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By JON DEAN
Thursday, May 17, 2012
A new Argentinian restaurant is always likely to stir the curiosity of someone with my gluttonous disposition, specialising as they do in great red wine and well-cooked beef.
31 Camden High Street
Tube: Mornington Crescent
Tel: 0207 388 9861
Mains: £11 (£8 lunch)
Children welcome: Yes
Disabled access: Yes, but no toilet
But there’s more than those mere trifles at La Patagonia, which appeared in Camden Town a couple of months ago.
Two things stuck me as I walked through the doors – firstly the price: a fillet steak was about £10 less than at a typical restaurant.
Secondly, the oven; a big clay beast with a long chimney emerging crookedly from its head.
It lurked in the corner, belching out sweet- smelling woodsmoke across the restaurant and slowly baking dishes to delicious succulence.
Its majestic presence was well represented on the menu – many of the meat dishes were seared in a pan, before being transferred to clay pot, then shoved in the oven to soak up the beautiful charcoal flavour.
The excellent aroma pervaded the place, and I could even smell it on myself on the way home.
To begin, we had the Chicken Matambre, which to my surprise was a cold cut stuffed with garlic carrot and cheese, and was light and refreshing.
For a bit of warmth, we tried the handmade chorizo smothered in tomato sauce. While these were very pleasant, they didn’t have the smoky flavour I associate with the cured sausage.
A whole section of the menu is dedicated to dishes from that lovely oven – things like steak marinated in chimmchurri and lamb cooked in malbec – all very tempting.
In the end we had the sea bass, baked with oil and garlic and served with its head on. It was very good; soft, flaky and full of oceanic flavour.
Then the fillet, which was not as rare as you might expect, but very tender due to the excellent cut and two-stage cooking process.
It was served in a little clay pot and swimming with tangy peppercorn.
Suffice to say, I was pretty happy.
We rounded things off by sharing some traditional Argentinian Tiramasu, which was rich, indulgent and intriguingly served in a jar.
The manager, Pederico, explained to us: “I had a dream one night that all the desserts had to be in jars, then the next day made it happen.”
La Patagonia is that kind of place – very friendly and not too serious.
They don’t joke around when it comes to the quality of the food though – interesting, toothsome and very reasonably priced.