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Thursday, 10 November 2011

London Restaurant Reviews – A La Cruz (Argentinian Asador in Farringdon)


Opened in 2009, A La Cruz is John Rattagan's latest venture, a more upmarket version of its sister restaurant Buen Ayre, one of my top meat havens in London (reviewed here). Only recently I had the chance to visit and experience A La Cruz's asador grill, reputedly the first in the UK – an Argentine barbecue for slow roasting whole lambs and sides of beef supported on metal crosses “a la cruz”.

Image Courtesy of Paul Winch-Furness

Tucked away behind Exmouth Market, A La Cruz is set on a quiet residential street in Farringdon at the premises of a former Victorian pub.  Beautifully restored by John and his business partner Marcelo Porcu, a former City financier, A La Cruz is an elegant and spacious restaurant with plenty of dark wooden panelling and original Victorian features, but the centrepiece is its glass-encased asador. Sitting in the main room next to the kitchen, it makes for some dramatic entertainment as the chefs spit roast entire lambs and other meats in full view.

Image Courtesy of Paul Winch-Furness

The menu reads well and is surprisingly affordable – starters are priced around £6 while the mains (primarily meats with the token haloumi wrap as the vegetarian option) vary from £16 for a 250g rib-eye steak to £25.50 for a 300g of Argentinian fillet. As in Buen Ayre, Parrilladas (Tradicional, Cambalache and A La Cruz) are also available and cost between £21 and £28 per person. In my opinion, Parrilladas offer the best value and also the option of trying different cuts of meat all at once.

On my visit, I was invited with a group of other food writers, to sample some of A La Cruz’s offerings. I met John Rattagan for the first time and was impressed by his South American warmth and hospitality. Before immigrating to the UK in 1990, John lived in Brazil and speaks fluent Portuguese with a Bahian accent!

We kicked off with a Plato Degustación @ £6 – a traditional tasting platter containing a small empanada (Argentinian beef pasty), provoleta (grilled, melting provolone cheese) and mojellas (beef sweetbreads). I enjoyed the empanada and provoleta (two of my favourite Argentine foods) but the mojellas were the real show stopper.

Sweetbread is the culinary name for the thymus (throat, gullet or neck sweetbread) or the pancreas (heart, stomach or belly sweetbread) glands of the calf and lamb. Mojellas are the thymus glands; they are at their largest in neonatal calves, atrophying as the animals reach maturity. Unsurprisingly, it is an expensive meat and a delicacy in Argentina where it is found only in some of the best restaurants.  In terms of deliciousness, I would say they taste as good as well-marbled wagyu beef or foie gras. I loved my introduction to Mojellas, and look forward to returning to A La Cruz for another helping. Mojellas are available as a starter @ £6.50 or as a main @ £19.

Next, we had a selection of different cuts "parrillada style" including a large piece of Vacío @ £17, this was a tender piece of boneless beef flank, one of the most characteristic Argentine barbecue meats, it was perfectly cooked and tasted delicious served with A La Cruz’s own Chimichurri sauce.

The pièce de resistance was however the Cordero Entero that came next – a whole lamb barbecued on the asador, that looked and tasted magnificent. An impressive course for any celebratory dinner, it can be ordered for groups of 8 to 15 diners on request.

The Argentinian wine list was impressive and the wines that we tried, particularly selected by John to match the dishes we had, were spot on.

I was impressed by the quality of the meat, and the elegant but lively atmosphere that Marcelo and John have created at A la Cruz, and will definitely return for more mojellas and to try their parrilladas. Judging by my evening there, these will be as good as the ones I had at Buen Ayre.

Cost: The London Foodie was a guest of A la Cruz. I estimate that a 3-course dinner will cost around £40 per person (excl. drinks) which in my opinion is good value for money.

Likes: mojellas (sweetbreads) were sensational, as were all the meats I had that evening. Beautifully decorated restaurant. Well priced menu.

Dislikes: None.

Verdict: If you are a meat lover, A la Cruz is as good as it gets. Great quality meats and value, elegant decor in the heart of Farringdon. Highly recommended.

A la Cruz on Urbanspoon


  1. mmm... might just have to try this restaurant! Love the thought of the sweetbreads.

  2. Great pix Luiz, although some a bit gruesome :) (reality of meat eating )


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