Open Mon–Thu 11.30am–11pm, Fri–Sat 11.30am–midnight, Sun midday–11pm
Modern foodie wisdom would have us believe that no one does steak like the Argentinians (I’m the daughter of a German raised on meat with a side of meat, so despite some reservations I’m up for being convinced).
Gaucho’s mission statement is to bring us as close to that Argentinian perfection as possible, short of hopping on a plane. Though the holiday is a tempting idea, the current London weather is doing its best to bring us that fraction closer to Latin America, so if you take a stroll along the Richmond Thames towpath to Gaucho, you too can see if the culinary fare on offer there matches the genuine article.
Gaucho Richmond manages to be two things at once, and does them both brilliantly. As you approach the low-slung, boathouse-inspired building, it might first appear a little on the rustic side, but it quickly reveals itself to be as comfortably sophisticated a spot as you could wish to while away the time.
The inside dining area is a mixture of kitsch and class; mirrored surfaces, marble floors, leather seats and cowhide prints—all cool style, low level lighting and a bustling atmosphere. Several walls are bursting-full floor to ceiling wine racks, while one entire side of the restaurant is a glass partition offering panoramic views of Richmond bridge and Petersham Meadows, so you can enjoy glorious views at any time of year.
In the summer months—under the branches of a towering plane tree—the waterside terrace (for me where Gaucho Richmond really scores) hosts an alfresco area; part decked fine dining, part summertime barbecue. Large but not crowded, elegant but not remotely stuffy; on an absolutely perfect, balmy summer evening like the one we had, there isn’t a nicer spot to sit and watch the world go by.
Gaucho wears its cool card on its sleeve, and the appearance of the patrons is no exception. Our fellow diners appeared for the most part to be young and trendy, and possibly more than a little serious about their food.
Well turned out groups of young men on a sophisticated ‘lads night’, stylish couples, double dates, even a family sat next to us with youngish (and blessedly well-behaved) children; the atmosphere across the tables was entirely convivial (helped by faultlessly friendly servers) and laid back. This is not the place for micro salads and fussiness—come to Gaucho only if you intend to leave well fed and half a stone heavier!
The menu on offer for summer (4pm–7pm Mon–Fri only) was the intriguingly titled Sundowner menu, a barbecue-inspired collection of dishes that included the Choripan Sandwich (£8.00, featuring Gaucho’s homemade Argentine chorizo with green chimichurri in a soft ciabatta roll), and a Spicy Corn Burger (£11.75, crunchy corn fritters, chipotle chutney, coriander yoghurt and provolone cheese).
Sadly we arrived too late to sample the Sundowner menu in its entirety but the regular menu is so extensive that our disappointment didn’t last long. The many meat offerings on the starters looked very tempting, but I’ve long been a fan of surf and turf, so I began with the very intriguing Scallops Succotash (£17.50). The perfectly cooked and meltingly sweet scallops were almost outdone by their bed of succotash, a smoky, citrusy blend of corn and lentils (a first for me) as comforting as it was moreish.
My companion ordered the Seafood Sampler (£16.50), a refreshing and delicate three portions of marinated shrimp causita, tuna ceviche, and stone bass tiraditos. They began subtle and ended rich, a perfect set up to the main course.
To list, or even begin to explain, the utter wealth of steaks on offer would require much more than one review. Needless to say they were varied. Whether you prefer your steak blue or charred to coal will already dictate what cut you should order, as the waitress explained to us. Using a wooden board lined with the (as yet uncooked) meat on offer, we were shown the difference between the fatty meat that needs slower cooking and the juicy steaks that only need to look at a flame to be perfect.
The marinades and sauces on offer are also too numerous to list; hopefully my ambiguity will only tempt you to go and see for yourself (I can’t urge you enough that you really should).
My companion likes a rare piece of meat so went for a 300g Lomo Fillet steak (£34.95), so lean and tender it barely needed a steak knife, served with a rich peppercorn sauce. I’ve always been an indecisive eater so, unable to settle for one, I opted for a tasting plate of three of Gaucho’s most popular cuts (£35.50): chorizo, vacio, and entraña fina, with a side of blue cheese sauce.
With some meat marinated in a subtle blend of herbs and light chilli, some served simply as it was, I cannot begin to explain how close to a religious experience I had eating steak at Gaucho. The caramelisation on each cut was utter perfection, each melted like butter and the blue cheese sauce has probably given me lasting heart problems but I licked up every bit in the pot. The fact that neither of us emptied our plates was entirely down to our own greediness at ordering not only triple-cooked chips, but also vine-roasted Marzanino tomatoes in balsamic and a deliriously creamy portion of grilled corn finished in parmesan, mayonnaise and aji molido as sides (all £4.95).
Despite bursting belt buckles, we ordered dessert. My partner’s order of Praline Mousse (£8.50) may have been the lowlight of the meal (but only because everything else had been so exceptional) whereas my Salted Dulce De Leche Cheesecake (£9.25) was delicious, though by that point in the proceedings probably best ordered as a sharing plate.
Though we were too late for food from the Sundowner, we were able to order from the summery collection of cocktails that accompanied it. These included several creative takes on the Spritz (all £9.95); from a fruity Melon and Apple (fresh honeydew melon shaken with apple and Stolichnaya Gold Vodka, topped with soda and Chandon sparkling wine) to a Raspberry and Rosewater (mixing new season raspberries with Tanqueray Gin, topped with soda water and Chandon), as well as the Bloody-Mary-inspired Bloody Shame.
My partner was in seventh heaven with the Raspberry Rosewater Spritz, an almost dangerously smooth take on the classic, while my Bloody Shame—a mixture of Stolichnaya, sparkling wine, rosemary and blood orange—was like an alcoholic sunset in a glass.
To accompany our seafood we both ordered a glass of the Luigi Bosca 2015 Riesling (£12.50), a much lighter and markedly less sweet Riesling than any I can remember (my companion wasn’t a fan, but I thought it an excellent fit for my scallops). We both ordered Malbec to accompany the steak; he had an intense glass of the Viña Patricia 2012/13 (£12.50), which was all plummy tannins, whilst I opted for the slightly easier-drinking Selecciòn G Bodega Fabre 2015 (£7.35).
My companion was flagging by dessert but I couldn’t resist ordering the recommended Luigi Bosca 2015 Gewürztraminer (£6.80) to go with my cheesecake, its caramelly sharpness the perfect finish to the meal.
In a nutshell:
In a word (at least for all serious carnivores out there): go! From entry to exit the service was impeccable and the setting was a dreamy, relaxing joy. And the food? Well, if all Argentinians do steak like Gaucho they deserve the title ‘best of the best’.