2 More London Riverside, London. £50 pp inc wine.
We had reserved a table at the London Bridge branch of Gaucho Grill. A restaurant that unashamedly promises bloodied steak, blood-y wine and blokiness.
On arrival the most noticeable aspect of this particular establishment was the decor, which consisted entirely of bits of cow draped around a dining room. The effect, need I say, was largely unpleasant.
We were dining off the back of a three-hour wine tasting session run by Laithwaites at Vinopolis. TOD had spent much of this time talking bollix at two young ladies who seemed content to feed him cheese and claret whilst pretending to listen. I opted for the more ethereally sexy charms of Pinot Noir, served (winningly) by a woman who had a bag of Liquorice Allsorts under her desk. Afterwards TOD preposterously claimed not to like Liquorice Allsorts, but I think this was jealousy and beneath it he recognized who made the better call.
All this gluttony meant that we decided to skip starters and head straight for the restaurant's raison d'etre- steak.
I cast aside a perplexing folded menu, that probably would have required some advanced knowledge of origami to untangle, and let TOD do the necessary talking.
Before the main show we enjoyed an amuse-bouche of bread with posh herby oil. The dish had been a little over-hyped by my companion, who had insisted the waiter bring extra as it was so delicious. I put this down to a rather 1990s-surburban-houswife enthusiasm for flavoured olive oil, because, though was nice enough, it certainly wasn't a revolutionary take on the tried and tested "bread with posh herby oil" formula.
Afterwards what arrived at our table was; two rare rump steaks, two sauces, a bowl of chips, a second of leeks and a third containing something orange.
All that needs to be said of the steaks is that they were excellent: good quality, cooked accurately and satisfyingly meaty. The chips too were reassuringly chippy.
Accompanying sauces (creamy-with-mushrooms and creamy-with-peppercorns) could well be described as 'semantically challenged'. Their runny consistency seemed to place them firmly in the 'sauce' camp, but the portion size, and the manner of presentation in small pots in the middle of the table, was that of a dip. This duality of purpose amused me for some time and certainly didn't rankle, as they went excellently with the chips.
TOD finished the bowl of orange before I could get to it, but he tells me it was something involving sweet potatoes. This would strike as a slightly peculiar lie to invent, so I have no reason to doubt him.
And anyway I didn't care because I had something far more exciting on my side of the table... leeks.
I know what you're thinking: "Leeks!? But they're the poor man's scallion surely? And preposterously over-rated by Welsh people and sociopaths." And to be fair, I would tend to agree; the leek is an 'umble vegetable, never the star of the show, certainly not Prince Hamlet, somewhat (whisper it) downstairs.
In this instance the addition of blue cheese was transformative and revelatory. The salty zing cut through the char-grilled sweetness of the leeks perfectly. And with the pristine steak it was mesmerising.
I had been charged with selecting the wine, but with the clear implication that nothing but Malbec would do. TOD, always confident in his own infallibility, decided somtime ago that appreciation of red wine has reached its zenith in getting smacked around the chops by the grape's slick jamminess. Our waiter offered us a couple to taste, which was a nice touch, but we went for something more expensive. I'm pretty sure I ordered a Malbec, but our man distinguished himself by bringing a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon. I took this as a divine justification... que sera sera. TOD sulked a little.
Without a chaperone I might have fallen at the first, flummoxed by the weird interior design and foldy menu. But my companion steered us through these early setbacks admirably and we emerged fed, watered, and happy.