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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Café Margot - Avenida Boedo 857, Boedo

The olde worlde cafes of Buenos Aires are widely renowned, and deservedly so; they are a delight to behold. Every so often you come across one by chance, in a part of town that is mostly residential and unremarkable, where by default it stands out for its inimitable charm. Café Margot is one such place, a quaint corner cafe that is a gem in the otherwise unassuming barrio of Boedo. Classic black and white chequered flooring, scratched, worn and loved wooden tables and chairs, and ceiling-high shelves of wine behind the bar.

Margot makes up part of a group of fifty-something coffee shops in the city dubbed cafés notables, distinguished by their cultural and historical importance, usually places that were frequented by celebrated writers, musicians and the like, in a bygone era. Nowadays patrons are a mixture of locals and tourists, hoping to find a glimpse of Buenos Aires' belle epoque. Café Margot is a little different, however. It is quaint without pandering to pretensions of authenticity. No tango music playing here, instead the tinny speakers blare out Kylie, Haddaway and whatever else happens to be on the waiter's chosen radio station that day.

The menu is as long as it is uninspiring, mostly listing sandwiches in every combination imaginable, but I turn my attention to the first page, the list of coffees, and order Café Americano con crema and a medialuna (mini croissant). The coffee is strong and bitter, the sweetened cream taking the edge off a little, and the medialuna is flakey and decent with a hint of what tastes like coconut. In cafes notables coffee is always served with a mini cube of cake, whichever kind has been freshly baked that day, and a small glass of soda water, Italian style.

On a Thursday afternoon I find myself sharing the space with only three or four other customers and the odd pigeon that decides to wander in from the street, before plodding out again confused. However, later, at around five or six o’clock it will be packed with porteños in search of merienda (afternoon tea, usually comprised of toasted ham and cheese sandwiches and/or sweet pastries) and at weekends it is generally busy. Café Margot has got a seamless and unaffected ambience, a far cry from the long queues waiting outside Café Tortoni, or the camera-toting crowd in Bar Seddon, other cafés notables in Buenos Aires.

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