As of last weekend, Gaucho has been open for business on Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square.
The Argentinean steak restaurant is the first Scottish branch of a chain with a dozen restaurants in London, a couple in northern England and overseas outposts in Dubai and Hong Kong.
Now, you don’t need to be a super keen student of the capital’s restaurant scene to know they have picked a popular location with St Andrew Square. Indeed, some might say it is rather a crowded spot.
Gaucho is the latest venture to join a cluster of brand name restaurants which have launched in and around the square. The Ivy, Dishoom, The Refinery and Wahaca are among Gaucho’s neighbours with more to come.
Later this month, casual Italian restaurant Vapiano joins the crowd just around the corner on South St David Street.
Other names have already thrown their hats in the ring.
So, does Gaucho have what it takes to stand out?
Gaucho on St Andrew Square
The 5pm Dining blog was invited to a preview dinner at Gaucho last week.
A smart, monochrome, ground level bar leads down to an unexpected basement dining room.
Dark leather booths, fairy lights and wraparound mirrors on the walls set the tone.
We were eating in the impressive private dining room, a glass box filled with hundreds of bottles of Argentinean wine.
Named after the gauchos, or cowboys, who herd cattle on Argentina’s vast pampas plains, Gaucho is, as you might expect, all about the beef.
Grass-fed, Black Aberdeen Angus
Specifically, it is about grass-fed, Black Aberdeen Angus. They cherry pick the best beef from 60 to 70 Argentinean cattle farms, or campos.
The meat is butchered to Gaucho’s specifications in Argentina and then shipped to the UK sealed in plastic wrapping.
This wet aging – as opposed to dry aging – gives the meat unique flavours and textures which are enhanced by the steam/gas grills used in the Gaucho kitchens.
Their main beef offer is served as fillet, sirloin, rib-eye and rump. The cuts start at 225g or 300g and customers can order larger steaks in 100g increments.
Apparently, the kitchen will cook steaks up to two kilos in weight. Understandably, there aren’t many takers.
Your blogger had a tira de ancho cut. Essentially, this is a spiral cut of sirloin which has been opened out and cooked as a chunky strip of beef rather than a slab.
Charred and pleasantly crispy on the exterior, the interior of the steak was purple to pink, juicy and with a deep, rich flavour.
A lot of steaks are bland. There is nothing memorable about them and it’s not unusual to find yourself bored halfway through.
This was the polar opposite and a delight from first cut to final mouthful. Four days later, I’m still replaying the flavour.
Gaucho makes no bones about being a chain but they are sensitive to local concerns. As well as their signature pampas to plate steaks, they also serve Scottish Limousin steaks, sourced from the Borders and dry-aged for 35 days.
The head chef, Jamie Robertson, is originally from Bonnyrigg and he has also added some more local tweaks to the menu.
For example, as well as traditional empanadas – Argentine’s answer to the pasty – there is a haggis-filled version on the Edinburgh menu.
Another quirk is the chopped chicken livers on toasted sourdough. They are flavoured with Naked Grouse whisky.
More than meat
Everything we have written so far makes Gaucho out as a beefy carnivore’s paradise.
And it is. But it’s not all they do.
From scallops succotash to tuna ceviche and salt-baked chicken via Iberico pork and specialist sausages, there is more to Gaucho than beef.
And, yes, of course there are vegetarian dishes. The whole roasted cauliflower cheese with a Parmesan cream sauce is a real show-stopper.
Towards the top of this post, we asked whether Gaucho has what it takes to stand out from its many nearby competitors.
Well, this blogger already has a long list of hats waiting to be eaten. As a result, we know better than to make predictions.
What we will say is that a top notch steak never goes out of fashion.
This blogger will be very happy if Gaucho is still at St Andrew Square and dishing up the tira de ancho in a couple of years.
We wish Gaucho every success.