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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Croque Madame - Avenida del Libertador 1902, Recoleta

On the recommendation of a porteña friend I go in search of Croque Madame. For what could possibly be more civilised than afternoon coffee and cake when you have just paid a visit - albeit a fleeting one - to the Museo de Bellas Artes. Set back a little from the great expanse of traffic of Avenida del Libertador, I try to find a table towards the back of the cafe to escape the chugging pulsation of the cars passing by. Cited as the fourth noisiest city in the world, peace and quiet in Buenos Aires are luxuries only the wealthy can afford in their immaculate serviced penthouse apartments, shielded from the cacophony of outside by glass-fronted air-conditioned edifices. 

My well-founded fear of being sunburned draws me to a shaded table. To my left, two forty-something women, friends who have a lot of catching up to do is my guess, are about to embark on indulgent quantities of cake and milky cappuccinos. To my right, a work-and-childcare juggling mother sits at her laptop, professionally groomed and perfectly manicured. She sips the smallest, neatest espresso, while her six-year-old daughter, wearing plastic Minnie Mouse ears, propels herself around a parasol stand trying to get my, or anyone else’s, momentary attention.

Torta de Maracuyá y Café con Crema
Content in my people-watching I negotiate the menu, deciding on Café con Crema and a half serving of Torta de Maracuyá (passion fruit tart). Pre-warned by the sight of my neighbours' heaving portion sizes I am confident a half helping will suffice. As I settle down to read my book, the trickle of the fountain behind me, the sun - not too hot on this Thursday afternoon - and the steady hum of chatter are all seductively calming. The slice of tart and coffee are served, perfectly executed, by the affable bow-tied waiter. I try to make the rich yet deliciously tangy tart last, the setting calls more for delicate nibbling than greedy devouring, and manage to make a good effort.

Croque Madame is a place for treating yourself, or a friend. A place where ladies lunch, be-suited men have meetings, gallery-goers take stock; a tiny haven in an otherwise boisterous city.

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