Cafe de Paris, Buenos Aires 22 July 1888: 2016


When I started my Tea Towel Blog in April 2015, I had no idea what the purpose of Twitter was and how it worked.  Liz said that if I was going to blog on a regular basis, I needed to be on Twitter, in order that I could tell people about the Blog.  I wasn’t sure that this was what I wanted to do, but then ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ so I thought I’d give it ago.  Since I opened a Twitter account, I have never looked back.  I love Twitter; my friends would never have believed they would hear me saying that! There are a few weird people out there but, in the main, I have ‘met’ a wealth of interesting people, people that I would never normally come across, people with different interests and a huge range of knowledge.  One of these is @lovemenuart.  I love the Tweets they post; what is really good is that there is always something different; they don’t post the same pictures day after day; they post a mixture of vintage menus and signs plus some topical comments, and even a few political ones.  Of course, they have a special place in my heart because they ‘convert’ old menus and vintage signs into tea towels (among other things). @lovemenuart introduced me to a whole new world – a world of people with vast collections of vintage menus, museums that hold collections of vintage menus.  What do you do with 25,000 vintage menus? It puts my measly collection of nearly 600 tea towels into a shadow (but at least I can use them!).

I was so excited when @lovemenuart sent me this tea towel.  It adds another dimension to my collection; I am unlikely to visit Cafe de Paris in Buenos Aires but it gives an air of ‘glamour’ to the collection and it is the sort of tea towel that I will always be able to tell a tale about.  This splendid tea towel, of good quality cotton, hemmed on all four sides, is a replica of a menu from the Cafe de Paris in Buenos Aires dated 22 July 1888.  The illustration is a wonderful piece of art, in itself, with two men clutching on to a steeple, shooting ducks.  This reflects the fact that (a) Cafe de Paris was a men-only establishment in 1888 and (b) bird and game hunting was an extremely popular past-time in Argentina, amongst men.  Cafe de Paris was one of the most elegant and exclusive restaurants in Buenos Aires, in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.  It was extremely popular with wealthy businessmen and bankers hence this is menu written in French with classic French dishes and very expensive wines and sherries.  I would have assumed that this menu might have been written for a special event, since it has a specific date on it.  However, I was unable to find out if there was such a thing.  What I did find out, though, was that in Buenos Aires was a weekly publication called El Mosquito which was 4 pages long and provided some great caricatures of the current political climate, a bit like a small edition of ‘Private Eye’; the issue for 22 July 1888 is on the internet but for it to ‘come alive’ you need to be able to speak Spanish.

However, if you want to get a ‘feel’ of the Cafe de Paris  in Buenos Aires in 1888 there is a delightful painting by Jean Leon Palliere, a Brazilian artist, of the kitchens; it is well worth looking at.

Today, the Cafe de Paris still exists, in the same building, with its iconic semi-circular frontage on the confluence of two streets.  It is no longer an elegant and exclusive restaurant but a cafe (with a prominent location) and a love of the tango.  If you want to see what the Cafe de Paris is like today, there is a great You Tube video of a tango floor being laid down, outside the Cafe de Paris, with more and more couples gradually joining the dancing, much to the surprise of passing drivers. It’s better than Strictly Come Dancing and you can almost feel yourself transported to the back streets of Buenos Aires.

This tea towel gives me a sense of opulence and mystery, a feeling of luxury, of being part of another world and it certainly transforms my task of wiping up.  This is another tea towel where I have taken my own advice and used it, initially, as a centre piece on the dining table, on top of a black table cloth, providing a talking point for a dinner party; French and Spanish dictionaries are essential (or Mr Google). Once that has been done, the menu of the Cafe de Paris will become a tea towel ‘proper’.

Thank you @lovemenuart for giving me this peep into another world and to upgrade the ‘class’ of my tea towel collection with an ability to impress my friends and show there is no limit to the world of tea towels.  They go well beyond a pack of three from Asda (Walmart).

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

2 thoughts on “Cafe de Paris, Buenos Aires 22 July 1888: 2016

  1. Thank you very much! The post is very interesting. Lucio V. Mansilla, a great Argentinian writer used to go to el Café de París. Your research about the Café has helped me a lot. However I have to tell you that el Café de París no longer exists. El Café of the video oponeded after 1930 and is located in the suburbs of Buenos Aires while the original Café de París was located in the centre of the city.


    1. Thanks for your comments. I spent a long time trying to work out if the photo was the same place. Never having been to Buenos Aires, it was almost certain to be inaccurate. I like to imagine that it might have the same sort of atmosphere. Now I have to look up about Lucia V Mansilla. Thanks for your interest. Barbara


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