Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 4040
Address: 25 Swallow Street, W1B 4QR
Cuisine Type: South American
It’s not hard to work out what sort of a meal you are in for when you come into the Gaucho Grill. Once you have come down the staircase and through the small cocktail bar-cum-waiting area (good cocktails, although not much room for loiterers), you will quickly notice that all the seats are upholstered with cow-skin. This is not an obvious place to bring a vegetarian date.
The restaurant is often busy enough that you will need a reservation, although only occasionally so busy that you can’t book on the day.
The menu unfolds to a surprising size, and contains a very long list of South American wines, along with flavour text such as ‘the Gaucho Story’ (about southern hemisphere cowboys). To my shame I couldn’t even always work out which wines were red and which were white – Torrentes is not a grape I had previously met. The waiters do know their stuff, however: I picked the Luigi Bosca Malbec after a short discussion, and was very pleased with it.
The Gaucho Grill combines adventurous dishes such as Oysters BLT (enough to ensure that there is little risk of being bored – £8) with regional staples – which are authentic enough to be heavy on the black beans.
The blue cheese empanadas (£3.50) were good, although one of my guests complained briefly of their similarity to cheese pasties. I could have told him that in advance, if he had asked, but did he? No. You will however be pleased to hear that the pastry was much lighter than a pasty’s, as it should be. The beetroot and goat’s cheese salad was as intense as expected, and the dressing (orange and sherry vinaigrette) was excellent.
The Gaucho Grill places the emphasis on the steak, and your waiter will ask you to choose your cut and size. Needless to say, the steaks were exceptional, and of course the 300g one that I had ordered seemed all too small once I had started.
The service is a little insecure. When we asked our waitress to leave the wine alone, she looked horrified and said that the manager would be upset if he saw us ‘neglected’ to the point of pouring our own wine… there were a couple more examples where the staff seemed to worry over details that were really no cause for concern.
It’s a great place with a buzzing atmosphere, good food and an extremely competent team. The staff deserve to be more confident than they are.
Editor’s note: Since this review was written Gaucho Piccadilly has expanded considerably – see website for details.