Steak that melts in the mouth and an all-Argentinian wine list; Julie Sheppard gives her verdict on Zoilo in Marylebone.
9 Duke Street, London W1U 3EG
Tel:020 7486 9699
- Style of food: Argentinian small plates
- Wine to try: El Esteco Old Vine 1945 Torrontes, Cafayate 2016
- Price: £90 for a meal for two with wine; set lunch £16/19 for two/three courses
- Kitchen open: 12pm-2.30pm; 5.30pm-10.30pm Monday to Friday
One of my favourite things about visiting wineries in Argentina is that you’ll invariably be invited to sample an asado – prime cuts of native beef cooked in the open air over a fire pit of glowing embers.
This is no British barbecue, with its neat burgers, flipped over tame flames (and usually accompanied by rain). This is elemental cooking – fire, meat and man – and the results are a carnivore’s delight, particularly with a bottle of local Malbec.
So I was delighted to see ‘ASADO’ in capital letters on the menu at Zoilo, an Argentinian small-plates restaurant on Marylebone’s Duke Street.
Appropriately enough, the same street where South American hero Simón Bolívar lodged – look out for the blue plaque opposite as you walk by. Behind a heavy velvet curtain lies a compact but handsome dining room, all monochrome tiles and dark wood.
Argentinian Diego Jacquet is chef patron both here and at boCHINce in Singapore. Earning his culinary stripes as an apprentice under Argentina’s star chef Francis Mallman, he also worked at elBulli in Spain and Aquavit in NYC among others, before bringing his signature taste of Argentina to the UK.
His menu changes monthly, but you can expect to find an empanada on there: on our visit a choice of classic beef or more experimental braised Cornish cuttlefish with fennel and chorizo.
We tried both of course, and they were as good as anything you’d find in Buenos Aires, with proper crumbly pastry and soft, savoury fillings. Another regular fixture is the must-try melted provolone cheese, served on a sizzling skillet; its savoury punch balanced by sweet oregano honey.
Other highlights included darkly addictive black pudding croquettes, little bombs of umami, and of course that asado.
Aged Argentinian flank steak, flecked with sea salt, gloriously blackened on the outside and pinkly tender inside, with a melting texture that makes you remember why Argentina makes such a fuss about its beef.
But don’t forget to save room for one of the decadent dulce du leche desserts.
All-Argentinian wine list
It’s also worth shouting about the wine list here, an all-Argentine selection that showcases the quality and variety of the country’s current wine scene.
Try El Esteco’s stunning Old Vine 1945 Torrontes 2016 from Cafayate, a serious style bursting with peach, jasmine and mandarin aromas, with a tangy and textured palate.
There’s plenty of choice by the glass and carafe, as well as magnums and Malbec flights; compare and contrast the Alto Las Hormigas high-altitude Uco Valley Malbecs from Gualtallary and Altamira.
It’s not all about Malbec though. Seek out the elegant, cool-climate Costa & Pampa Pinot Noir 2015 or Paul Hobbs’ complex Viña Cobos Bramare Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, a powerhouse from Lujan de Cuyo that’s a great match for steak.
Julie Sheppard is Decanter’s commissioning editor and a specialist writer and editor on food, drink and eating out. Editing for Decanter.com by Laura Seal.