Make your dreams of standing centre stage in a theatre packed with people a reality at Café Ateneo in tranquil Recoleta. You’ll have to navigate a host of crowded tables and chairs, spilling over with hungry shoppers, and your audience’s view will no doubt be obscured somewhat by the countless bookshelves that fill the stalls and the circle, but it’s an experience not to be missed. To meander through the auditorium, bedecked with gold, perusing the latest best sellers, and then enjoy a cup of coffee beneath that sweeping, red velvet curtain really is a spectacle in itself.
Part of the appeal of Las Violetas is, perhaps bizarrely, the fact that it makes no attempt to move with the times, but obstinately remains nestled in a bygone era characterised by elegance and grandeur. Bronze columns and stained glass windows add to the air of timelessness, and the waiting staff don starched, white shirts and conduct themselves with as much decorum and politeness as if they, like the café, had been born into the 1800s. That said, the punters’ behaviour is a little less refined and they circle the counter in almost vulture-like fashion; but this is only a testament to the allure of the pastries on offer.
Las Violetas, Avenida Rivadavia 3899, C1204AAD, Buenos Aires, +55 11 4958-7387
A mere minute or so away from the important tourist attraction El Cemeterio de la Recoleta, La Biela is a firm favourite with both visitors to the city and locals. Historically, it was renowned as being the haunt of the city’s intelligentsia and Formula One legend Juan Manuel Fangio, hence, automobile-related memorabilia covers the walls. It is spacious, clean and light, and there is a large outdoor seating area overlooking an attractive cathedral and grassy plaza, for when the weather is pleasant. The food is commendable, reasonably priced and sufficiently varied, and the apple pancakes with dulce de leche come highly recommended.
True connoisseurs of coffee, down to the finest detail, the LAB team are not likely to serve you a sub-standard cappuccino. They analyse each bean with pin-point precision, noting its strength, acidity, unique flavor, and are unabashed experts in all aspects of the process that transforms it into something foam-topped and delicious. The snacks on offer at LAB are very tasty, too, the cookies are especially delicious, and there is free drinking water available at all times. Plug sockets can be found by each stool as well, which is useful for those who wish to work whilst they enjoy their coffee.
LAB, Humboldt 1542, C1414CTN, Buenos Aires, +55 11 4843-1790
Historically one of writer Jorge Luis Borges’ favourite hang outs, Florida Garden has it all. Tucked away, somewhat surprisingly, on busy pedestrian street Calle Florida, it’s a great option for those seeking respite from shopping and wanting to escape the endless cries of ‘Cambio, casa de cambio,‘ yet still feel part of the hustle and bustle of porteño life. The interior is smart and traditional, and the waiters are dressed in shirts and bow ties to give a further impression of sophistication. The menu is vast, and while enjoying coffee and indulging in one (or more) of the many deliciously decadent desserts on offer, there is some prime people watching to be enjoyed.
Florida Garden, Florida 899, C1005AAQ, Buenos Aires, +55 11 4312-7902
The quality of the coffee at Catoti is exceptional, but that’s not all they’re worried about at this little Belgrano café. Being ecologically friendly is one of their top priorities and, consequently, much of the interior has been made from recycled objects. They are keen for the customer to be comfortable and feel at home, and the result is a space that is cosy and comfortable but undeniably cool. Lazy afternoons are encouraged here, as are long conversations with friends and baristas.
Catoti, Blanco Encalda 2457, Belgrano, Buenos Aires, +54 11 5368-1314