Canela Coffee Shop, El Palomar, Buenos Aires
Just to let you know, this post was written before I started the paleo diet to help ease my psoriasis. Nowadays I eat a more allergy-friendly diet, but leave these older, non-paleo posts up in case they are useful to readers, as I know not everyone eats the same as I do. Thanks for your understanding.
Canela is a big coffee shop in the centre of El Palomar, just outside Buenos Aires. It's relatively quiet in the daytime but has a real buzz at night, where it becomes a kind of coffee shop/pub. There's not a huge drinking culture in Argentina, you're more likely to drink coffee at a football match than beer and enjoy a cappuccino before a night out instead of a few glasses of wine.
Canela has been running since 1979, and I got to chat a little bit with the owners. There are three floors to the coffee shop, as well as a covered seating area outside, just off the main street, and the bar was well-stocked with alcohol should you fancy a shot of rum in your coffee.
As we ventured upstairs, past a middle-aged lady reading the local paper and sipping a frothy cappuccino, we stopped at a cabinet full of cakes and pastries. 'Que ricas tortas', said a voice behind me. It was one of the staff. He told us there was a chocolate mousse cake, lemon meringue pie and a chocolate and dulce de leche cake, if we fancied any of them. They all looked terrific.
One of the things I noticed while I was in Argentina was that quite often you don't need to order from the menu. Fancy something that's not listed? Don't worry, they'll try to accommodate you. We mentioned we were peckish for something savoury and he waved us upstairs and said he would fix us a couple of tostadas con jamon y queso.
The rich, full-flavoured coffees arrived in glass cups, sprinkled with chocolate pieces and cinnamon - and the tostadas were made with thin but fluffy slices of white bread with the crusts cut off, and neatly stuffed with ham, cheese and slices of tomato. They were filling but still light. We were also each given a little shot glass of fizzy water to refresh us afterwards and to take the strong coffee taste away before we left.
Before leaving, we had a mooch around the rest of the café. On the first floor, and just off to the right from the stairs there was a door which lead to the 'Reservados' - a room that gave some degree of privacy and usually used at night-time when the coffee shop gets busier.
Our tostadas and coffees came to 89 pesos (about £12) and we left full and refreshed. I loved the atmosphere at Canela and the way they were so happy to stop and chat. We probably won't go back to Argentina for a couple of years but when we do, we'll be sure to stop by there again. That chocolate and dulce de leche cake looked too good to miss a second time.