Good news for fans of the Pimlico-based Argentinian steak house Moo Gastropub, as they have a new Soho outpost. Situated on bustling Wardour Street just moments from the West End, Moo Steakhouse has a surprisingly relaxed and cosy feel as you step inside.
Although obviously geared towards steaks, there are a couple of vegetarian options on the menu plus a grilled fish of the day. They have an eclectic range of starters, including nachos, halloumi fries and this fried calamari with rocket, lemon and sriracha aioli, tender and delicate beneath a crispy coating.
More traditionally, you can start with home-made empanadas (we had beef but there are several options) which are as good as any I've had in Argentina, or perhaps chargrilled Argentinian chorizo and black pudding on charcoal sourdough, draped with roasted peppers and drizzled with olive oil. One word of warning - although delicious (and the same price as the other starters) this is a more than generous portion and very filling. It would make a great sharing starter, as you won't want to miss what's coming next.
It's worth singling out the excellent service here, given that this is a new restaurant. Our server Antonio was charming, helpful and knowledgeable about both the menu and the wine list; given the vague brief of 'an Argentinian red' he recommended a delicious mid-range Malbec - La Mascota 2019 - that was so good I am tracking it down to buy for myself. The wines start at £25.00 for a standard Malbec which is very reasonable for that part of town, but there is a premium list for the more discerning diner.
Moo Cantina import their grass-fed, rare breed beef from the Argentinian pampas; available cuts include ribeye, sirloin and fillet which they recommend are cooked medium-rare to really appreciate the flavour and texture of the meat. The steaks are served in the Argentine style, simply dressed with flaky salt; I would recommend adding their chimichurri sauce, fresh with the flavours of parsley, garlic and chilli - I love it as an accompaniment to any barbecued meat.
You can watch - and smell - your steak being cooked on a custom Argentinian charcoal grill in the open kitchen that runs along one side of the restaurant. Try the entrana (also known as churrasco, or outside skirt steak), a cut that is very popular in Argentina but less common in the UK; it is rich, juicy and intensely-flavoured, perfect with that lovely charcoal searing. On our visit the triple-cooked chips were a tad over and missing the fluffy centre that makes them so delicious; while the steaks are undeniably centre stage, my pick of the sides would be the rocket & parmesan salad.
If you have any room left after your meat feast, desserts include this smooth New York cheesecake with fresh berries, as well as pancakes, chocolate fondant, ice cream or a cheeseboard.
To continue our virtual trip to Buenos Aires, we ordered the flan casero; a traditional creme caramel on a base of Argentina's most famous sweet, dulce de leche. By now the restaurant was buzzing and, with the scent of the charcoal grill in the background and the chatter and laughter of the diners, that relaxed vibe of a barbecue - or an asado - had really taken hold.
Having been tempted by dessert, we were in need of a digestif; luckily for us, Moo Steakhouse has a cocktail bar running along one wall of the restaurant and a highly capable barman who mixed us drinks based on our preferences (a Negroni and an Old Fashioned, we stuck to the classics). A great way to end the evening and ease yourself back into the London melee.
There are plans for a speakeasy-type basement bar which shows every sign of being a cool destination in its own right as well as a great place to relax and extend your evening still further after a meal. Watch this space for updates!
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Deputy Editor, Chatting Food London: Amanda David
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