Beef

Gaucho, Birmingham

Gaucho arrives in Birmingham on a tsunami of hype, being the first to open from the group for seven years and choosing little old Brum for the honour.   I’m going to stick my neck out and speak for the city; we’re delighted about this. Good steak in Birmingham is a rarity, and even then it’s a decent walk from the centre to get a fix. The principles of a steakhouse are not difficult – source cow, age cow, cook cow, rest cow, eat cow – yet the realities are often a disappointment. I’ve stopped eating steak out because of it.  It defies the very reason I eat out, which is to have an experience better than I can create at home.  I know an excellent butcher and I cook it better than the majority of places.

So let me thank Gaucho one more time for delivering the best piece of cow I have eaten in this city, in the sexiest dining room I have eaten in quite some time. It is a sultry space of plush purple seating and low lighting.  There are abstract trees in the centre of the room and leaf murals lining the walls.  It’s a place to impress, whether that be the partner, the affair, or the colleague.

IMG_9057

I am here on a night to showcase the beef, and boy, what beef it is.  Argentine prime cattle, wet aged for longevity.  After some nibbles of raw bits and some slow cooked bits, we sit down and tuck into a scotch egg with coarsely chopped cow replacing the pig.  It’s bold and funky, almost reminiscent  of tartare when the yolk is released.  A chipotle ketchup swings us back over to South America.  It is the ultimate pub snack, twenty times more masculine than any pork scratching.  I like it a lot.

Our main event is a fillet cooked to a perfect rare.  It is, as I reference above, the best piece of beef I have eaten in this city.  It’s not a cut I would usually order – I far prefer a bit of chew and more flavour – but it’s one I will go back to again.  Buttery in texture, full of flavour and aggressively seasoned.  It is wonderful.  A decadent truffle compote has the underlying earthiness of mushroom, with a carrot and parsnip dauphinoise that I will try and fail to recreate at home. If this is on the menu order it.  If it’s not stamp your feet and insist that they make it for you.

IMG_9061

There was dessert, but if I’m honest I’d make too many trips to the Malbec tasting room and by now all I wanted to do was go and meet a girl.  I was extremely tipsy and don’t recall that much about it other than the panna cotta was well set and I cleaned the bowl, which means it must have been good.

IMG_9062

The sticking point for some will be the price – it’s not cheap.  Order three courses, including the fillet and a couple of glasses of wine from the bottom of the list, and you’re looking at a spend of £70 a head.  For that price you expect fireworks, and, if steak is your thing, you can expect it here.  It is obvious the level of effort that has gone into making the newest Gaucho a success, and it has paid off with aplomb.  Gaucho has the making of a Birmingham classic, and I for one cannot wait to keep on going back.

I was invited to the launch event at Gaucho

And now the plug; I am up for Best Food Blog at the forthcoming MFDH Awards. Please be kind and vote for me here http://www.mfdhawards.co.uk/vote-now/

Advertisements

Meating, Birmingham

I first went to Meating not long after it opened in The Arcadian centre. I wrote the meal off in the ‘okay’ bracket, taking the stance that a write-up of a rather one dimensional protein-fest of burgers and steaks was neither of interest to read, or fair on a new business with the bollocks to start up in a part of town not known for its weekday footfall.  Since then I’ve crossed paths with it a couple of times, most notably at a Yelp burger battle when it wiped the floor with some of the cities finer bits of compound beef.  It was an entirely different offering; sharper in seasoning, more exact in its delivery.  It won the burger battle not because it hosted the event, but because it rightly deserved to.  I made instant plans to go back, which, with the help of a two month boxing training camp, coincided almost perfectly with the launch of a new menu.

067

I go with an Italian friend of mine with a cultured palate and an Irish friend whose palate is anything but.  No, this isn’t the start of a marginally racist joke.  They both like the interior with its corrugated metal, vividly painted duct pipes and cow wall illustrations.  Its a functional space that isn’t going to win design awards anytime soon. From the starters are two pairs of taco’s; one chicken, the other lamb.  Its the lamb that wins hands-down, crispy pieces of meat pinned down with sharp cabbage and piquant chilli sauce.  The chicken looks ordinary in its presence with a guacamole sharp with lime taking over as the star between folded tortilla.  Thick nachos come with brisket beef cooked so slowly they threaten to dissolve in the mouth. As good as the meat is (and it is seriously good) it is the other elements that show how far it has progressed from my first visit.  The pico de gallo is bright in flavour, the cheese sauce both luscious and moreish.  We all stare at the last shard and offer it to our fellow dining companions whilst secretly wanting it for ourselves.

066

065

064

The mains see a return of that lamb, this time piled high on to a large flatbread, supple on the outside and gloriously soaked in the centre with the sticky molasses that the meat has been coated in. There is a clarity to it all that impresses; the salty notes of feta, the sweet pops of pomegranate, the calming influence of the raita-like yogurt.  The high and the low notes all playing back-up to the lamb.  Yes, its a kebab, but what a kebab it is.  It’s also enough for two people to share and not leave hungry.  Bijou portions have seemingly not made it to this corner of Birmingham yet.

073

Given how much the burger impressed the last time it would have taken a far more body conscious man to resist their greasy charms.  I am not that body conscious man, I know this because my mirror tells me so on a daily basis.  We order a ‘Porky Blinder’ from the new menu which delivers in spades.  The patty is a loosely packed mixture of aged beef still blushing pink in the centre, with crisp bacon and braised pork belly atop.  Add melted cheese of the strong cheddar variety and some mischievous ‘baconaise’ which reinforces the sweet / savoury interplay and you have a burger that is up there with a certain Krispy Kreme donut that held my heart for the first half of 2016.  They bring us a pot of bone marrow gravy to dunk the last chunks in to and suddenly all is good in the world.  We order a portion of sweet potato fries that are well made but totally unwarranted given the amount of food consumed.

070

074

Dessert was never going to happen, not with all that meat, and we polish off the last of our beer and pay the bill.  And here, Ladies and Gents is the money shot; we dined on a Monday night when they happen to offer 50% off the food bill, leaving us with a bill of under fifteen quid a head.  Fifteen quid each.  If you don’t believe me, look at the bill yourself.  I felt almost dirty paying so little for so much that was so good.  Go on another day and you could probably add another tenner to that bill.  And so you should.  Go have that burger, go somewhere else for a few pints and some chatter and come back for that kebab.  I know, you’re welcome.  And you’ll probably see me there, because right now Meating may just be my favourite place in town for a casual bite to eat.

8/10