribbon or a special 'Las Violetas' souvenir tin, waiting to arrive in the hands of a sweetheart.
We sat alongside gentlemen on their lunches and elderly ladies taking tea, neatly dressed in cashmere sweaters and pearls, a group of women celebrating a birthday. And all of us, enclosed in a stained-glass globe of chocolate and pastry cream–taking a respite from the harried frenzy on the other side of the glass.
An hour or so later, after tea, pastries, and some tiny chocolate heart-shaped cookies we emerged, feeling human again–refreshed enough to face the big bad city–and its subte–all over again.
Cafe Las Violetas
Avenida Rivadavia 3899
Buenos Aires, Argentina
(0)11 4958 7387
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4 Responses to “Cafe Las Violetas, Buenos Aires”

  1. I just went to Las Violetas for the first time last month. It really is elegant, what with all the stained glass, dark woodwork and “ladies who lunch.” The warm apple strudel with dulce de leche and vanilla ice cream was to die for! Great write-up, Rebecca.

  2. Great post, I was there last month. Now I have a serious craving for medialunas, and will try your recipe. Chau.

  3. I’d love to visit this place and partake in each of the lovely pastries. *sigh*

  4. Can’t believe I missed out on visiting such a gorgeous place and all those delicious pastries. Next trip…

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