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Step by step

Life in Buenos Aires is defined by ritual and pageantry. From dancing tango to eating steak, we explore the ways in which locals - and their guests - come together
A balcony in Recoleta. Clockwise from left: Cocktails at El Presidente Bar. Jacarandas in bloom on the Avenida Corrlentes in early spring empanada class at Salu Opposite: Tango at El Deco

The day of rest - and asado

Annabella Mutto and Denise Fevre have strong feelings about asado. Technically he Spanish for a cut of beef comprising the ribs, the Buenos Aires asado is so much more, the pair of city guides breathlessly assure me. Most Sundays portenos, as residents of the city are known, get together with family and sometimes friends for a multi-course, ritualistic barbecue made up almost entirely of meat. ‘We get together, we talk loud,’ Anna says, ‘and we eat!’ Annabella, Anna for short, disagrees good-naturedly with Denise. Anna extols the virtues of lean meats; she likes the thin, sizzling entrana. Denise, horrified, insists that juicy, fatty cuts — the bife de chorizo, say, cooked through to firmness in the traditional Argentine style — are far superior. Luckily, I don’t have to choose.

I’ve been in Buenos Aires two hours, most of which I’ve spent at Don Julio, one of the best parillas (steakhouses) in the city, I’ve already eaten five courses, two of them consisting entirely of steak. Outside, people are queuing around the block to get a table. Waiters, taking pity on them, offer sparkling wine and empanadas to sate their hunger. Wine bottles cover virtually every bit of wall space and every counter top. Lights hang from wagon-wheels on the ceiling. The restaurant has no further decoration - there’s no room for any.

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