CONSTANCIA: HIDING UNDER A BUSHEL
Along with the recent proliferation of Steakhouses in London there is small but noticeable boom in the number of the Argentinian equivalent, Parillas. You have eleven (count em’) Gauchos in London alone. Eleven too many in my opinion. There are a number of smaller places like old DH favourite Santa Maria del Buen Ayre and relative newcomer North London Garufa which left us disppaointed by its ‘politeness’
The new kid on the block is Constancia, which by virtue of being South of the river and hence completely off our radar has been quietly getting on with it business in a rather non-descript part of Tower Bridge Road for the past two months. If you weren’t looking for it you’d easily miss it. No so the locals who were piling in on a sultry mid-week evening.
Started by two brothers, Constanscia, despite having one or two trappings of a chain - branded t-shirts for the staff – is in fact an independent operation that, importantly, smells and delivers like a bon-fide meat, er, joint. It has a relaxed feel but the food is the real deal: unapologetic and full-on.
Old BA hand HS nodded his approval at our starter of Beef Empanadas. Beautifully crisp, hot pastry encased minced Beef mixed with chopped Egg and Olives. There was probably some Paprika or similar going on in the mix giving a little heat. Not cheap at £2.80 a piece but well worth it.
A meal in a Parilla like one in say, an Asador follows a similar pattern: a few bits to nibble on and to distract you while the main event is prepared. Despite HS having consumed the best part of a K of Cowboy Ribeye for lunch at Goodman’s he gamely plumped for the biggest dish on the menu, the mighty Parillada Constancia.
Having a Steak cooked rare on a grill usually means that it doesn’t develop much of a crust, as was the case here. At Garufa this was a bit of a problem as it was served on a hot plate powered by tea lights. At Constancia they had a small brazier with ash-white coals. It was so hot I had to have a beer. By flipping the Steaks a couple of times and moving them around the required char was achieved.
As with most Argentinian places the Beef is imported and vac-packed. Traditionally the meat isn’t aged that much. I suppose this is because so much is eaten and the taste over there is for fresher tasting beef. I liked my aged JOS Steaks as much as the next person but I do like this younger stuff - there’s still the beefiness of a good steak. The complexity isn’t there but sometimes that’s an advantage: I’m don’t want to drink ’82 Clarets every day of the week. Once or twice a week is enough.
Morcilla was from Southern Spain. It didn’t have the rice of the stuff from Burgos, it wasn’t as runny as the Leon variety, nor did it have the spices of the pudding from Ronda. It was bloody good though (see what I did there). Even better were the homemade sausages which were dense and well-filled with a coarse pork mixture.
Serving the Provolone cheese in a separate dish was a good idea as usually it goes all over the grill and is a bugger to divvy up. Chips with Garlic and Parsley were great.
Given how echt the whole meal was HS wondered why there wasn’t intestine on the menu. When asked, one of the brothers shrugged his shoulders, “it’s difficult”. Which probably means some numpty in the Food Standards Agency thinks someone may strangle themselves on entrails. Bring it on, say I.
Probably unnecessary, but you know we’re going always going to order it anyway, two bowls of homemade Helados were good although I think my Vanilla and Dulce de Leche edged it.
With a Coffee and Grappa (both necessary to keep body and soul together) the final bill of £115 including service seemed pretty high. However, unless you went mad on the wine this is probably as much as you’re going to spend here and it is possible to get away for a less.
Given the great food, service and atmosphere and the fact there are places which charge a lot more for a lot less I think they’re onto a winner here with Constancia. File under top Argentinian in Bermondsey. Oh and good work, HS.