Let’s get one thing straight – El Gaucho’s Argentine roots begin and end with this concept chain restaurant’s name, and where it sources its steak. So don’t come here with cravings for an Argentine open grill Parrilla experience like I did. But if it’s mouth-watering steak you’re craving, here you’ll be sure to quench it.
El Gaucho could be compared to an Austrian who has mastered the tango. But this dance is done on the grill. In the kitchen, the boisterous bunch of cooks practice in the art of Argentine-style grilling – marinade only with salt, turn meat only once – with all of them trained by the restaurants head Grillmeister, Christoph Widakovich.
“I’ll go get the Fleischbox,” says Peter, the baby-faced manager, after I ask which steak he’d recommend.
While the name, Fleischbox, conjures up images of a wrestling cage in which two burly, moustached men go at it, Peter turns up with literally a plastic see-through box filled with different cuts of steak. He describes each of them in detail. I ask him his favourite and I agree to it as I just want to see the meat cooked and on my plate – the sight of raw meat gives me the creeps.
Peter comes from a family mad on meat who’ve opened El Gaucho restaurants all over Austria, and one in Germany.
“My uncle began with the concept a while ago and passed it on to his children. Now that he’s ran out of children to pass it on to, his moved onto his nephew and nieces.”
The concept is simple, neat, cleanly branded. It’s like an Argentine had sex with an Austrian, which resulted in a baby that grew up to be a hipster and called itself El Gaucho.
Under Gaucho Beef in the menu (All of their steak out of Argentina) you’ll find all the popular cuts in the Argentine barbecue, including the sacred, piece de résistance, churrasco cut (a tender boneless piece of meat, sliced thinly). Accompanying this list is a selection of the Rump, the Porterhouse, the T-Bone and Rib-eye of a Dry Aged Austrian cow.
If you like your slab of juicy, grilled, animal with something on top, you can ‘pimp your steak’ with toppings, such as garlic prawns or soft shell crab. I, however, order mine plain and medium. And this is how it arrives, centered on a white plate. Steak cut fries on the side.
I now ask vegetarians to look away – the steak leaks diluted red blood as a medium-cooked steak should, and the knife does little work to slice through it. The caramelised salt marinade balances the tender flesh within. Poetry aside – you won’t mind moping up the blood on your plate with the chips afterwards.
I would highly recommend topping your steak with the house-made spicy and tangy chimichurri sauce as I did. It sends me back to my days in Argentina.
The atmosphere here is a comfortable blend of laid-back and chic, with suede seats, moody lighting, shiny wine glasses hanging around the bar. Just the fact that it’s tucked away within the Design tower gives it a – you-should-wear-a-suit-and-deodorant – kind of feel – a 500 € bottle of Dom Perignon is on the menu. But wearing sneakers with that suit would not be taboo.
The wine list is impressive and ranges from Australia, to Argentina, to local Austrian wine. Most can only be purchased by the bottle, yet there are several quality drops available by the glass. Be sure to try the bully Argentine Malbec, and don’t be concerned if it leads to hair growing on your chest.
The service is stellar, swift and I watched them deal with diner’s complaints, whims and wishes with genuine concern.
I don’t know what the Argentine’s put in their grass to make their steaks so good, but I do know that El Gaucho knows how to grill them.