You may have noticed that South America is enjoying a foodie makeover at the moment. Every week in London and beyond, new Peruvian, Paraguayan, Argentinean restaurants are popping up in a resurgence of culinary interest in this lesser-known tasty continent. Couple that with the meat revolution that has taken hold of the capital recently and you can see why chef Diego Lacquet could be onto a winner with his new Argentinean cocina.
This slick restaurant is behind Bond Street tube on the way up to Marylebone. The entrance is cloaked in a thick black curtain, beyond which stylish black and white tiles dot the floor and a long bar hosts clientele for food and drinks. We are led downstairs to the kitchen seating; front row seats at the Parilla. The chefs busy around the kitchen, tending the grill, building the plates; all with expert timing and professionalism. The wine list is chalked on a board and not surprisingly, features an extensive range of Malbec – both by the glass or carafe. But, we opt for house cocktails, Sweet Fernando and Chamame.
Although Argentinean rarely calls to mind anything other than beef, the menu is a healthy mix, rich in seafood and some less thoughtful vegetarian dishes. It’s a small plates place, which means you get to try a few different things. We order some homemade bread, provoletta and empanadas – which form our starter round. The bread comes in three kinds and makes the perfect accompaniment to the chewy rich proveletta, laced with honey and almonds. The empanadas are a little disappointing but the beef filling rich and delicious.
Next our Sous-vide pork belly arrives; a modern take on an ancient cooking technique (originally it would have been cooked in a stomach but now it’s more sealed plastic and stainless steel bain maries). It’s topped with chorizo and charred king prawn. The pork is utterly melt-in-the-mouth with the smoky oil of the chorizo matching the caramel flavours of the fat to a tee. It’s impossible not to try the beef – we order the flank steak with celeriac and bone marrow. Neither the bone marrow nor the celeriac were particularly noticeable but the beef was cooked to perfection; caramelised on the outside and blood pink on the inside. We also sample the garrapinada and beetroot, which is okay but pales into insignificance next to the meat dishes. Other orders flying out of the kitchen include the octopus and the chips provencal.
Zoilo is a great addition to the South American food craze: classy and delicious. Diego Lacquet has attempted to broaden our understanding of Argentinean, and he has, but only to the extent of highlighting the food from the coast. And for that reason, best to leave the vegetarians at home.
For more info, visit: www.zoilo.co.uk