In a country where the traditional meat grill, or parrilla, can be found on every corner, it takes a lot to stand out as ‘the best’. But Don Julio in Buenos Aires has shot up the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list to be crowned The Best Restaurant in Argentina, and is close to entering The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, at No.55 on the extended list in 2018. Its popularity comes down to the simple but hard-to-achieve combination of world-class cuisine with sustainability at its heart, and an approach to wine and hospitality that goes above and beyond expectations.
It goes without saying that the food at Don Julio is outstanding. All beef is from grass-fed Aberdeen Angus and Hereford cattle, raised in the countryside outside Buenos Aires. It is stored in a climate-controlled refrigerator for at least 21 days to reach optimum maturity, before grillmaster Pepe Sotelo cooks it on a traditional “V” iron grill. What completes the experience is the wine, from a cellar containing 13,000 bottles and 1,000 labels, every single one of which is from Argentina, and has been tried, tested and loved by the team.
Then there is the service. A meal at Don Julio starts with an above-average welcome – perhaps a glass of something sparkling and an empanada while you wait, then details such as a personal greeting from charming owner Pablo Rivero or the opportunity to sign a wine bottle to be left in the restaurant as a memento from your meal.
Here, staff training is something of a religion: Don Julio gives all its workers a manual, explaining the entire service process. Then they are trained on everything from service with a smile to learning English, wine expertise and how to read customers to analyse their needs before they even need to ask.
Finally, there is the dining room itself. In a building dating back to the 19th century, diners sit within walls lined with empty wine bottles, creating the effect of a welcoming wine sanctuary where they will leave their mark with a signature at the end of the meal. With this atmosphere of warmth, combined with exemplary food and service, Don Julio has captured the essence of true hospitality, making it a natural winner of this year’s Art of Hospitality Award.
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