Where? Caseros 454 y Defensa
Menu: see Facebook page (Spanish) / Mon: 9am – 5pm; Tues – Weds: 9am – 12pm; Thurs – Sat: 9am – 1am; Sunday: 9am – 12pm / Mapa interactivo
A superlative vegetarian restaurant in a beautiful old building near to Parque Lezema. One of the most delicious meals I ate in Argentina was eaten here (a kind of crème brulee made with camembert cheese – I think). At night on summer evenings you can sit at the tables outside with candles; but it’s best for a healthy – though not inexpensive – lunch. An excellent option for a couple or a small group after a Sunday traipsing around the San Telmo market. Don’t go any further south than this restaurant, because you enter La Boca and you might get stabbed, or mugged, or just have a lovely afternoon and run out of time for lunch.
Listen to the menu at Hierbabuena: salted courgette bruschetta with red onion and cashew pesto; roasted squash with a salad of black beans, coriander, caramelised onions, tomato, rice and coconut milk; gnnochi stuffed with smoked aubergine and roasted lemon cream, spinach and marigold petals.
Doesn’t it sound fantastic?
It puts me in mind of the feasts described in the children’s books by Brian Jacques (Mossflower, Redwall, etc.). I must have read about 12 of these books before I realised that the plot was always the same, and the smaller but more skillful army of the goodies – made up of cute creatures like mice and squirrels – would inevitably defeat the larger but less skillful army of the baddies – made up of nasty creatures like ferrets and weasels and rats. But I kept on reading for the ravishing descriptions of food:
…roast chestnuts served in cream and honey, or clover oatcakes dipped in hot redcurrant sauce, celery and herb cheese on acorn bread with chopped radishes, or a huge home-baked seed and sweet barley cake with mint icing, all washed down with either October ale, pear cordial, strawberry juice or good fresh milk. (Mossflower, ch.13)
How wonderful it all sounded – a vegan’s paradise. But is any of that actually edible? Acorn bread with chopped radishes? Sweet barley cake with mint icing?!
I was concerned that Hierbabuena would offer a menu of lovely-sounding but inedible meals. Perhaps this was why I didn’t visit it until after two years of living in Buenos Aires. A big mistake. The food really is as good as it sounds. Each delicious word is matched by the real thing: foodstuff, tasty foodstuff. Even the drinks are pleasingly strange: Anna and I had blueberry lemonade.
It’s true that Hierbabuena rather rams the we-are-green-and-therefore-worthy message down your throat – there are plant pots with some kind of grass on all the tables and a painting of a tree growing hearts (yuk) and surrounded by inspirational slogans (eugh) on the wall. But it still has a lovely friendly atmosphere and, the truth is, you do feel worthy and green when you eat there. As an added bonus there are some beautiful rusted chains hanging from the ceilings that manage not to give the impression of a disused abattoir, which is fortunate given how earnestly vegetarian the place is.
At the monthly Organic Fair in the city Hierbabuena always has a store selling cakes and tarts and other veggie things. I usually avoid their stall because of the queue and the price, but I wouldn’t if I weren’t lazy and poor.