So finally, after working my way around the corporate-rubbish restaurants at the 02 (oh boy, have I eaten some terrible food) I finally made it to the one that costs the same as the rest of them put together.
A group of us went, possibly a bit under-dressed, I reflected later. I’d always wondered what the slightly sinister black building with ‘no’ windows in contained – I knew it was Gaucho, of course, but not what was inside.
I have to say that they’ve done a not-bad-at-all job of making it feel like a proper restaurant rather than an eaterie in a stadium. As we walked into the black-walled, crystal-chandeliered entrance, we were greeted by pretty girls and dead cows. In fact cowhide, black, white and glass are pretty much the themes of the place. I daresay they call it ‘signature.’
Since it was a blow-out evening anyway, we decided to go for the drinks-in-the-bar option first. The bar takes up the whole of the ground floor and looks like something out of a Martin Scorsese Mob-flick. If Ray Liotta had walked in in a dodgy leather jacket and blood-stained long collar, my evening would have been complete.
Since it was available, we plumped for the kitsch sunken, circular, white leather banquette in the centre, with its own giant crystal chandelier above it, and ordered cocktails.
They came suitably-endowed with fancy decorations and in strange-shaped glasses, and tasted just fine. Pricey, but no worse than other places, though I’m told by someone who knows that the Pisco Sour was a bit on the weak side. I had a glass of the Las Paredes Argentinian fizzy instead – more floral than a Cath Kidston tea towel – but slipped down nicely enough.
On the way up to the dining room (via a glass lift, of course…) we passed a strangely clinical, glass-fronted, white-tabled wine-tasting room. Apparently if you go on the right day, when the sommelier’s in, you can have a tasting session, though it looked a bit of a goldfish bowl to me.
I assume that when our waiter told us that the sommelier was “an actor” he meant that the guy is entertaining, rather than an out-of-work luvvie…
I should warn you – if you use specs, bring your extra-special rhinestone versions along for reading the menu. It’s not that the writing’s particularly small, just that the restaurant is so damn dark. Again, all black, white and cowhide, it’s going for that sophistication one normally only gets when wearing sunglasses after dark.
Since we went on a non-gig night (not hard, given the lack of Michael Jackson concerts just now) we were shown to what I’m guessing is the slightly classier bit above the main dining floor, and given the kind of treatment that you expect when shelling out Gaucho prices.
A young man armed with a tray of the reddest-looking cuts of beef around, carefully asking our resident vegetarian if she was “scared” of meat, which amused me a little. After pointing out the various cuts, the guy disappeared leaving decisions to be made over the yummiest cheesy buns I’ve ever eaten.
Those cheesy buns are brilliant. I’d say the best bit about Gaucho – though that’s not to denigrate the actual steaks, which were done to exactly what was asked for in each case, good to cut and better to taste. But those buns – so good that I raved about them to the Maitre D’ and who sent another batch to our table
So yeah – the steaks are good – excellent, even, and the side dishes were just as good. In fact the only person who didn’t have a really good time was, as predicted, our resident veggie, who had to make do with a not-actually-awful but-extremely-boring pasta dish (she could have chosen an equally dull-looking risotto.)
I enjoyed Gaucho a lot – which is a relief, given the prices. It’s definitely one for red meat lovers (and red-wine lovers – the wine list comes with little mountain symbols to show how high up the grapes were grown.) Just leave your own Special Vegetarian behind.
On the way out, half of us took the stairs down, the other half took the glass elevator and, like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, pressed the top button (which sadly didn’t say ‘Up and Out…’) It led to a private dining/bar area, which has its own entrance round the back. Just so you know…