Sunday, November 18, 2007

Gaucho Grill

Gaucho Grill
Swallow Street,
Bookings: +44 207 734 4040

This is a steakhouse. I just wanted to get that out of the way first and foremost; it’s just a steakhouse, a grill, a chop shop, and yet from the way they treat customers to the way the staff prance about like stuck up prima donnas it is easy to forget this simple fact.

Occupying a site, which used to be a Gentleman’s Club, er apparently, in a little side street off Regent Street in London’s Piccadilly , is this Argentinean gaucho-themed STEAKHOUSE. It is a huge restaurant on three floors, all black furniture, trendy designs, with large black and white cow skins adorning the walls, the seats, the sofas and the carpets. I guess this is not an oyster bar was the comment from one wag amongst us. This place screams “meat”.

We were part of a group of eight and arrived about ten minutes ahead of our booking time and were the first of our party to turn up. The black-clad ninjas behind the reception desk with earpieces and radios eyed us up and down and asked rhetorically if we could be shown to our table. I told her that as we were early we would like to have a drink in the bar first and wait for the others, which judging by her reaction was definitely not the right response. I was tartly informed that the restaurant was very busy tonight, that they had many bookings and furthermore that we would only be allowed 5 minutes before they would take us upstairs.

Unfortunately I am not very well behaved in these circumstances and this sort of wankerism really gets me going. As politely as I could manage, and from behind clenched teeth, I suggested to the young girl that overbooking the restaurant is actually her fault and not mine and that I would not be inconvenienced by an act of greed on her part. If I wanted to have a drink first in the bar I would and it would be at my leisure. I should have stopped there but the two stiff G&T’s beforehand regrettably provided fuel to the fire. ‘And another thing' I said, wagging my finger, ‘it is my very hard earned cash that pays your measly salary’. I can be a real arse sometimes.

Anyway we had our drink at the bar and were left undisturbed until the rest of our party arrived, at which point our glasses were whipped off the table and we were herded upstairs like docile cattle. In fact throughout my evening at the Gaucho Club I couldn’t help but think that the only thing separating the way this restaurant treated their customers and their main dishes was a pulse.

The menu is pretty long with the starter section being split into seafood stuff, empanadas, salads, cerviche and sausages. Oh yes, I nearly forgot, it’s a steakhouse. The mains offered various cuts of beef and of varying sizes. There are some other non-beef dishes but most are grilled dishes in one shape or another.

Our waitress explained the menu, which didn’t need any explaining, but also produced a tray of raw meat. The tray had the different cuts they offered along with the different sizes of the steaks and although at first I thought she was bringing my main course as I like my steak cooked very, very rare this struck me as a good idea. All the meat is Argentinean and the quality of the beef is pretty good.

The ‘signature dishes’ were explained and boy oh boy have I come to loathe that phrase. Seriously, what is a ‘signature dish’? Does it mean that all the others are crap, or does it mean that the restaurant can slap a label on it and charge double? And who decides what the signature dish is anyway. What a load of bollox.

Sorry I digress!

I started with a salmon cerviche which I must say was good though the red onions were a little overpowering for my palate and hadn’t been marinaded long enough. Cerviche is a Latin American dish where raw fish is ‘cooked’ with lime and lemon juice. Cerviche done well is a spectacular dish, incredibly fresh tasting and almost zinging with life, this wasn’t up there but it wasn’t bad.

The portions are a sensible size, I really hate feeling full after the starter and then begin to dread the arrival of the main dish.

I settled for a small 250g rib eye steak cooked bleu with thin French fries and béarnaise sauce. Now readers of my other blog will know that this is pretty much my favourite meal and being in a STEAKHOUSE I thought that I should be in safe hands.

The beef was nice, actually to be fair the beef was very flavoursome and cooked as I wanted it. The fries were not crispy enough and the béarnaise sauce was watery and utterly bland. So in fact after the scores had come in they only managed to get one out of the three components right.

If someone was daft enough to ask me what I thought the most important attributes of a successful restaurant are I would say the food, the service and the ambience. Clearly I know naff all about what makes a good restaurant because the Gaucho Club was packed, with the tables being turned over three times an evening and people queuing at the door. I thought the food was ordinary at best, the service pretentious and rude and all the trendy cow hides, black-clad ninjas with radios and mikes just ludicrous but clearly I am in a minority. I don’t for a minute think that a restaurant such as this will stand the test of time but no doubt in the interim the owners will make a packet, sell on the idea to some other fool and ride off into the sunset to start some other god-awful chain of trendy restaurants and repeat the process all over again.

Jealous? Moi?


Alexander said...

That's a thumbs-down then, mate?

"The only thing separating the way this restaurant’s staff treated their customers and their main dishes was a pulse."

Loved it...

halfmanhalfbeer said...

Alexander, did I really give that impression? Shame.