We had read in some magazine, that Club Francés has been restored and renewed, and that the restaurant is supposed to be good. The combination of ‘French’ and ‘good restaurant’ made it a must for us to try. After all, Belgian cuisine is, apart from a few regional dishes, the same as French.
Full of enthusiasm I called the restaurant to make a reservation, in French, and the man at the reception answered me with the dry “Que dice?”. Club Francés, the place where people come together to speak French.
It was found in 1866 by French residents, they used to gather in the legendary café Malakoff : it’s only in 1941 that they bought the current building in Rodriguez Peña. Over the years they have had many ‘important’ visitors, like President Peligrini, President Figueroa Alcorte, Georges Clemenceau, the duke of Windsor (later Eduard VIII), Jorge Luis Borges, the Belgian prime minister Paul Van den Boeynants (more known because he was kidnapped and involved into different scandals then through his visit to Argentina) and many others. Now, in 2010, we didn’t hear a word of French. The waiters didn’t speak French. Although the people were all speaking Spanish, according to their looks, they could have been… Belgians. (Now I won’t tell you if this is good or bad).
It looked like the entrance hall was indeed renewed, cleaned up, or has had a facelift, but the restaurant definitely didn’t. It looked old and worn out, with chairs and tablecloths that didn’t fit into the interior. It was tasteless. It did not look French.
The menu looked good, and I was immediately tempted by the ‘rack of lamb’, wondering if it would really be prepared in the way I am used to, the ‘French’ way. It certainly looked like it, but it was more like a sheep then a lamb, and it was certainly no “milk lamb” as we are used to. It has probably been grazing on the endless fields in Patagonia for ages, and developed good strong muscles, and fat, before ending up on my plate.
As if I hadn’t learned my lesson yet, I then asked for the “Clafoutis de fruits rouges” (I love Clafoutis!) for desert, but this was just an ordinary red fruit pie, not worth putting on weight for…
This is the short story of our encounter with “el Club Francés”, in Rodrigues Peña, Buenos Aires….