Beefed-up safety at classy Gaucho
Having already survived one crisis, the Argentinian steak restaurant that’s full of character looks in good shape to beat the coronavirus
01 October, 2020 — By Tom Moggach
Gaucho offers professionalism: fast service, consistency and an experience that feels safe
THIS virus is not the first storm to hit Gaucho, the glitzy group of Argentinian steak restaurants.
This long-running business, which operates a dozen restaurants across the capital, nearly went bust a few years ago before an investor bailout.
Its success is built on slabs of prime beef – from the spiral cut fillet to marbled rib-eye – although there’s been a recent shift of public interest towards plant-based cooking and vegan dining.
But Gaucho survives and, on the evidence of our night, looks to be in good shape – although the recent 10pm curfew is a terrible blow for the restaurant trade, who must now take last orders around 8.30pm.
The Hampstead branch is high up on Heath Street, a few steps away from the excellent L’Antica Pizzeria and Japanese restaurant Jin Kichi. At this lofty altitude, everyday life feels less impacted by Covid-19. The streets were busy; the restaurant lively.
At Gaucho, first impressions are of a zealous approach to customer safety: there’s a foot pump hand sanitiser; tables are spaced at two-metres-plus; the staff are well-drilled and wear their masks properly.
If you’ve never eaten at a Gaucho, each branch has its own look and feel. But there are a few trademark touches, such as the black and white cowhide chairs.
This branch is black, opulent and classy – in a slightly retro way – with shiny black walls, acres of mirrors and the occasional sparkly chandelier.
Out back, you’ll find a courtyard terrace and traditional fire pit, which looks like a good spot to snuggle up with a blanket and glass of Malbec after a walk on Hampstead Heath.
The menu throws a few sops to vegetarians, such as a beetroot tartare or wild mushroom tagliatelle. But meat is the star.
We’re told that their Black Angus cattle graze on 17 types of grass in the lush Pampas provinces of Argentina.
Starters included a terrific tiradito, a raw fish dish from Peru. Strips of yellowfin, dusted at one end with toasted sesame seeds and nori seaweed flakes, arrive with a tangy barbecue dressing of smoked chipotle chillies freshened up with a hit of lime.
We shared medium rare steaks with pots of firecracker chimichurri and blue cheese hollandaise. As a side, a moreish dish called humita: a mix of sweetcorn, melted mozzarella and chives cooked in the sweetcorn husk.
Malbec, of course, is the wine of choice – with some vintages made in their own vineyards.
Needless to say, Gaucho is not a budget option for eating out. The steaks start at £18 before extras. You could splash plenty of cash if you’re in the mood. At this branch, they also do a never-ending Sunday roast priced at £29.50.
What Gaucho offers is professionalism: fast service, consistency and an experience that feels extremely safe. It’s a chain, for sure, but one with class and character. And, for many of us, a good steak dinner never goes out of style.
64 Heath St, NW3
020 7431 8222