Thursday, March 05, 2009

River Plate

Sat 28 February 2009

After championing local food yesterday I'm pleased today to be able to play the hypocrite and tell you about dinner at River Plate, the Argentinian restaurant on The Calls. The menu cheerfully states that "All our beef is imported directly from traceable farms in Argentina ...". Hmmm, already I'm not sure that I approve!

This was very much a last minute exercise. We were sitting in Sela, I was enjoying a quiet Coopers Pale, and the subject of dinner came up. Where to go? Our first choice was fully booked until 10pm (I guess this is what happens if you start ringing around at 6:30pm) and we were tossing around ideas when Andy (let's blame him!) suggested River Plate. A quick phone call secured us a table for 7pm and as soon as our beers were finished we set off across town.

As soon as we walked in we were greeted and seated, at a lovely large circular table, set with just the two places. Our waitress gave us the menus and straight away told us the dishes that weren't available today (I was gutted that empanadas weren't an option) and brought over a small tabletop blackboard with the day's specials.

With empanadas not an option I ummed and aahed about my starter. Since we'd be eating steak and (obviously!) drinking an Argentinian Malbec (the wine list gets an OK - I'd have been happier if the list had championed Argentinian wine rather than trying to include something for everyone) it was with a great deal of difficulty that I finally settled on the garlic prawns in a white wine and chilli sauce. Andy chose a savoury fried pancake. For main courses, I went for the 225g bife de chorizo and Andy the 300g bife de ancho (rib eye).

Hard part of the meal over we continued solving the world's problems while we waited for our food. I soon noticed I felt a bit cold and, after a slight investigation, we realised that we were sitting very near an open window. Was this a problem? No, as our wine arrived we asked for it to be shut and it was so. I know this is hardly an achievement but I mention this because the prompt and cheerful manner in which the request was handled is indicative of the overall good service we experienced at River Plate.

Food wise, Andy definitely won on the starter. One bite in to my prawns, I announced "these are overcooked" and duly sent a piece Andy's way. He agreed (although only just). That aside I quite enjoyed them but I wouldn't have this again - mainly because it's the type of thing I could put together at home with my eyes closed. Andy's pancake - stuffed with a spicy lamb mix, fried up and served with tzatziki was really tasty though. Fortune had indeed favoured the bold.

Ordering steak is always a fraught exercise. Will it be cooked just right? Will it be served on a hot plate, seasoned, still jelly like in the middle but warm the whole way through? With River Plate the answer was a resounding yes. As Andy pointed out, there'd be something very wrong if you were running an Argentine grill and you couldn't do a good steak, but ... you never know.

I'm really glad we chose two such different cuts. Bife de chorizo appears to be like sirloin (sorry, I'm not a butcher ...). My meat was flawlessly cooked and eating it was like eating a piece of warm, meaty butter. With a cut like this, there's not a huge amount of flavour but I had ordered some chimichurri sauce on the side. Andy's rib eye, unsurprisingly, was a tougher piece of meat but with loads of flavour and, again, perfectly cooked. If you ever want to taste the difference between two cuts of meat I suggest you try this pairing.

We also ordered side dishes of chips which were very good (although the two dishes we ordered might have been excessive).

After all of that, we weren't exactly in need of pudding so we finished off our meal with coffees. The total bill came to an eye-watering £75. Considering that our bottle of wine was under £20 we spent a lot of money on ... well, two pieces of steak.

So this leaves me in a quandry. Great steak, great service ... I should be recommending this place. But it's just too expensive. Perhaps reserve it for treats for the die-hard steak lover in your life.

Of course - given how busy River Plate was on Saturday night you'll need to book!

1. Sela, 20 New Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6NU, phone: 0113 242 9442, map.
2. River Plate, 36-38 The Calls, Leeds, LS2 7EW, phone: 0113 391 2792, map.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

For that price, better save it for a rainy day! No empanadas and fried pancakes? Don't know what that's all about! The fried pancakes are not an argentine specialty as far as I know, never had them in the 3 years I lived there. Unfortunately, can't recommend any places in London. Went to Gaucho and deeply disappointed by the food, good wine list though.

9:23 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

The pancakes were tasty but no idea about their authenticity (they came with tzatziki which might tell you a lot ...).

Perhaps Gaucho and River Plate need to swap wine lists ... ;)

1:17 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree that the only fault is a massive shortage of Argie wines on the list at River Plate....

You know my views on Gaucho - excellent wine list but really stupid prices, I mean stupid stupid stupid.....

10:48 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

Alastair - I think here in the north we're just spoilt on the price front! ;)

8:54 pm  

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