A smiling Maradona lookalike – all twinkly eyes and curly mop – is doing brisk business in the gloriously colourful, tumbledown district of La Boca, posing for photos with tourists and charging £5 for the pleasure.
'Where you from?' He asks me. It is the moment I've been dreading.
The run-up to the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War has not been pretty, verbal blows have been traded by both sides, and now on my first day in Buenos Aires, I am going to have to tell this friendly local that I am public enemy number one.
'Ohhh, English', he chuckles. 'La mano de Dios – the hand of God!'
So taken is he with his reference to that painful defeat in the 1986 World Cup that he physically creases up, clutching his un-athletic gut, and joshes me good-naturedly – it seems politics comes a distant second to football in this sun-soaked city.
I receive a similar reaction from every achingly stylish Porteño (Buenos Aires resident) I meet. The predominant feeling in this most European of Latin countries – criss-crossed with British-built railways, and sharing a strangely aristocratic passion for polo – is far more than the bitter aftertaste of a lost war.
Its colonial capital positively drips sensuality, blood-red buildings crumbling with age and honey-limbed locals sashaying down cobbled streets as if ready to break into a passionate tango with any good-looking passer-by they meet.
At the weekend, crowds swarm the antiques market of San Telmo, buying lost treasures from the city's 19th century glory days, when business was booming and French imports filled the elegant houses that have now become embassies in the upmarket district of Palermo.
Split into the strangely anglicised Soho, Hollywood and Chico districts, this is still where the great and the good gather. The city's hippest residents shop in the independent boutiques of Soho – so popular that a special design trail has been set up to support local talent and guide visitors between the best stores.
And by night, both Soho and Hollywood fill with al fresco diners as crowds drift between stylishly run-down bars. Here, they quaff the old-fashioned Italian drink fernet (mixed with Coca Cola), and writhe to Latino beats until the early hours.
Walking around these secluded neighbourhoods, it is easy to forget that 30 per cent of Argentina's population is squashed into this city, radiating out from the historic centre into seemingly endless built-up neighbourhoods.
But it takes me just over an hour to escape the colourful chaos of Buenos Aires, heading west to gaucho country – the cattle-rich plains of La Pampa, where locals joke that the highest thing you will see is a cow, and the Argentine cowboy reigns supreme.
Vast estancias (ranches) now take in tourists, some polished into five-star resorts, others still working farms with a more rustic feel.
At El Umbo de Areco, a restored mansion dating back to 1880, I head out on horseback to trot alongside young gauchos, sporting their traditional berets known as boinas – a left-over from the many immigrants that sailed from Spain's Basque Country to farm these lands.
Lunch, served under the shade of swaying trees on the lawn, is a carnivore's dream – blood sausage, ribs, rump steak, meat-filled empanadas (Argentine pasties), all washed down with an obligatory glass of Malbec.
Oscar, an 80-year-old gaucho who left school aged nine to work with horses, strums his guitar and sings lilting milongas – traditional cowboy songs – as we eat, his walrus moustache twitching in time with the lyrics.
Just as the parrilla-cooked meat tastes so much better in the cattle heartland of La Pampa, the internationally-renowned manna that is Malbec has to be sipped in wine capital Mendoza.
Nuzzled in the skirts of the snow-capped Andes in the west of the country, this sleepy city, in the region of the same name, can be reached by plane in an hour from Buenos Aires.
A man-made oasis, planted with hundreds of thousands of trees to give shelter from the desert conditions, it sits folded in among vineyards where Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes flourish, coaxed along with a mixture of European and local expertise.
This increasingly popular wine centre is bubbling with excitement, aware that it is on the cusp of superstardom. But it remains delightfully uncommercialised.
Vineyards range from the elegant Moet and Chandon-owned Terrazas de los Andes to larger Salentein, whose wines are more likely to be found in supermarkets in England.
Spectacular restaurants have started popping up among the vines – at the architectural delight that is O. Fournier and the pretty retreat of Piattelli. And Club Tapiz and Entre Cielos lead the way with heavenly boutique hotels.
It is all a far cry from the angry mobs and Union Jack-burning scenes portrayed on the news. President Cristina Fernandez may be hell-bent on whipping up a Falklands frenzy, but her electorate is far more interested in the good life.
So pour yourself another glass of Argentina's finest, and start planning that jaunt to the land of steak and wine. You'll be welcomed with open arms.
Fuente: Buenos Aires 54