Buenos Aires Argentine Steakhouse
Anne Flaherty's meal at the new restaurant was a real treat
The news that an Argentine steakhouse was to open in Chiswick caused a flurry of excitement in my household.
This is because my husband had recently travelled recently Argentina and came back saying the food was terrific. As a dedicated carnivore he has been saying for ages that this type of restaurant is just what Chiswick needs.
Argentina has the world's second highest consumption rate of beef, at an annual 55 kg per head and is the third largest beef exporter in the world. They claim that their Pampas grass-fed cattle have a superior taste and texture and I was eager to see if the South American country lived up to its reputation.
We visited on a warm spring Tuesday evening, and found the restaurant easy to locate by its ornate entrance with two steel-enclosed flames burning on the pavement. The restaurant is just off Turnham Green Terrace, on the site of a former night-club. As we stepped inside, we noted that even though it had open for only a week, most tables were occupied.
The Chiswick restaurant is part of a chain. Buenos Aires Restaurant was opened in Purley in July 2007 by Cristian and Linda Barrionuevo and there are now several outlets across London and the UK.
The interior is all wooden floor, beams, and exposed brick walls lined with wine bottles and there are saddles, stirrups and gaucho cloaks strategically placed along the walls. The bar is located on the left-hand side as you enter, and I spotted an upstairs gallery with bar that would be ideal for large groups. The music was playing discreetly and the clientele consisted of several tables of family groups, as well as other tables occupied by couples, and a small number of single diners.
We were seated at a wooden table along the wall with a good view of the partly open kitchen with its busy grill. Argentina is famous for its love of asados (barbecues) and the meat, often marinated or lightly seasoned, is usually served medium or rare.
Menus were quickly on the way, and before I had time to think of what I wanted to drink, a strawberry mojito cocktail had appeared at my side. This was deliciously refreshing and was accompanied by some sparkling water and a dish of marinated Spanish olives.
Looking closely at the menu I could see that it is Carnivore Heaven. Grass fed cattle usually have less marbling, and grow more slowly, meaning the beef that you eat is older. I had been told that the rib eye and fillet steaks practically dissolve in your mouth, and have a delicious buttery flavour.
We started with a selection of Tapas. Gambas in Garlic Sauce (£6.95), Chistorra (Spanish grilled sausage flavoured with garlic and paprika), and Pinchos de Carne (mini beef skewers). The Tapas range from £2.95 for olives to £6.95 for the prawns.
The starters were excellent, plump, juicy, fresh prawns, exquisitely marinated beef, and robustly flavoured sausage. The chimichurri sauce ( garlic, lemon and chili with parsley) gave the food a zinging freshness. Chimmichurri sauce is used as a marinade or a dipping sauce or for seasoning and though each chef will vary it slightly, its central ingredients are parsley, garlic and oil.
The waiter recommended the Rib-eye steak although I was wavering between that and the Sirloin. We finally decided to chose one of each, a large Sirloin for him, and a medium Rib-eye for me. The steaks come served with either a salad or a potato of your choice, mash, chips, or french fries- that's a choice of either fat or thin chips. We ordered the steaks medium and settled back to finish nibbling the starters. The service was quite brisk and the steaks arrived within a short time.
They were served on plain white plates with a sprinkling of pink Malbec salt on the side and a salad garnish. A glass of delicious Malbec was a perfect accompaniment, and there was also a side order of spinach and mashed potato. The side salad was a little disappointing.
There then followed a period of quiet contemplation as we tucked in . Both steaks were beautifully aged and tender, seasoned perfectly and cooked exactly as ordered. Fortunately as he had ordered a large Sirloin I was able to sample both.
Each steak is cut to order in three sizes and cooked Argentinian style on the grill and the sizes are 8oz, 10 oz, or 12 oz. You can choose either a Prime Rump, a Bife Ancho (Rib eye), Bife De Chorizo (Sirloin) or a Lomo (Fillet). The prices range from £14.25 to £31.50.
The most expensive steak is the Churrasc De Lomo (fillet) at 12 oz (340gs) at £34.95 and that is marinated in garlic, parsley and olive oil. There is a Steak Sampler for £46.95 and that includes 6oz of each of the four special cuts.
Should you feel the need for a sauce, a peppercorn, mushroom or blue cheese sauce are on the menu. They are really not necessary as the steak is the star of the show.
While the menu does contain some vegetarian dishes, this is not a place to visit if you cannot abide the thought or the smell of red meat. If you were dining with vegetarian friends it would be possible to put together some tapas, empanadas (pastries) and a couple of starters together. The main vegetarian course was Tortelloni with Spinach served with mushroom sauce. If I had a suggestion, it would be to include a fish dish as a Main course.
The menu also contains several Argentinian specialities. These include starters of Empanadas, a traditional savoury pastry filled with either beef, ham and cheese or humita (creamed corn). There is also an Aubergine Escalope with Goats Cheese which would be a good vegetarian option. There are crispy sweetbread croquettes ( Mollejitas Crocantes) and Morcilla, a black pudding. You can have a platter of sausage with malamado and mint as a starter if you like.
Other choices of main courses include a Buenos Aires burger, a Chargrilled Half Chicken and a traditional Argentinian speciality of Bife A Caballo, a 10 oz sirloin with two fried eggs on top which sounds like proper Gaucho food.
Salads on the main menu include chicken with avocado, or a Gaucho Steak salad which I think would make a good lunch option.
The wine list is extensive, given Argentina's prime position as a wine producer. The country has three distinct regional variations for its wine; the high altitude of the north, the desert land of Cugo, and Patagonia. A glass of Malbec Shiraz is a reasonable £4.95 while a glass of Malbec Mendoza (2010) is £9.95. Bottles range from £17.95 to £36 with rare and fine wines priced up to and over £60.
Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also available with bottles starting at £17.95. Cocktails and the Argentinian Quilmes beer are also available.
For dessert, we tried out some Dulce de Leche ice cream. This sticky sweet caramelised sauce made with milk and sugar is a staple in Argentinian cupboards and the perfect finish to a very rich and delicious meal.
A three course meal, including a bottle of house wine and sparkling water, plus service charge would cost in the region of £100.
I'm told that Buenos Aires will also be introducing special offers- other branches offer two-course lunches of £14.50 for rump steak and chips with a glass of house wine. Sunday lunch offers are also available at other branches, and there is a children's menu.
For authentic ambiance, friendly service and quality meat, we found Buenos Aires to be Argentinian dining at its best. It was, as my husband said, a real treat.
Chiswick W4 1QP
May 11, 2013