Friday, 13 May 2011
Santa Maria del Sur (Ramsay's The F Word 2009 semi-finalists), 129 Queenstown Road, London SW8 3RH (Clapham)
My folks love steak, they really do. So much so that when the husband and I were about to go to New York for a short holiday, we were sent YouTube videos of Peter Luger's steak house in a bid to convince us to try it out. Not that we needed much convincing, as by then, all the stuff I'd heard about the place had deemed it try-worthy. You can read about it here.
In the UK, I've tried to find something similar and despite trying out Gaucho Grill (here - so so), and Hawksmoor (here - poor service and expensive), I've not managed to find anything really which could match up to the Luger steaks.
So, when my folks were in the UK for the wedding (which wedding? Yes, my wedding), we decided to take them to try out the Argentinian steak house featured on Gordon Ramsay's Best Restaurants.
Apparently, at the time the programme was showing, there was a 3 month waiting list for bookings. I guess things have calmed down since then, as the restaurant was near empty when we went in there one sunny Saturday afternoon, for our 2pm booking.
The restaurant has a very summery, relaxed, Southern American feel to it, not that I've been to South America before, but I do Google a lot.
Walking in on that warm afternoon, with the smell of barbeque in the air, I felt like kicking off the sandals and having a snooze by the wooden windows which had been left open to let the breeze in. The vibrant red/orange walls made the place feel all carnival-like, what's not to love about this place?
Bizarrely enough, when we went there at 2pm, there was one table of diners, merrily eating and having a nice time. Then, we came in to add to the noise. By the time we were leaving, the place was almost full again, and that was about 4pm. Is it trendy in Clapham to begin eating at 4pm?
Anyhow, it helped that the place wasn't heaving as that meant the waiting staff had plenty of time to muck about with us. The gorgeous girls were friendly and more than happy to explain everything on the menu to us, while the grinning chefs happily allowed me into their kitchen to snap away at the barbeque.
Inside joke: Oh, and the cab driver was very stylish too.
(Since I've been really lazy about blogging, and am only writing about this a good 2 weeks after having had it, I am having some issues figuring out what we ordered. So, descriptions of what they are may not be the most accurate, but trust me on the taste.)
Bife de chorizo con guarnición £22.00 (14oz grilled prime Argentine Sirloin steak)
The husband ordered this with quantity in mind. Guess he wanted the whole chunk of meat to himself, but I managed to get a few mouthfuls and found it to be quite good too. I'm not a steak connoisseur by any means, and definitely would fail a steak-identification test, but from what I could tell, there was a slight bit more fat on his steak than on the fillet steak, and the grain on the meat was slightly coarser too. Taste-wise, not much difference, not to me anyway.
Bife de lomo £23.00 (10oz grilled Argentine Fillet steak)
This was by far the best item we ordered. On the plate, it doesn't look like much. To be honest, it looks like a big chunk of overcooked meat, but inside, the meat was rare rare rare, just the way I asked for it to be cooked. Each mouthful was soft, juicy and succulent. The grain of the meat was fine to the point of being like silk, and all of us who had a bite declared this the best item on the table. For the price, it's definitely worth ordering this if you're here, and if you like your steak pretty much fat-free.
11oz grilled Argentine Rib-eye steak
Chorizo £3.00 (Argentine-style sausage)
We ordered this as a side dish, and I pretty much ate it all as the others were concentrating on their steaks. Chunky and flavourfully spiced, I had it with some of the grilled vegetables and it went as a nice accompaniment to the steak.
Bife ancho £19.00 (11oz grilled Argentine Rib-eye steak)
OK it doesn't take a genius to figure out that this one has the most fat in it, which made it more flavourful too. I'm thinking we should have asked for it to be charred a little more, but it was alright as it was too. Just a bit of Wikipedia and I get all chef-like. Like I said, I can't really talk too much about steak so hopefully, if you're thinking of trying this place out, you'll let the pictures do the talking.
Finally, the chips which we shared, and with good reason too. The portion was huge, and I really loved the fact that they were thick cut chips, so managed to maintain the crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside thing just perfectly.
We really enjoyed ourselves here, and considering the reasonable prices for really good quality meat, not to mention the very friendly and accommodating service we received, I'd gladly make a return visit to this restaurant.