For Erin’s birthday we treated ourselves to a sumptuous meal at Sette Bacco Italian restaurant in Recoleta, Buenos Aires. As soon as we stepped in the door, I felt my wallet lighten considerably. This place was classy.
I was wearing hiking shoes.
Despite that, the Maître d’ was warm and welcoming and seated us in a lovely spot on the roof terrace, perfumed delicately by the rosemary plants dotted about. There were candles everywhere and my napkin was bigger and thicker than my travel towel. Feeling that this place might be very, very expensive (as opposed to just very expensive), I had a surreptitious check of our cash situation.
Not good. Less than A$200.
Our waiter brought us the menus and the wine list. He was obviously eager to impart some of his great wine learnin’ so he asked us if we wanted any recommendations. Seeing his enthusiasm we were all sure, what the hell. Something cheap and smooth, please.
He started pointing at wines that were way above my pay grade. He recommended three or four then left us to ruminate. Didn’t take long. With mains at around A$40 a hit, that didn’t leave much for wine. His least expensive suggestion started at A$60.
Crap, we thought. After asking for advice, we’re going to have to ignore every one of his suggestions and go for the cheapest bottle (which was weirdly still cheaper than ordering just two glasses).
How to make friends with a waiter, step one: snub his obviously superior palette.
We sheepishly ordered and looked for signs of disgust but this guy was a pro and he swallowed our rudeness graciously. I felt a little better when I saw that the table next to us had ordered the same bottle. Still, they had the sense not to pretend that they were richer than they were and had refused counsel.
Our man sent out an underling with the cheap plonk and the starter (which we were now sharing to make the dollars go further). We’re not sure if it was because he refused to pour such a shoddy wine himself, or because he had a specific Wine Guy who did the whole cutting, cork-pulling, tasting, pouring bit. I hoped it was the latter, but feared it was the former.
All this drama had given me an appetite. Thankfully, the food was amazing. We split a Melanzana Parmigiana and the aubergines were cooked just right (I hate rubbery aubergines) in a rich tomato sauce. I followed it up with the gnocchi, unusually flattened and lightly fried on one side giving them a crispy melty texture that was full of deliciousness. Erin´s pumpkin ravioli was equally wonderful.
We don’t drink that much so originally we had planned on drinking half the bottle and taking the rest home, but our man was ever attentive and kept topping our glasses up when we weren’t looking. By the end of the meal the bottle was empty and we were both rather tipsy which made what happened next even more confusing.
The Beginning of the Never Ending
We asked for the bill and were promptly served two glasses of champagne. Surely our Spanish hadn’t got so bad that ‘la cuenta’ had sounded like ‘dos copas de champagne’? By that point, it was entirely possible.
We did the only prudent thing when two glasses of champagne are set in front of you. We drank them.
‘Ahm reeledrun. Weesha geh goan.’ I said.
Erin tried to ask for the bill again. This time, our waiter brought out two glasses of red wine.
I think he said something about letting us try one of the wine’s that he recommended just so that we could see the difference.
OK, OK. I’ll drink it. But then we really have to go.
Boy, was there a difference. This wine really was smooooooth, with a strong fruity texture and a delicate vanilla finish.
I know nothing about wine other than this glass was very tasty and went down easy. All money concerns now forgotten, I wished out loud that we had gone for this bottle from the start.
We had now been at the restaurant for four hours and it was 1am. Interestingly, people were still being seated for dinner. Such is the Argentine way, but we English were more than ready to leave.
This time, when we asked, we were brought the bill.
To our utter astonishment, we had not been charged for either the champagne or the extra glass of red wine. Given the moths in my pocket, it was just as well, but we were very touched by our waiter’s generosity.
We left an equally generous tip, shook his hand and thanked him probably a little too profusely for a wonderful night. Instead of feeling snubbed, it seems that he had developed a fondness for these foreigners who found themselves in a place far too fancy for them.
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