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Louise Elgin stakes out the latest Gaucho Grill in Chancery Lane WC2

These days there's such a variety of meat and fish that it's not often I go out to dinner with the express intention of ordering steak, but when in Rome... On this occasion the prospect of eating anything else would have seemed rather inappropriate as The Gaucho Grill serves steaks from world-renowned Argentine beef. What made things rather ironic was it was totally off the menu due to a self imposed export ban by the country.

Undaunted, we settled back at our very comfortable and spacious table, with glass of wine in one hand and tempting menu in the other. We were at the latest in the Gaucho chain, deep in the heart of the city, which is not my usual stomping ground. The restaurant was dark and atmospheric, with brown leather seats and plenty of space between the tables. At the long bar the stools looked like overgrown bongo drums with their funky cow-skin hide. Jazzy music with a hint of South American style was playing at a volume that gave the place atmosphere without drowning out conversation.

There were plenty of interesting starters, some written in Spanish, so I hadn't a clue what they were which added to the fun! I thought I'd try something completely new to me and ordered Empanadas, which actually turned out to be not quite as exotic as their name suggested. Similar in look to a samosa, I was given three deep fried pastry parcels with different vegetarian fillings, including cheese and spinach. This came served with a mango, apple and avocado salsa, bound with a little mayonnaise. It was good, without setting the world alight; my fault for reckless ordering!

My guest, who has an annoying knack of choosing the best things on the menu, tucked into his chargrilled mussels with relish. They were served with half a lime to squeeze over them and were fresh, herbed and excellent.

For the main course we both were in agreement, we had to have steak, although for the non beef eater there is plenty of other choice including spatchcocked chimichurri chicken, rack of lamb, grilled lobster tail and, for vegetarians, (although I can't imagine what they'd be doing in a place like this!) there was penne with roasted vegetables and a risotto.

As I mentioned, the Argentine beef was off so we were offered Brazilian. The choice was between rump, sirloin and rib eye, served in 225g or 300g sizes, (although the menu stated it was possible to order a larger size yet again!) I ordered a sirloin and my guest ordered a rib-eye. There were three sauces to choose between to accompany our meat; garlic, lemon and lime chimichurri, tomato chimichurri with goats cheese or saffron vermouth with four pepper butter. I plumped for the tomato and goats cheese-based sauce, whilst my guest plumped for the saffron vermouth style.

The steaks were everything they had been cracked up to be, mouth-wateringly delicious, tender and flavoursome, whilst our respective sauces were well prepared and fragrant.

There were a fantastic number of side orders to choose between so we greedily ordered several, including roasted garlic, which blended so well with each mouthful, grilled mushrooms, grilled vegetable skewers, hand cut chips and baked potato with soured cream. The chips were excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed my baked potato with soured cream.

To drink, I selected a Navarro Correas Syrah Reserva '99, which slipped down perfectly; its warm peppery overtones with a dash of bite complemented the smoothness of the meat perfectly. We felt very at home on what was a nasty windy December evening, the staff were attentive without being overbearing and the timing was well spaced between the courses.

Even though I was pretty full I couldn't resist a pudding and there were several tempting choices to choose from, including rice pudding, crème caramel or tres leche which turned out to be sponge cake with condensed milk, skimmed milk and double cream that came served with a banana liqueur, in other words, a dietician's nightmare. My guest chose Don Pedro, which was vanilla ice cream served with Bailey's or whisky and came with a straw, this of course was delicious, (how could it not be)! I had a variation on the above, but my ice cream came served in a cold pancake, not so good, but that was my only disappointment on this otherwise very enjoyable evening.

Louise Elgin December 2001

The Gaucho Grill
125-126 Chancery Lane London WC2 1PP
Tel 020 7242-7727

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Dine Online Copyright Clifton Media Associates December 2001, All rights reserved.
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