Situated underground, just a stone’s throw from the station, lies South Kensington’s best kept culinary secret. Those with a proclivity for excellent steak can often be observed venturing down the narrow steps into the basement area. Those curious enough to discover its visceral delights will follow. And those who are vegetarians, well… look away now.
This is not your standard clinical bistro seen on the main streets of pseudo-upscale areas. Instead, El Gaucho is an intimate restaurant that radiates warmth and character – from the friendly attentiveness of the service, to the cosy décor. But I was here for their steak. I’m not referring to the sort offered by the typical Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse chain littered around most tourist hotspots. Nor am I alluding to the wholly unsatisfying, thin-cut variety served slathered avec une sauce-we-cannot-pronounce. I’m talking about the no-nonsense, unadulterated steak - and the Argentines are the experts.
So, does the product live up to its reputation? Absolutely.
El Gaucho’s selling point is flavour backed by authenticity
El Gaucho’s selling point is flavour backed by authenticity. On tasting a selection of their most popular cuts, neither was compromised. Rib-eye, Sirloin, Rump and Fillet are all on the menu, and the staff are more than happy to explain the differences between them with regard to flavour, fat and texture to those of us who are not yet aficionados on such epicurean subtleties.
Bife Angosto A Caballo (£16.90), twelve ounces of prime Argentine sirloin, arrives on a sizzling hot-plate, served the authentic way – topped with two fried eggs. Without even cutting into it, you know this steak is going to be plump and juicy. Smoky, charred and slightly caramelised all around, with a good amount of give when the all-important fingertip test was carried out. The taste did not disappoint – perfectly seasoned on the outside, allowing the natural flavour of the succulent pink meat to follow through. This is a steak that speaks for itself. No need for sauces, no elaborate garnishes, just a cut of Argentina’s finest export, served in the traditional manner.
The waitress, Anna-Maria, tells me their meat is imported weekly from Argentina, from cows reared on open ranges, fed on rich green pastures. In short, bovine mecca. As we emerged discreetly from the basement of this hidden establishment, satiated from our meaty fix, we smugly yet seamlessly blended back into the throng of the crowd. Happy cows. Tasty meat. Happy customers. Simple – the best pleasures in life usually are.