Gaucho’s white leather and cowhide furnishings, high arched ceilings and dramatic light fixtures certainly set the tone for indulgence, broaching an aesthetic that ultimately veers more casual fine dining, lending Gaucho an atmosphere that does not quite fit the literal bill. Divided into disparate sections – the dining area, a bar, and a room for events – there are enough tables that the restaurant could feel buzzy if a crowd came through, but not so many that you might overhear the neighbouring group’s discussion. However, the London-born Argentine concept restaurant has several immediate positives that allow it to stand apart from (and above) it’s Latino counterparts – it is tango-free, focuses on authentic dishes from various regions of the country, and ensures high quality main ingredients, indicated by Gaucho’s dedicated farms and livestock in Argentina, as well as its mission to locally source produce from across the Middle East. But what Gaucho is not, is a steak house.
Head Chef Juan Pablo Rey Nores tells us that he changes the menu once or twice a year to keep it fresh, deviating slightly from the London offerings in order to cater to the local tastes, which veer towards seafood, fitting well into Argentina’s penchant for raw fish. But Gaucho’s shining star, and what justifies its heft, is its meat. Our server Raymond came to the table with a platter of the meats we would consume from their newly launched Taste of Argentina menu. Paired with a series of Malbecs – what Gaucho lovingly describes as Argentina’s crown, and rightly so with its black fruit, raspberry and cherry notes – the menu is a well-rounded journey through an honest cuisine.
Much more than simply beef, an array of dishes arrive including salmon tiradito with mango, passion fruit, pomegranate and ají Amarillo, which is a surprisingly fresh, spicy and tropical start to the meal, followed by the braised beef back ribs. The treatment of the meat – so tender it almost melts, while still maintaining a textural crunch on the outside – is glazed with a hoisin and chili orange sauce with sesame seeds, garnished with fresh orange and pickled jalapeños. If you come for just three dishes, this must be one of them – many of the surrounding tables heeded restaurant recommendation and opted for this dish, which as the first foray into beef, was a promising start.
The climax of the meal was the trio of medallions served atop a wood board, Gaucho’s selection of their best and most popular meats, including Lomo, Ancho and Lomito Cuadril (300g) which were prepared in various methods at medium temperature. You will be politely asked how you would like your meat cooked, but leave it to the chef’s – medium at most – as our server Raymond laughed that he will “go to KFC if I want my meat overcooked.” They know their meat, but they aren’t pretentious about it, and will happily explain a subject they are clearly knowledgeable on. Five sauces are then provided – including mushroom, chimuchurri and garlic – but the taste and quality of the meat far outshines any ultimately unnecessary accouterments.
Noting that all the beef is Argentine-certified Angus, grass-fed, wet-age and slaughtered between 22-26 months, it is pesticide- and hormone-free. The complex herb marinade of the traditional churrasco-style cut is the second dish worth ordering solo – it is easily one of (if not) the best in the city. It will have you ignoring the accompaniments on the table including large cut truffle fries, asparagus, and most interestingly, the Salta Humita empanadas, sweet due to a filling of creamed corn, basil and chunks of mozzarella – it was largely agreed by the table to be an acquired taste, and a somewhat disparate element to the otherwise savoury, slightly rustic main course.
Dessert was a Dulce de Leche cheesecake, unsurprising in its taste and presentation but delightful nonetheless, a continued testament to the beauty of simple dishes done well. However, before that, following the chef’s chat about the different empanadas of his homeland, we couldn’t help but ask for one special, non-set-menu order of the homemade beef empanadas with red pepper, Spanish onion, and ají molido. Empanadas are the third staple – a comforting mouthful that drives the authentic, and casual, feeling home. It is, afterall, an Argentinian restaurant.
Gaucho also hosts Friday brunches, beef master classes with Chef Juan Pablo explaining the cuts and preparation, Meat me Monday’s, a brand new menu concept focusing on meat and grape, Argentine twists on the British Saturday and Sunday roast concept, and come October, will launch a new lounge concept on their terrace described as “St Tropez meets New York rooftop meets Dubai” with DJs, live music, bottle service and a special summer bar menu.