Steak and chips. For carnivores there’s something comforting about the phrase, because you know what you’re going to get, and you’re pretty sure you’re going to like it.
The meal’s virtue is its simplicity, and any meal with two key ingredients relies on the strength of two key factors: the quality of the produce, and the quality of the chef. In this case, both were very good indeed.
The Rancho Grill is a new Argentinean steakhouse not far from Whitehall, just a short stroll through St James’s Park and on a non-descript side-street off Regent Street. The restaurant itself is a simply-decorated affair, with just a small sign outside and a no-frills, stripped down décor.
The place is certainly keen to impress customers with the quality of their produce: the head waiter presented the choice of cuts to us with something approaching reverence. The restaurant imports its meat from Argentina, and doesn’t freeze it – he says – so that it’s still fresh and perfectly soft.
We were mesmerised by the array in front of us, and if given a chance, the waiter could probably have spoken fluent beef all day. The T Bone proved to be top pick on our table, because the marbled fat was spread so evenly through the meat, ready to fill the beef with flavour, and soften it as it grilled.
When the steak arrived, it was sizzling on hot plates, tender to the slice and oh-so easy to chew. Each morsel was moist and delicate, compressing softly between the teeth, falling apart with only the smallest movements of the jaw. This, indeed, was great steak, cooked to perfection.
As for the side dishes – chips and spinach – they were as also good. The spinach was fresh, and marinated in garlic – although one pal found this a bit overpowering. The chips, meanwhile, were chunky with a slight bite, and a perfect companion to the hot, smooth pepper sauce.
As befits a restaurant review about a place with two key selling points, it seems that there were also two key pitfalls – albeit minor ones – and both of them associated with the dessert. The steak itself was reasonably priced, at £18 plus £3.50 for chips and £4 for pepper sauce. The pudding must be where they make their money: £7 for a small portion, and a slightly disappointing end to the meal.
Both my chocholate fondant (gooey and warm; not bad) and my pal’s chocolate wheel (in need of something moist) could have been infinitely improved by larger portions and a little less delicacy.
But no-one goes to a steakhouse for a chocolate fondant, and so this really is a trifling disagreement. If you’re in need of something simple but delicious, wander through the park and up to London’s best new steakhouse.