'Simple, healthy, delicious'

Casa Cruz

Mon–Wed midday–10pm, Thu midday–10.30pm, Fri–Sat midday–11pm, Sun midday–9pm

The blurb:

There isn’t any. Juan Santa Cruz, the dapper Chilean-born investment banker-turned-proprietor, favours discreet glamour, from the low key website (a simple line drawing with contact details) to the unmarked, gleaming bronze front door. It’s clearly designed to appeal to the cognoscenti—a strategy that has worked, judging by its popularity after only a few months—possibly as Santa Cruz already has an impressive portfolio of restaurants in Buenos Aires, including the original Casa Cruz.

The style:

Once you’re behind the anonymous burnished door, it’s wonderfully opulent. The bronze is repeated in thick, even stripes over the former Victorian pub’s mahogany wall panels, and in the shiny oval bar around which the restaurant is laid out—‘just like the Ivy’, according to a couple of long-legged West London lovelies I happened to overhear. The loos are equally sumptuous, with multi-mirrored walls that reflect your image from every angle, an infinite number of times. Not recommended if you’re having a fat day—which I can’t imagine is much of a problem for the majority of the clientele.

We took advantage of a rare sunny Sunday to lunch on the pleasingly leafy upstairs terrace—all decking and linen parasols, and shielded from traffic noise and fumes by the tall trees that line Clarendon Road.

The crowd:

Casa Cruz had only been serving lunches for a couple of weeks when we visited, and so was relatively empty on the terrace. Two families eating together—one American, one English, well-heeled, clearly local, possibly neighbours; a glossy Spanish couple that Santa Cruz greeted as old friends.

I returned for drinks on a week night and it was a very different story, the joint heaving with the kind of people you find at the Chiltern Firehouse. Our charmingly indiscreet waiter confided that Lindsay Lohan and Entourage’s Jeremy Piven had been in over the last few days.

The food:

Simple, healthy, delicious. I started with mustard-dressed carpaccio, whose Argentine pedigree was evident in its succulence and depth of flavour. My husband had raw tuna with avocado, wasabi and ‘spiced crunch’, a delectable combination of flavours. Other starters include chilled tomato soup with cucumber and croutons (gazpacho?); burrata, aubergine and peppers with salsa verde; and green beans, courgettes and almonds with a lime dressing.

My main of blackened chicken was tender, smoky and yummy, but it was the restaurant’s signature Argentinian sirloin steak that (rightly) stole the show, the unctuous, well-marbled meat grilled to pink perfection. Our vegetable sides were mini-masterpieces: humita spiced corn with basil (a sweet and piquant chunky puree), charred broccoli with chilli and almonds; and roast domino potatoes (domino referring, not as I’d assumed, to a little-known South American variety of tuber, but the cooking method—hasselback by another name, crunchy and savoury on the outside, just soft enough within).

We over-ordered, so didn’t have much room for pudding, but the dulce de leche ice cream we shared was sublime—to the extent that my ever-curious (greedy) foodie husband has been on a mission to recreate it since.

The wine

We had two very good Argentinian wines: a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from Patagonia, followed by a ​rich, velvety Mendoza Malbec from the same year. The list is extensive, with a vast selection of Argentinian reds, classified by grape, but then French-leaning, classified by region: Burgundy (including eight whites), Loire, Rhone, Bordeaux and a few rosés from Provence. Italy, Spain and South Africa are represented, too. The cocktail list is also impressive—try the house ‘CRUZ 2.0’, a refreshing concoction of vodka, apple liquor, passion fruit, ginger ale and ginger syrup.

The details

Casa Cruz, 123 Clarendon Road, London W11 4JG; 0203 321 5400; www.casacruz.com

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