Gaucho, 25 Swallow Street, W1B

Gaucho makes a dark first impression, literally. On arrival, I made my way from the reception to the ground floor bar to wait for my fellow diners. I had to feel my way along the black leather and cow hide walls to my table in a shadowy corner.

Once in the bar, and safely at my table, my eyes had time to adjust and I was able to take in the impressive surroundings. The aforementioned black leather and cow hide was accompanied by vast chandeliers and candlelit black glass tables. Altogether it was an original and unique atmosphere.

Gaucho exemplifies the best of Argentinean fare, and the wine list certainly plays its part. We started off with a glass of Argentinean fizz, Bianchi from Mendoza, which to my palate, was indistinguishable from its French equivalent.

A towering bouncer-type then appeared from a shady corner, as if from nowhere, and took us up two flights of stairs to the top floor restaurant. The running theme of black décor and cow hide upholstery continues up the stairs and into the dining area which has black tables, skin seats and low level lighting. The (you’ve guessed it) black leather covered menus were presented along with the wine list and a large board of raw cuts of beef that our waiter took us through.

To start we each chose different ceviches: squid, tiger prawns and scallops. All three were light and citrusy. The squid was served with a deliciously fresh guacamole and the scallops came with a coconut dressing. On the recommendation of our waiter, we had this with a bottle of Argentinean Sauvignon Blanc, again from Mendoza which was crisp and aromatic. Our starters were light and refreshing, and we felt ready for the meat-fest that was nearly upon us.

On to the main attraction. The menu has different cuts and weights of steak to choose from – they had the familiar cuts such as sirloin, fillet, rump and rib eye, as well as churrasco cuts, a traditional Argentinean way of serving steak. This is a long, thin cut that is about 1cm thick and marinated in herbs. They also have other options such as a burger, spatchcock chicken and red snapper, but we felt to order this would be somewhat missing the point. The beef is of excellent quality and cooked as requested, or in my case, as our waiter had recommended.

We ordered one sirloin, one rib eye and a churrasco cut of sirloin. The churrasco sirloin was the star of the show. The meat was melt in the mouth and the herbs didn’t mask any of the flavour, but rather seemed to enhance it. To accompany this we had a tomato salad, some chips and humitas, another recommendation of our waiter. Had he not be right each time, our waiter’s constant counsel could have worn a little thin, but this piece of advice was a triumph. Humitas is creamed corn and comes served in the corn husks. It is sweet, flavoursome and the perfect accompaniment to steak. I would go back to Gaucho just for this side dish, it was delicious.

We drank a bottle of Argentinean Malbec which was full bodied and stood up to beef perfectly.

After a feast of this size, you just can’t stop. For pudding we shared a dulce de leche cheesecake and a pavlova with red berries and orange caramel. We got in there first, but our friendly waiter gave us his blessing on ordering the cheesecake. Again, he hit the nail on the head.

Now my turn to do some recommending: definitely go to Gaucho, order humitas with whatever you have, trust the advice of your waiter and eat plenty of carrots the week before so you are able to see once you get there.