Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gaucho Sloane - A Sunny Trip to Argentina for the Taste Buds Without Ever Leaving London


If you've never been to Gaucho, then I can honestly say you're missing out. It's a London favorite for my husband and I. I've previously been to the Richmond and O2 locations, so when Gaucho invited me to try out the Sloane Avenue location it was a no-brainer really, especially since there have been some changes to the menu since I last visited a Gaucho.




Ordering is an art form...

No one does steak like Argentina and no restaurant I've ever been to treats ordering a steak with detail and informed decision making like Gaucho. As is the Gaucho way, once we were settled with a yummy cocktail, our server came to the table with a board featuring many of the cuts of steak available on the menu along with an explanation of what makes them good and different. Let's face it, steak can be a bit like wine and if you don't know much about it, you could potentially throw a fair amount of money at a cut that's different than what you expected which could be either surprising or disappointing, depending on your palette. I once ordered a very expensive Porterhouse and had no idea that it would be the size of a small continent - it was not an enjoyable meal and now I'm grateful for having a bit more knowledge of steaks before ordering. At Gaucho you can happily take your time making an informed decision on which steak to order. What's also amazing is that you can get an idea of the size of the cut - most of us probably don't think about how much we want to eat in terms of grams or ounces. A chat with your waiter as detailed as you like about portion size, marbling, tenderness and the difference between Churrasco and regular cuts makes all the difference in deciding what to order.

An education in Argentinian wine production...

In terms of wine, I received a full-on education about Argentinian reds from our amazing server Frederico, who just so happens to be Argentinian and a former chef. In Argentina there are low altitude wines and high altitude wines - or shall I say the grapes are grown in these varying altitudes. Growing grapes in a high altitude for wine yields a crop influenced by cooler temperatures and a greater difference between high day temperatures and low night temperatures. This method produces a less acidic, softer and rounder wine than those grown in lower altitudes. I learned all of this valuable information from Frederico, making my trip to Gaucho not only enjoyable, but educational as well.


On ceviche...

When I first moved to New York just after university I worked as a hostess for a few months in a trendy restaurant with a well-known chef and celebrity clientele. This popular SoHo eatery was a hot spot for a food that I'd never heard of at the time... Ceviche. It has to be said that when I graduated university I had the eating habits of a 4 year old, basically living on macaroni & cheese, chicken nuggets and pizza... Shameful, I know. In the nearly 8 years since I worked at the restaurant, I've matured as an eater and my tastes have grown exponentially. Only a few months after leaving the restaurant I tried my very first sushi and loved it. I have often found myself wondering since I left that job about ceviche and what it would be like... Would I like it?

For those of you who aren't familiar, ceviche is very fresh raw fish that 'cooks' in a way when marinated in citrus juices and salt. It's not actually cooked, but the chemical effect that citrus juice has on the flesh of the fish. If you've ever seen your smoked salmon take on a lighter color after dousing it with lemon juice, I imagine though I'm no scientist so I don't know for sure, that it's the same thing happening.

I learned from Frederico, our ever-knowledgeable server that ceviche came to be at a time when coastal people had nothing to eat, so they caught fish and cured it with salt & citrus juices. Funny how something that started from poverty is now served in some of the nicest restaurants in the world.

I took the plunge when presented with a portion of the Tuna Tiraditos Ceviche at Gaucho and wow! Unlike tuna sushi, which can occasionally be a tiny bit chewy, this melts in your mouth. No chewing really necessary and the subtle flavors are truly divine. Combining the flavors of fresh tuna, soy sauce, ginger, orange and avocado, Tuna Tiraditos has set the bar quite high for my future ceviche conquests.


Starters...


Not really sure what could be better than sausage & cheese for starting off a meal on the right foot and the great thing about dining with a friend or partner is that 'sharing is caring.'

The Chorizo Sausage is Gaucho's very own Argentine chorizo combining beef and pork. This is not what I expected when I ordered - I thought I would get a paprika stained red, slightly oily Spanish sausage like the chorizo you buy in the supermarket. The Chorizo Sausage at Gaucho has more of a traditional sausage shape and texture with a robust flavor that's complimented by the grilled Romero pepper it's served with. It's delicious, especially if you prefer a meat-based appetizer, which I often do.



I also really love cheese and though it may be a bit unconventional or non-traditional, I prefer cheese as a starter rather than a dessert. Anytime there's cheese on an appetizers menu, I'm all over it! The Provoleta at Gaucho is quite frankly a game changer. A traditional Argentine dish, provoleta typically features grilled Italian provolone cheese, however at Gaucho, it's pan fried with almonds, oregano and honey. It may seem like an odd combination, but it's so good it took my breath away! The flavors of salty, nutty cheese with the sweet honey and the mellow almonds creates a unique flavor that seems to be the distant cousin of Teriyaki, but with an identity all it's own. Served with crispy thin slices of French bread, this dish is worth going out for. It's also worth noting that a bite of the Chorizo Sausage together with a bite of Provoleta is a lovely combination as well. I suggest ordering both with your dinner guest and sharing, but whatever you do, don't skip the starters when you head to Gaucho... It's worth having to unbutton your trousers if you're a little too full for these amazing treats!


Where's the beef?

It's no secret that the main attraction at Gaucho is steak, however I'm rather keen to visit other main courses on the menu the next time I go only because the treatment of cheese, sausage & ceviche is so amazing that it leaves me thinking the Salt Baked Corn Fed Chicken is also a winner... But once that gorgeous board of beef comes round my table, I'm always seduced by the beautiful cuts of grass-fed beef before me and succumb to the temptation of a lovely steak!


I am also a sucker for the Churrasco cuts at Gaucho because they're so different than anything I have seen at the other steak restaurants I've visited. Marinated for 48 hours in garlic, parsley & olive oil, these steaks pack a punch of explosive flavor that is undeniably heavenly for the taste buds. I opted for the Churrasco de Lomo, which is a spiral cut fillet steak - it's a big steak that could be shared between two people, but it was so delicious I ate most of it myself... Piggy party, table for 1 right here!


My guest chose the Bife de Ancho, which is not marinated so its own natural flavors shine. It was also delicious, however I prefer leaner cuts of beef over more flavorful, but that's just my preference. An advantage of dining at Gaucho is that unlike other restaurants that offer only 3 or 4 steak options, you have a choice between several cuts, sizes and treatments as well as a lovely selection of sauces to choose from. Speaking of sauces, the Peppercorn Sauce is lovely and I highly recommend it. Gaucho's Peppercorn Sauce isn't creamy as is traditional, but more like a peppery gravy giving it a stronger flavor than traditional creamier versions. Delicous!

A little something on the side...


Whenever I eat steak, potatoes are a natural accompaniment for me... Primarily because I like the mixture of potatoes with whatever sauce I choose on the side, but also because there's something so classic about meat & potatoes that I often feel like it shouldn't be messed with... As they say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." However, I was feeling gastronomically adventurous at Gaucho, so when prompted to try the Humita Saltena, I obliged and again, wow! Firstly, let me say that I do not eat pumpkin, squash or anything else that's squishy in an Autumnal color. However, this was the best sweet corn I've ever tasted - probably because it was mixed with roast pumpkin... Again, another enjoyable first!

If you decide to remain a meat & potatoes loyalist, that's okay too... The chips (French fries) are amazing as is the mashed potato!

Sweet happy endings...


Just as we were presented with a steak board at the beginning of our meal, there was also a cheese board presentation at the end. There are several cheeses, some using goat's milk while others are cow's milk and they range from a blue cheese to a cheddar. Though we didn't opt to end our meal with cheese, I'm very interested in heading back to Gaucho in the future for a taste of the cheese selection and I couldn't resist pointing out Stinking Bishop on the menu - what a great name for a cheese! The cheese selection is available by choice of 3, 4 or 5 to enjoy. It's also worth noting that Little Stawley, a Somerset unpasteurized goat cheese, is exclusively made for Gaucho.





Though tempted by the cheese, a sweet ending seemed appropriate and I chose the Chocolate Truffle Petit Fours, which I'm told is a recent addition to the menu at Gaucho. Each little piece of delectable chocolate is different featuring flavors of coffee, orange, salt, chili & whiskey. The salt and chili were my favorites, but they were all delicious and a great ending to a perfect meal. Appropriately priced at £3.95, this desert is a perfect compliment to a coffee for people who like me, are often a little bit too full for desert, but still want a sweet finish. Because they boast hints of the savory, they're not bad with that last little bit of wine either... Perfect for sharing or to enjoy on your own, it's nice to see something different alongside a list of more traditional puddings.


I'm not a fan of flan (made a rhyme!) - it's just not my thing, but my guest thoroughly enjoyed the Caramel Flan, so that tells me it's a winner as well!

A few parting words...

Dinner at Gaucho isn't just a meal... It's a trip to Argentina through a series of plates & glasses and an experience you'll remember, but not so much so that you couldn't enjoy it regularly. I love Gaucho for a business lunch just as much as I love it for celebrating something special (I once had my anniversary dinner at the Richmond location). The atmosphere is chic, the ambiance is fun yet relaxing and the service is great. In my opinion, you can get as much or as little out of a trip to Gaucho as you like. There's nothing to stop you ordering the same wine & food every time you go and it would be thoroughly enjoyable. However, if you're adventurous or up for learning something new, just talk to your server and find out what's going on with new menu items, special wines on the wine list and by all means, do treat yourself to a cocktail!

Gaucho Sloane is located on Sloane Avenue just between South Kensington and Chelsea's Kings Road. For more information, menus or other locations, check out the Gaucho website.

**Special thanks to the team at Gaucho Sloane for a wonderful evening and particularly to Frederico our server for amazing service and an education in Argentinian food & wine!
**Many thanks to Gaucho Sloane for having us. Though this meal was provided by Gaucho, my views have in no way been influenced by Gaucho or anyone else - all views are my own. 

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2 comments

  1. The Gaucho in Manchester is absolutely amazing as well! Seriously good food! :)

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    Replies
    1. So good!!! Still craving that ceviche! YUM!

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