"It's not much but it's ours"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


So while HS was putting on the ritz at Theo@The Intercontinental, I was undergoing cruel and very unusual punishment courtesy of someone called a PT (although last time I endured this much abuse she was called Vicious Vicky).

Fancy being poked in the belly ?

PT: We’re going to have to lose that
Me: What all of it ?

Ever done anything unnatural with a Swiss Ball ?

PT: Go down just like you’re having sex
Me: I can’t remember that far back

Eventually my hour was up and I hobbled home to find a ½ bottle of something white and not much else in the fridge. Sod it. Time for A Steak.

I had thought of going to the estimable Hawksmoor purveyor of the finest steaks in London but I knew HS would want me to try something new so I strolled the five minutes down to the Gaucho Grill in Broadgate Circle.

I haven’t been to a Gaucho Grill for about ten years. No, I tell a lie, I was there last Christmas but after having consumed several bottles of wine and nibbles with a good friend of mine, then scoring a table in the restaurant, then ordering vast amounts of red meat and even more wine and obviously a little post dinner supplement the memory remains somewhat hazy. So this was like a first visit really.

I arrived a bit early and because chain places (or especially this one) are all about efficiency I was placed in the holding pen (=bar) on the ground floor. Ah, yes it’s all coming back to me now – no bar stools, few places to sit, limited selection of liqueurs spread out to give appearance of a vast selection etc. So I leaned on the bar as casually as I could and did what comes naturally: ordered a DM. Not cold enough and sloppily made but before I could complain I was ushered into a circular lift by an attractive FOH. In fact the majority of staff seemed to be blonde, female and attractive. I warmed to the place immediately.

I endured an uneasy twenty seconds with my lift co-habitees and was met by the manager who was unfazed by the only solo diner in a 120 cover dining room and who gave me a very good seat.

The place was packed. Mostly City boys sans ties, kicking back, enjoying steak and wine (although weirdly there were people still wearing full suit and tie combos). Given the apparent chaos I expected the worst from the service, but no, it was spot on. Almost preternaturally so.

Instead of jumping straight in I relaxed further with a Pisco Sour which was a vast improvement on the DM. There was some ok bread, butter and a very oily chimichurri.

Suitably loosened up I went for some lambs’ sweetbreads and empanadas to start and the Gaucho sampler and chips for a main course. To test a chain’s ability to cope with off-menu requests I also asked for some morcilla.

First problem, I couldn’t see anything. I mean low level lighting is very popular in NYC especially for date places but it just seemed too low for a GG in the City. So going by taste, the sweetbread dish suffered from the offal being lukewarm and not sufficiently caramelised. The artichokes and peppers were out of a jar (or at least they tasted like it) but not a good brand. The empanadas were pretty good though too expensive for fancy named mini-pasties.

Obviously GG is all about the beef so it seemed right and proper to go for their sampler which gives you 600g of the following: Cuadril (rump), Chorizo (Sirloin), Lomo (filet) and Ancho (rib-eye). To my shame I forgot which cuts were which but in terms of taste the ones to the far left and far right of the photo were the best tasting (you’re welcome , I’m glad I could be of help).

Annoyingly they didn’t have steak knives. When I asked, they trotted out some sort of corporate mantra along the lines of “if you need a steak knife for our steaks then we haven’t cooked them properly” or some such twaddle). As it turned out there was some nice fat on one of the samples but I couldn’t really enjoy it because the knives weren’t up to the job. I suspect this was some sort of commercial decision.

They came up trumps with the morcilla, which I recognised as the stuff from Brindisa. It was well cooked apart from the dried out onions underneath. Chips were good but more thickly cut than advertised.

DH hate chain restaurants with a vengeance (Green and Red et al being an exception) because first and foremost they are run by soulless bean counters with an over-familiarity of Excel and who are forever scanning the bottom line. I first experienced this with Livebait which went from being an excellent fish restaurant to a place where you started noticing the decreasing number of scallops in a dish (and believe me when you go from three to two you notice). That said, for a big chain, GG does manage to keep a fair standard although if given the choice I would always prefer to go to somewhere smaller and more individual like Santa Maria del Buen Ayre. Mind you last time DH were there they were talking of expanding. Plus ça change.
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