Dining anywhere in London in the midst of the World Cup season is something of a gamble. Even the most hitherto respectable establishments have decided that it makes sound commercial sense to import giant television screens into their rooms in order to allow their patrons to keep track of the action; they are not wrong, but it can be less relaxing an eating out experience than one would wish for, to say nothing of loud. And that’s just as if your team cruises to a solid 1-0 victory, or languishes sadly in a 0-1 defeat; a great victory, or crushing defeat, might lead to something quite disturbing happening.
So it was probably for the best that my friend Helena, a football agnostic, and I found ourselves in the stylishly Spartan surroundings of Chimchurris in Southwark, an Argentine steak and meat emporium that has opened to no little excitement from committed carnivores. Situated on what might politely be termed the unfashionable end of Southwark Bridge Road, it has already acquired a reputation for a seriousness and purpose when it comes to its cuisine, which it serves in the sort of whacking portions that were thought to have gone out of fashion when Henry VIII was doing his huntin’, fishin’, divorcin’ thing, and which it is nearly impossible for two adults with normal, even hearty, appetites to make serious inroads into. But, gentle reader, we would do our best.
The room has no pretensions to anything especially fancy; no Hawksmoor here. Instead, you are here to eat superb, largely beef-based cuisine, courtesy of ex-Brindisa head chef Nico Modad, an Argentine ex-pat who has always been keen to bring his brand of wizardry to SE1. Thus, you might begin with a couple of substantial empanadas stuffed with blue cheese, and perhaps some provolone cheese with mushrooms and chimichurri, before the promised meat appears in the magnificent form of a sausage duo, the wonderfully named ‘matrimonio’, a marriage of a black pudding and a fine chorizo. This amount of food, it should be noted, is probably more than enough for a full meal for two people with average-sized appetites, and would cost you just over a tenner each. But, like the woman, we persisted.
A bottle of sparkling Argentine Brut – the Malma – oiled the passage somewhat, and now the real deal was about to begin. We asked for pity to be taken on us, and although it was not, a compromise was struck whereby the Argentine rib eye would only come in a 300g size – note my use of the word ‘only’ – so as to prepare us for the behemoth that functions as a signature dish of sorts. This was the traditional beef scallop, a particularly delicious cut of beef that came garnished with virtually everything under the sky; I glanced at the menu to find that, in addition to beef, I could expect to eat tomato, caramelised onion, ham, mozzarella, blue cheese, olives, roasted pepper and a fried egg. The only thing missing was the kitchen sink, and it would have come as no surprise to see a dozen eager but sweaty men bearing that across the room as well. It was sensational, wonderful, and eventful, and we barely managed half of it.
The wine side of the operation is excellent, and the red that we were offered, a sound Argentine Malbec from Cepas Privadas, has the distinct advantage of being able to cut through the heaviness and richness of the meat, as the best wines do. We bashed our way through a shared pudding, a delightful concoction made of biscuits and dulce de leche, and then, espresso martini down, it was time to leave. England lost the football that evening, but we found ourselves unbothered. The deliciousness and delight of Chimichurris – eating our own body weights aside – is that it’s offering something new and genuinely appealing. Once I’ve been on a juice and lettuce leaf diet for a few weeks, I can’t wait to try it again.
Two-all. The final whistle blows.
Chimichurris, 132 Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 0DG. For more information, including menus and to make a reservation, visit www.chimichurris.co.uk.