What most people readily associate with Argentina are huge steaks, polo matches on the pampas and even bigger steaks. Slowly but surely Argentine cuisine has been establishing a presence within London. The chain of Gaucho has five places around the city and offer some very fine meat. However, what they do not offer is the full-on carnivorous experience that Farringdon’s A La Cruz does. Slightly obscured by the presence of Exmouth Market just a few yards away, the restaurant goes all out in its effort to recreate an authentic Argentine dining experience.
This is clear as soon as you enter where you can see a billowing flame cooking two racks of meat. Encased by glass, this is the asado, the Argentine method of barbecuing dastardly amounts of beef, lamb and much else. The head chef Adrian Cocco stands beside it, wielding the sort of knife normally held by a hillbilly running towards a scantily clad teenager who made the mistake of going to investigate a strange noise.
Yet while our group was treated to small amounts of beef, sausage and black pudding as entrées, we were here for Argentine cooking with a difference. This was the restaurant’s first urban cuisine evening with the focus on smaller dishes. This made for a neat contrast when compared to the huge slabs of meat being served up on neighbouring tables.
Argentina is similar to Britain in that it has adsorbed the influences of the immigrants who have settled in the country. This was seen in the first dish of gnocchi with cream, tomato and pesto sauces. Whilst it did not make me think of gnocchi in an entirely new way, it was balanced and considered.
The next dish of zucchini tortilla with lentil stew epitomised the tapas style of the evening. A light tortilla combined well with the lentil stew but it was soon back to the meat, even if it came in miniscule form. Milanesitas, which are bite-size beef escalope were dainty but you don’t really want something so small at a steak restaurant. It’s like asking for an apple and only getting the core.
The meal was pleasantly rounded off with spinach mini-empanadas and mollejas al verdeo (sweetbreads with spring onion). The mini-empanadas were well prepared and the sweetbreads had exactly the kind of delicacy that should be on display in dishes such as this.
Such is the quality of meat at A La Cruz that the staff may have difficulty in persuading the clientèle to try spinach mini-empanadas. But for those looking to have something light, the dishes are well thought through and charming.
A La Cruz
42 Northampton Rd
Tel: 020 7837 1999