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Monday 14 September 2009

London Restaurant Reviews – Buen Ayre

Buen Ayre

Having lived in Brazil for most of my teenage years, I was lucky enough to have experienced the many “Churrascaria” or “Rodizio” restaurants of the land. These are superb restaurants, real paradise to all meat lovers, and I strongly recommend them to anyone visiting Brazil.  The flipside is that, in the UK, a steak house will need to be truly outstanding to impress me, and Buen Ayre has certainly ticked most boxes.

It was my third visit to Buen Ayre since moving to Islington last year, and I believe it was probably my best one. Their signature dish is any variation of their “Parrillada”, a selection of meats, cheese and mushroom served on a hot grill. The grill, similar to a portable barbecue, has smouldering hot charcoal underneath it keeping the meat hot throughout the meal at your table.

In my previous two visits we tried their “Parrillada Deluxe” containing some prime cuts like rib eye & sirloin in addition to sausages and other meats, and also their “Parrillada Mixta” which is a mixture of different cuts and sausages with melted provolone cheese and mushroom. They were both delicious, and at £23 and £21 per person respectively, they were also incredibly good value.

This time, we tried the “Parrillada Al Paso”, a selection of grilled meats, Argentine-style pork sausages, flank steak, black pudding and short ribs.

The meats were perfectly grilled with a delicious charred quality on the outside whilst pink and amazingly succulent inside. The meats were very tender and the selection of different cuts was very well thought out. Seasoning was minimal, possibly sea salt only, and therefore the meat flavours were unadulterated and intense. The beef and sausages  were fresh, tender, and juicy, a real treat.

We also ordered a portion of chips (papas fritas) @ £4.50, and some grilled provolone cheese (provoleta) @ £4.00 to accompany the Parrillada. I would have normally resented paying £4.50 for a portion of chips.  I do not know if they are double or triple cooked, roasted, fried, or both, or what type of potatoes they use, but they were outstanding and I highly recommend ordering them with your meal. They were worth every penny and should go down in food history as THE BEST chips I have EVER eaten.

Another revelation of the evening was their black pudding (morcilla) which in the two previous visits I did not have room left to try. I am not a great fan of black pudding but their morcilla was delicious, incredibly soft with hints of paprika and smokiness similar to a spicy chorizo.

Our waitress, Stefane, was very friendly and efficient. I asked her whether I could take some pictures of the main grill area and restaurant and she was very happy to accommodate me. Towards the end of the meal we had a lovely chat and I found out that like her husband, the resident Chef that evening, she was also a fellow Brazilian.

Their Argentinian wine list is comprehensive and well priced catering to all budgets. We had a bottle of Cuma (organic Malbec) which at £17.40 was spot on.

I had skipped lunch in anticipation of my dinner at Buen Ayre, but just as before, I was flagging two thirds into my Parrillada. It is quite a funny, communal experience whenever I go to Buen Ayre– the exchange of looks and smiles of amazement from other fellow diners as their Parrilladas arrive, a feeling of shared camaraderie prevails which make Buen Ayre a very special place.

Verdict – Perfect meat, perfect chips & morcilla, charming service and great wine. At £66.83 for two, I would rate Buen Ayre as one of the best value Argentinian restaurants in London, and as good as the ones I tried in Brazil. I will most certainly be coming back. Highly recommended. 

Buen Ayre on Urbanspoon

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