"If we go in, it will fill up straight away, we just have to be the first", I reassure Kate. We are debating whether to go into El Malecón, a beach side eatery in Punta del Diablo, a fishing-village-turned-beach-destination in Uruguay, located about one hour from the Brazilian border. It being 8pm when we tentatively set foot inside the haphazardly-formed shack there is not another diner in sight, but the promise of fried seafood and icy caipirinhas lures us in regardless. We are here for the limbo-like period between Christmas and New Year, to shake off the thickness of Buenos Aires for a few days.
The restaurants in Punta are not remarkable for the diversity of their offerings; most serve various fried seafood snacks tapas-style, barbecued fish and meat and the ubiquitous Chivito, famed national dish of Uruguay. Chivito consists of several types of meat - thinly sliced sirloin beef, ham and bacon - piled high and topped with a fried egg making for a heap of salty protein-based goodness. It is served either in a roll, making a monstrous burger, or accompanied by french fries - or for the very brave, both.
While the variety of food may not be entirely inspired in this sleepy seaside town, the ready and affordable availability of seafood is enough to make us smile with anticipation. We order a mixed platter which comprises rabas (calamari), miniaturas (fish goujons) mejillones al ajo (mussels with garlic) and buñuelas de alga, a local delicacy of ping-pong ball sized deep-fried seaweed doughnuts. Washed down with lemon caipirinhas, it makes for the perfectly untainted taste of beach holiday.
We each order a second caipirinha, then a pancake to share, spurred on by the cachaca and sugar buzz. Topped with sautéed apple slices, excessive syrup and scoops of cream, the dessert is cloyingly sweet, but we find it in ourselves to greedily finish it anyway. We are on holiday after all.
By the time we leave, the place is full of hungry surfers, sun-bathers and travellers, huddled together watching the sun go down as the year draws close to it's end.
Happy New Year to you all, thank you for following the blog thus far. Here’s to many more wonderful culinary experiences in the coming year, mostly back on familiar ground in BA.