Back in 2014, the always-excellent Carbone was the subject of one of my first restaurant reviews. It finished with a nod to Goodfellas, based on Henry Hill not wanting ‘To live the rest of my life like a schnook.’ This was the first Black Sheep restaurant I’d visited, one MC’d brilliantly by Louie Carbone, straight from central casting. Almost two years on, I get an invite to try their latest venue, ‘Buenos Aires Polo Club’.
The similarities are immediately clear. It’s in the same building as Carbone, taking over from where Boqueria used to be, not that you’d know it given an architectural transformation. It’s got the same private club schtick about it as Carbone, the walls this time decked in equine portraits – why the long face? – the slick bar, windowless room and smart furnishings that feel like a throwback to a different era, even if you’re in the heart of Wyndham, only a few doors down from the new Hooters Hong Kong, God help us all.
Aside from the equestrian action, they also do a very natty line in steak knives, while some lucky regulars get to keep their own in a couple of rather splendid display cases:
As it’s a media invite, we get to try far more dishes from the menu than even the hungriest diner would order. Cocktails are just as good as at Carbone, carefully and cleverly made, while no prizes for guessing where the wines come from.
Steak tartare came with ‘Crispy shallots and smoked sardine’, little seasoned and spiced spoonfuls into either lettuce cups for the carbophobes or Gaucho bread for those channelling their inner Juan Wayne. The first big winner – how could it not be? – came in the form of provoleta, or pan-fried cheese.
The trick – duh – is to spoon it onto bread while its hot and stringy, lest it coagulate into a squash ball. Even if it did, it’t still be delicious. Another of their special starters is ‘wood-smoked bacon with chimichurri’, bottom left, in case you were wondering. And no, I didn’t take most of these photos. How can home-cured and smoked bacon be improved? Only by adding one of the world’s truly stellar sauces, the vastly-underrated chimichurri. Parsley, garlic, oregano, oil and white wine vinegar are all it takes, but it’s welcome on pretty much any dish and rightly an Argentine classic.
Above also shows the enormous 30 oz t-bone. BA Polo Club use General Pico pure Black Angus. I’m assuming General Pico refers to the town in the middle of the Argentine Pampas, home to some of the world’s best biggest cattle ranches and serious quality beef. It’s an absolute belter of a steak, the tenderloin on one side and top loin (Or New York Strip) on the other, beautifully cooked. The secret is the beast of a grill called a parrilla, a fixture across Argentina and Uruguay. (Incidentally one of the world’s most renowned parrilla is called Parador La Huella on the coast of Uruguay – their first international site has just opened at Swire’s new and very cool East Hotel in Miami – a review of which is coming your way soon).
Other dishes of note were a sensational charcoal squid with chilli and lemon, showing up most other squid dishes in town to be rubbery abominations:
And chimichurri reared its lovely head once again over a half chicken which swiftly disappeares. An honourable mention to the sides, as no self-respecting steakhouse is complete without them. ‘Sweet potato with sour cream, manchego and chorizo’ are four ingredients from which good things can only ever come, no matter which way you mix them. Even the creamed spinach was bang-on thanks to some Béchamel and liberal Grana Padano action.
Desserts were wholly unnecessary but great fun, one a cute play on the American favorite of roasted marshmallows, complete with indoor barbecue action, the other a boozy spongey creamy glass of good times. Morcilla and chorizo, two Argentine classics if ever there were any, didn’t even get a look in on this visit, so a return visit is definitely in order. Just make sure you go hungry and that you jodhpurs have an elastic waist.