‚Äú 2a St Mary¬ís Street / Manchester / M3 2LB / Tel: 0161 833 4333 ‚Äě
I went to Gaucho between Christmas and new year with my boyfriend and another couple. I've heard good things about it and had been told they do great steaks but that its expensive. I almost went a few months ago but it was already fully booked on the night we were in Manchester. It is described as an Argentine Steak House and there are others located in London and Leeds.
This time I made sure to book early on and made a reservation a few weeks in advance. Most times were available so I went with 8pm. The booking system uses www.opentable.co.uk which is a popular booking engine used by a lot of restaurants now. It was easy to use and I got email confirmation straight away. On the day of our meal I got a call from Gaucho to confirm we were still attending.
Gaucho is located in the centre of Manchester off Deansgate. It is next to Harvey Nichols and joined onto the same row of buildings as Prohibiton Bar and Revolution Bar. We drove into Manchester and parked in NCP King Street West which was the closest secure car park but cost ¬£13 for under 4 hours!! Our friends managed to find a street parking space which was free after 7pm so they were a bit more fortunate. Because the restaurant is located so centrally its easy to get there on public transport and there are loads of nearby bars to continue on to.
From the outside Gaucho does not look that special and I had actually passed it many times before without realising it was there! It is just a doorway and there are no windows looking into it so its quite mysterious. When we entered there was a reception desk and then we walked through a large bar area before entering the main dining area. The bar area is really big and despite the restaurant being busy the bar was quiet. I'm not sure if it is open to the public or just diners. It comprised of loads of modern seating areas with several booth style tables and chairs and dim lighting. It looked really nice and I would definitely considering getting a drink there if I'm ever nearby.
The restaurant is really spectacular. Firstly it is HUGE! When you see the restaurant from the outside it looks quite small but once inside I realised it is a vast space with an incredibly high ceiling. It had a look of an ex bank building but we decided it may have been a church as there were what looked like original stained glass on the back wall. The majority of the tables are on the ground level where there is also an open kitchen. There were easily 50 possibly more tables in this area so plenty of atmosphere. The only trouble was it was such a huge open space with little division between areas which meant privacy wasn't an option and the noise levels were high. This didn't bother me on this occasion as we were in a group of 4, however it would have been a problem had it just been me and my boyfriend on our own. Despite this the tables are placed well and it didn't appear any tables were lined up next to eachother, instead they were angled so you weren't directly facing anyone else.
The d√©cor in the place was all perfect and ultra elegant. The chairs are covered in cow skin which looked cool and the combination of dim lighting and cool music playing gave the place a stylish vibe. My only issue with the table was that it was far too small for 4 people. We each had an alcoholic drink and a glass of water which seemed to fill the centre of the square tables we were on. So when the large plates arrived along with side dishes we soon ran out of space for everything and ended up cramming things on and balancing glasses on the edge of the table! I think the table we were on would have been better suited for two people, however I noticed the tables for two were even smaller!
We were placed near the edge of the main seating area and very close to the open kitchen. I was glad about this, it was interesting to be able to see into the kitchen and also nice to not be too much in the middle of all the noise and chaos. The restaurant was full despite it being a not so popular night and the rest of Manchester being quiet, so its obviously a popular place, so I got the feeling that they try to cram as many people in on each night as possible. It would be hard to make such a big room seem crowded, however they achieved this..
The toilets were very modern and clean as expected so they matched the rest of the restaurant well. There was a decent brand hand wash and hand cream available to use which was nice.
When we arrived our table was ready and we were given the option of going straight to the table or having a drink in the bar first, but we decided to go straight to the table. We were given menus and soon approached by a waitress asking for our drinks order. There was a wine list however we decided they were all too expensive. Wines started at ¬£40 and we just didn't feel bothered enough about having wine to pay this. So we decided to order from the cocktail menu. I ordered the "Patagonian Cobbler" which is Sauvignon Blanc and apple liqueur mixed with peach puree and apple juice, shaken and topped with summer berries. It cost ¬£8.50.
The drinks arrived quickly and we were also offered still water. I was a touch disappointed with the cocktail, it lacked the wow factor which usually comes with ordering a decent cocktail. It was served in a plain looking glass like that you would get a coke in, and it just didn't look that exciting. It also didn't taste very exciting considering all the flavours that went into it. I did appreciate the summer berries though which were tiny little red bits which floated throughout the drink and looked amazing. I decided at that point not to order any more cocktails from the restaurant so made mine last for the meal.
Gaucho is a steak restaurant so the menu is predominantly made up of steaks, however they do offer a few other meats and a vegetarian option. When we arrived at the table we were greeted by a waitress with a meat board showcasing some of the most popular cuts and she explained the different cuts and marinades. This was really useful as the menu is quite confusing at first and we asked her a few questions and she was able to maintain what kind of steak would be best. I went with the Churrasco de Chorizo which is a Sirloin Steak which has been marinated for in garlic, parsley and olive oil for 48 hours. It is a 300g steak and cost ¬£25.00. This price also included a sauce and a choice of either salad or chips. I chose the smoked garlic hollandaise sauce and chips. I also ordered the buttered carrots as a side dish which are described as "purple, golden and white carrots with chives, thyme and parley. The side dish cost ¬£4.00. The others all went with the Gaucho Tasting Platter which is a taster of three of the most popular cuts, its 450g of meat and cost ¬£33.55 and also included the side dish and a sauce.
Whilst we waited for the food we were offered breads which we went with. We were given an interesting variety of different breads including a cheesy one which the waitress described as a 'cheese puff' which was delicious. The breads also came with a variety of accompaniments including mixed herbs to sprinkle on and olive oil infused with chillies. This was brilliant and was a good sign for the food to come.
When the food arrived I felt slightly under whelmed. The others were served their meat on a wooden board which looked really cool, whereas mine arrived on a plain white circular plate which seemed boring in contrast. The steaks all looked amazing which was great but the sides looked quite awful. They came served in little white boat style dishes which were a bit boring and unoriginal for a restaurant like this. The chips were terrible, they were thinly sliced and tasteless, they reminded me of McDonalds chips. I expected thick cut homemade looking chips in an upmarket steakhouse but instead ended up with thin floppy greasy chips which soon went cold. My boyfriend had ordered the salad and this looked equally unappetising, it was very basic and didn't appear to use fine or interesting ingredients. I know it sounds fussy but when you are paying a premium price you expect premium food, and these sides were like those you would expect when in a chain restaurant and paying much less. There was nothing exciting or original about any of them.
Anyway that's the bad out of the way and onto the good...the steak was brilliant! I had ordered the hollandaise sauce however had no need for it as the steak was so tasty on its own. I rarely order steak and when I do I usually coat it in sauce but this was different. It was clear it had been marinated as described and the taste result was delicious. I thought the 300g cut would be over facing but I managed to eat almost all of it as it was too tasty to leave! It was obvious this was fine quality cut and it was much better than any similar steak I've had before. So at least the main event of the food was great.
Despite devouring all that steak I still fancied a dessert and decided to try the Chocolate and Ginger Tart which comes with ginger ice cream, orange sauce and a sesame seed tuille. This cost ¬£8.50. When it arrived it looked great and I enjoyed the sesame seed tuille which was light and crispy, however the actual tart was dry and heavy, not how I'd imagined it at all. It just tasted a bit bland despite the orange sauce which helped it along. I usually love desserts like this but wasn't overly impressed by this one.
The service was very good throughout our time at the restaurant. The waitress we had was very friendly and willing to go out of her way to help and took an interest in explaining the menu and ensuring we got the most out of what we ordered. The service was always very quick and efficient. We were never left waiting very long for anything. This included the food which arrived very quickly, possibly too quickly but this wasn't a problem! I usually find in most restaurants there is a point where you are left waiting, whether its for the bill, or for the dessert menu or waiting for plates to be cleared...but there was never a moment like this at Gaucho because the waitress was so attentive.
Even though it's such a big restaurant we always seemed to have the attention of our waitress and it was easy to get her attention to ask for drinks or to request the bill. We could trust the waitress with our requests and knew we would always get what we asked for. She was also very friendly and laid back, so was able to have a laugh with us. We had the same waitress for the duration of our time there which gave it a nice consistency.
For myself and my partner the bill came to ¬£82.50 and we added a ¬£5 tip. This covered 1 cocktail, 1 beer, still water, 2 steak dishes and 2 extra side orders. If I was basing it just on the steak and service I would say this was great value for money, however considering the poor quality of the sides and the bland cocktail and dessert I was disappointed to be paying this amount and wouldn't bother returning. Had the bill been half this amount I would have thought it was satisfactory value, but for what we got it was far too expensive. We paid for the bill in 2 halves and paid on 2 separate cards which the waitress was happy to do and handled perfectly.
The d√©cor, service and steaks are 5 star quality, however the drinks, side dishes and dessert really let this down and ruined the experience for us therefore I wouldn't recommend or return to this restaurant. The food isnt that bad by my usual standards and there was nothing terrible about it, but for the amount we paid it was poor and was certainly not in line with the prices. The interior is beautiful but probably better suited to groups rather than couples as it is very open and quite noisy.
2A Saint Mary's Street
Tel: 0161 8334333
Although the Manchester branch of Gaucho's has won various awards including Manchester Food and Drink Festival Restaurant of the Year 2007, friends have given it mixed reviews. The feedback had been from one extreme to the other, some absolutely rave about it and are regular diners while others are not impressed and have not returned. I'm not a big red meat eater, preferring fish and white meat. The last time I ate a steak was well over a year ago but after reading larsbaby's excellent review on Gaucho's in the Netherlands, I thought it was time to pay a visit to Gaucho's Manchester.
Because this is a very popular restaurant and because I wanted a booking for a Saturday evening, I made my reservation some weeks ago. What I hadn't realise was this was the night of the Ricky Hatton fight and Manchester was heaving with large parties of blokes enjoying a pie and a pint before the event. We arrived at the restaurant at 7.15pm for our 7.30pm booking and checked in at the reception, which is in a foyer, away from the bar and restaurant. When I had made my booking I had been asked for my first name as well as my surname, which I thought was a little unusual. The very pleasant receptionist then asked a member of staff to "take Lorraine and her guest to the bar" and I though this was a nice touch.
I had seen photographs of the inside of the restaurant in local press articles. I remember thinking that this light and airy place was the kind of venue that I prefer. I was disappointed to find that the place had been recently decorated and the white walls replaced by dark brown to match the flooring. It was dimly lit and the only contrast came from the chairs, which were backed, in white and brown cowhide, a reminder of what was on the menu. If I had wanted to choose a drink from the menu I would have had to take it outside, as I couldn't read a thing. Fortunately I had studied the menu on line and keeping in touch with the Argentinian feel, decided on a pre dinner Margarita.
Fifteen minutes later we were shown to our table. The contrast in the dining area was very welcome and very light The small thin entrance corridor opens out to one of the most spectacular interiors in Manchester; a former church hall split into two levels and joined up with staircases and a wonderful stained glass roof.. The upper area is know as "the stage" and consists of individual tables. The lower level has individual tables to the centre and bench tables on its outer. My heart sank when hubby and I were shown to a bench table next to a party of eight very loud men. We hadn't planned on a romantic evening but I did want to hear ourselves speak. The topic of conversation was the boxing and what they were hoping to get out of it. Not very pleasant I have to say. When the waitress arrived to introduce herself, I pessimistically asked whether we could have another table. A few minutes later the head waitress came, having found us a table on this very busy evening. I was impressed and able to relax.
We were given the menus and an explanation on the food and how it was cooked and a complimentary course of Argentinian bread, cheese bread and a wonderful herb and oil dip. The cheese bread was delicious and looked similar to a small scone with warm cheese in the middle. I commented on how tasty they were and the waiter brought us a second helping. He then returned with a selection of cuts of meat and explained how they were cooked and the sizes they came in. Choices of rump, sirloin and fillet or the Churrasco de lomo, a marinated 300g spiral of grilled beef fillet, marinated for 48 hours in lime and herbs from Argentina. There are fish dishes, a variety of salads and a couple of vegetarian options, but I was here to have my yearly fix of meat and I plumped for the Churrasco at ¬£19 and hubby a 300g fillet and ¬£23.50. The steaks come with either chips or salad. Side dishes vary from ¬£3 to ¬£5.75 and sauces between ¬£2 and ¬£3. The waiter advised that my choice was best left alone, but hubby chose a blue cheese sauce with his. Having thoroughly enjoyed the bread and oil, and witnessed the size of the meat, we decided to forego a starter.
I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, although the lack of steak knives was a little unusual and would have made things easier. My medium steak was cooked to perfection and melted in the mouth. I couldn't manage it all and hubby helped me out after finishing off his "well done" fillet.
The wine list is really interesting to read - covering 140 Argentinian wines with a good explanation/ description to each one. Wines start at a little over ¬£20 per bottle up to ¬£40 plus. Three different kinds of Argentinian beer and a number of cocktails are on offer if you can see the menu to choose. We didn't finish our bottle of Terruno and were given the remainder as we left, stopper dutifully replaced.
There is a choice of around half a dozen sweets plus cheese but I only saw one table partaking. With wonderful bread and popular Desperate Dan sized 400g steaks leaving the kitchen, I would have been amazed if anyone had asked for anything else other than the bill.
At last I can tick off the Gaucho from my list of eateries. Would I go back? If a was a keen red meat eater, this is a place I would frequent, but as I'm not, I'll probably return in another 12 months for my annual fix. If I return before that it would be to try out either the Grilled Spatchcock Chicken marinated in lemon and lime chimichurri or the Patagonian Seabass with aubergine chutney.
Gaucho is a small chain, having a number of outlets in London. It has won awards for its impressive South American steaks. If you are a fan of great hunks of steaks slapped on to a charcoal grill and cooked to your liking, you'll be more than happy here. Despite being a chain, one thing that stood out at Manchester's Gaucho was the high level of service. From the very friendly meet and greet at the reception, the waiter we nearly had who arranged our table swap and the one we had. Despite being a very busy evening, the level never dropped. Members of staff were friendly, willing and worked their butts off.
The kitchen, which is on full view to its diners, appeared to be spotless, as were the loos. ( I inherited this from my mother!)
Open every day 12noon to midnight
Full disabled access.
I've given Gaucho's Manchester four out of five stars. I've dropped one star due of the lack of light in the bar area, which made the drinks menu impossible to read and was hard on the eyes and also for the lack of steak knives.
For menu, price and outlets visit www.gaucho-grill.com
The finest Argentinean wines, beers and cocktails (and steaks) all year round.