If, during a walk on Blackheath, you find your mind wandering to South America’s pampa plains, leading you to wonder: “is there anywhere I can go for a decent steak locally?” the answer might be staring you in the face, writes Holly O’Mahony…
Ok, so you’re probably not thinking any of the above, but what we’re trying to say is, Buenos Aires Café – a small joint overlooking the heath – serves steak virtually unrivalled in these parts, and chips, too, for that matter.
Step inside the restaurant (which really does look straight out onto the heath) and you’ll find yourself submerged in a cosy, bistro-esque room decked out with traditional Argentinian wooden interiors, while pictures – including some of famous faces – adorn the walls and a soundtrack of gentle jazz does a fine job of settling guests into their visit. Walking in at street level, you’re actually in the upstairs of the restaurant – which seats 25. Below, there’s nearly room to serve the same amount again – ideal for those looking to book for a larger group.
Before tucking into the main event, we were wooed by the selection of apéritifs. After contemplating the Fernet Branca – supposedly Argentina’s favourite bitter (best when served with Coke) – I went with our waiter’s recommendation of the Prosecco with Limoncello, sold on the menu as ‘a nice alternative to a Bellini’. It came in a shallow, wide-rimmed glass and was sweet, refreshing and tangy – like a cloudy lemonade with a punchy, naughty-for-a-Sunday kick. With a busy afternoon of plans ahead, we didn’t get stuck into the extensive wine list, boasting a lengthy selection of Argentinian wines as well as bottles from elsewhere. Our loss, no doubt.
Now let’s talk steak. All beef served here is Argentinian, we’re proudly told. Preferring a lean cut I went for the Bife de Chorizo, a 200g sirloin steak. This came perfectly cooked (for my bang-on medium preference) and was juicy, lightly charred and scrumptious. Embracing the full experience, I opted to season it with an Argentinian chimichurri dressing – oregano, parsley, garlic, oil, vinegar and paprika. It was light, zingy, but could have benefited from having a little more bite. I also opted for a side of papas fritas a la provenzal: Argentinian-style chips, which tasted as fresh as food that has been deep-fried can, and came with the remains of potato skin clinging to each end, driving home their homemade status. A sprinkling of parsley and crushed garlic flavoured these fries further, meanwhile the chimi-mayo (homemade mayonnaise mixed with the before-mentioned chimichurri) I ordered as a dipping sauce was a tasty balance of sharp and creamy.
My companion spoke highly of her ‘sandwiche de churrasco con jamón’ – a rump steak sandwich topped with parma ham and served in a French ciabatta roll with salad garnish, homemade chimi-mayo and hand-cut chips. There’s also a section of the menu dedicated to pizzas and pastas, but why would you come looking for either here? (Unless, of course, you’re meat or at least beef-averse.)
If your main course leaves you feeling too stuffed for dessert, I wouldn’t worry; judging by the chocolate fudge cake I had, you’re not missing anything special. The cake – a large portion, slightly stale from being heated – came jazzed-up with mint, blueberries, strawberries and caramel ice cream (other flavours available included mocha, mango and vanilla), but all was very middle-of-the-road. My companion opted for the Alfajores Havanna cookie, a sweet treat with potential to make Argentinian diners think nostalgically of their home country. But to those of us unfamiliar with the brand, the cookie looked and tasted like a posh Wagon Wheel, with a soft biscuit and cream interior coated in chocolate. While puddings here are arguably missable, if you’re looking for a local restaurant serving a proper plate of steak and chips, Buenos Aires Café is your answer.
Buenos Aires Café – Blackheath
17 Royal Parade
Phone: 0208 318 5333