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By Chere Di Boscio
Buenos Aires is internationally renowned for quite a few things: tango, football and steak, for example. But when you think of the Argentine capital, one thing that rarely comes to mind is ‘vegan living’.
But that’s all about to change.
The recent trend for veganism has begun to creep into this cow-mad country. From vegan restaurants and shops to an eco-hotel whose menus cater to cruelty-free diets, here are some of the places I visited in the Argentine capital that I just know plant-based peeps will love.
Where to stay
Palo Santo is Latin America’s first ever urban ‘green’ hotel – literally: it boasts over 900 plants throughout the property. In this large, heavily polluted city, it’s a welcome sight to see walls, balconies, and patios lush with plants. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but they also absorb CO2 emissions, grant the building natural insulation, and filter out pollution in the hotel, allowing guests to breathe easy.
The property was built to LEED standards, meaning their construction materials, equipment and suppliers were all chosen to reduce the environmental impact of the hotel’s construction and operations. Rooms are decorated with vintage modernist classics such as Eames and Jacobson chairs and feature hardwood floors and balconies overlooking the gardens or neighbourhood streets, which, I should mention, is one of Buenos Aires’ trendiest: Palermo.
Now the vegan part: breakfasts in Buenos Aires are usually just a pastry (factura) with a coffee. But Palo Santo offers fresh pressed coffee with vegan mylks, vegan pastries, toast, fruit and other animal-free goodies. And if you’re too knackered to look for a restaurant for dinner, just pop downstairs to the hotel’s highly popular, seriously verdant garden restaurant, where the chef will happily whip up some vegan Japanese delights: think mushroom tempera, whipped avocado onigiri, asparagus maki and grilled red pepper sashimi, all washed down with a local wine.
Aware I am a vegan, the super friendly and helpful staff directed me down the street to Veganius, a vegan food shop that sells the best ever seitan milanesas, ‘mozzarella’ empanadas and even vegan dulce de leche! Whaat? One note, though, vegans: unless it’s organic, avoid soya based products in Argentina because the soy beans here are pretty much all GMO.
Where to eat
Dining out is an important part of Argentine life, but be warned: dinner often starts around 9.30 pm, and can even be as late as 11. It’s usually a rather social event, spent in the company of friends and family, and can be followed by some time in a boliche afterwards – basically a place to drink and/or dance.
Luckily, the number of vegetarian, vegan, raw and macrobiotic restaurants is on the rise, and most ‘normal’ restaurants will also have a few vegan options: ask for an ensalada completa (without any meat, cheese or eggs, of course); grilled butternut squash (calabasa) or puree de calabasa or papas.
For more diverse options, of course hit one of the city’s numerous vegan spots. Biorestaurant offers not only a plethora of tasty dishes, like zucchini and tofu ‘ricotta’ cakes, mushroom risotto and tempting vegan desserts, but also a spacious, comfy place to chill for a few hours.
If you’re getting a bit drooly watching everyone in the capital eating pizza, you needn’t miss out, thanks to Pizza Vegana, which delivers normal and gluten-free crust vegan ‘zas around the city. If you’re in the Recoletta area, try Hierbabuena for mushroom based veggie burgers and sumptuous salads.
Are you a raw vegan? Grab some detox sushi rolls, fresh juices or raw lasagne at Ju Belgrano. Got a huge appetite? The menu deals at Buenos Aires Verde in Palermo Soho or Ohsawa in Palermo Hollywood will fill you up with a soup or salad starter, innovative main and sublime dessert, which is likely to also be organic and/or gluten free.
With leather, wool and even fur being all the range in Argentine fashion, it can be hard to buy clothing that’s vegan – especially shoes and bags. But it’s not impossible – especially if you know to ask for ‘cuero ecologico’ – a.k.a ‘vegan leather’.
Some shops that specialise in this are Boobamara, which sells Doc Marten style boots and Birkenstock style sandals. Frou Frou sells more feminine styles, such as vegan ballet slippers and chic sandals online.
If you’re after some retro fashion, visit Boycapel Vintage at Montevideo 1784, where you’ll find everything from pre-loved luxury designer bags to rare plexiglass-heeled shoes from the 60s. But if it’s a souvenir you’re after, head to the San Telmo flea market in Plaza Dorrego on Sundays.
Known as the Feria de San Telmo, here you’ll find a treasure box of booths housing truly one of a kind relics where a handmade backgammon board, full dinette sets and antique garments make you feel like you’re looking through your grandmother’s attic rather than a street fair. Antique knives and jewellery, soda siphons and posters from the 20s and 30s are all perfect examples of Buenos Aires’ charming nature and rich history.
Buenos Aires is certainly a beautiful city well worth visiting. And once you know where to eat, shop and stay, it can even be a vegetarian traveller’s dream come true.