CASA MALEVO: CRIMINAL
Connaught Village? Who knew eh? Not me and I know everything.
Take an otherwise ordinary street, chuck in a few posho shops and you’ve got yourself a Village. Believe me, Village is the new City. Marylebone Village, Pimlico Village, I wouldn’t be surprised if pretty soon there was one round DH way (when planning permission for a tall building in our nabe was recently blocked the reason given was it would spoil the unique village atmosphere of the Old Street roundabout area – yes, really).
Along with all these villages there seems to be an equally rapid rise in the number of Argentinian restaurants although I’m pretty certain there’s no causal link. The majority of these are parrillas and it’s not surprising to find that most of the staff have worked at one time or another at Santa Maria Del Buen Ayre, which used to be a big favourite of Dos Hermanos back in the day.
Casa Malevo, a new gaff in the aforementioned Connaught Village has just such a CV. So what’s different about this new gaff which promises to showcase “the very best that Argentine cuisine has to offer” ?
Well, not much really. The old favourites are present and correct: Empanadas, Provoleta, Morcilla, Mollejas and a small range of Steaks; a modest parillada and a wine list of big, headache-inducing Argentinian Reds with equally big (300% plus) mark-ups. Dulce de Leche for pud. The black and white photos of the old country adorning the walls. All quite unassuming really, which just about sums up the cooking.
One of the joys of the parrilla is just the pure visceral pleasure of them, primarily the smell of thick steaks and other meaty delights slowly cooking on the open grill. At Casa Malevo the pleasure seems to have been sucked right out.
Starters were a mixed bag. Some marinated Ox Tongue was let down by tasteless, chewy meat. Of the trio of Empanadas the Beef one was nice: flaky pastry and some decent filling. The Veggie and Chicken ones were eaten without comment. Morcilla and Chorizo were fine. One thing I did discover is that Argentinians love their Rocket – it was used with a generosity bordering on profligacy.
The best of the starters were the Sweetbreads which, once I had cleared all the greenery, had been cooked so they had a bit of char on the outside and were soft and melting on the inside.
The Steaks should really have been the highlight here. My Rib Eye had more flavour than the Sirloin and they were all properly cooked but it was all a bit polite: so much so you could probably serve them to a rabid Vegetarian without any comeback.
I was told by the restaurant that the chips were triple cooked but they were so poorly done I would have been happier with double cooked. They were dry, almost desiccated. I suspect they were cut too thin but in any case the kitchen may want to pay a visit to say Goodman or Hawksmoor to see how chips should be made.
To accompany my meat I ordered Criolla sauce. You may know it as a simple mixture of onion, tomatoes, peppers etc. Everything you know is wrong - it’s actually a very rare commodity, not far behind Truffles in the price stakes.
Please examine Photo 11 and you may notice an odd blemish in the middle of my Steak. Yes, dear reader, that is my Salsa Criolla. I can only feel sorry for the poor sods who order Pepper corn (sic). Unsurprisingly, after this experience, my appetite for flan was very dulled.
So aside from this exhibition of breathtaking cynicism what’s left? Well you have a tidy-looking restaurant serving unoriginal and unexciting food that is probably just good enough to keep the nobs from Connaught Village happy. But as a dispiriting, soulless experience it was up there with the Sky 3D Football I saw in the pub we visited afterwards.