Thursday, 17 April 2008

Santa Maria de Buen Ayre

Broadway Market
London E8 4QJ
Locate on Google Maps
Tel. 020 7275 9900

There isn't anything better than a top-notch steak that's been properly grilled. Buen Ayre's customers know that and that's why it's hard to get a table at this Broadway Market hotspot.

Since it opened it has won praise from the food press, with the Independent calling it "the first authentic Argentine grill-restaurant in the country . . . " Well, I've never been to Argentina but I can say that the steaks I have had at Buen Ayre are among the best I've had, ever! They are grilled on a genuine Argentinean parilla (grill) that is situated right in the main dining room and then delivered straight to the table. The steaks themselves are buttery smooth, tender, and melt in the mouth while the smoky flavours imparted by the red hot coals invigorate and soothe your taste buds. I would go so far as to say that eating a steak at Buen Ayre is an erotic experience.

On a recent visit four of us spent £126 for a starter of crisps, peanuts and olives, four steaks, three bowls of chips, three salads, and drinks that did not even include a whole bottle of wine. If everything else was as good as the steaks I wouldn't mind paying £30 a head. But at these prices I want to be wowed by everything that appears on the table.

Unfortunately, once you move away from the steaks at Buen Ayre the disappointments begin. The first let down was the butter bean guarnacion (garnish) that comes with each steak. The beans we were served were mealy and not much care had been taken with their preparation.

Next was the rĂșcula y ajo (rocket and garlic) salad. At the prices this place is charging I would expect at least an interesting, expertly-prepared dressing - but what we were presented with was basically a bunch of leaves thrown into a bowl with garlic and lemon juice. It was OK - but not special, like the steaks.

The chips are another thing that let this restaurant down. They are cut thick, and served very fresh out of the fryer but have no flavour whatsoever. I felt like I was eating them just for the sake of it, because I was going to pay for them; not because I wanted to eat them! The least the chef could do would be to salt them just after cooking and before they leave the kitchen. By the time the chips get to the table they are too dry for salt to cling to them. Come on guys, this is basic chip physics!

I would still recommend you give Buen Ayre a try - but only for the meat, and only when you are feeling flush.

Opening Hours
Mondays to Fridays
From 6pm to 10.30pm
Saturdays & Sundays
From 12 Noon to 10.30pm

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