Monday 12 September 2011

4/10 - Gaucho, Charterhouse Street, Smithfield, City of London

Gaucho in London is synonymous with Argentinian beef. They have a monopoly on the stuff. I was walking past their Gaucho Smithfield outpost just the other day, and as I'm always scouting for places that do a burger, and as I've eaten 35 day aged Argentinian beef steak at Gaucho a number of times, and absolutely love it, I made a bet their burger was going to be pretty tasty too!

The Gaucho visual identity is sleek and sophisticated (the colour black has long been used to market luxury goods based on its association with power and exclusiveness), and the interiors of their restaurants reflect that with dark wood tables, cow hide chairs, and subdued lighting. Even on table the luxury feel is extended with large shiny silver cutlery, brilliant white napkins, and thick cubed-crystal candle holders, all the way down the to cool, thin menus that concertina out to reveal their wares. Gaucho sponsorship of the London polo extravaganza lends nothing but gravitas to this exclusive brand postitioning. But sod all the marketing crap, do they make a good burger?
Only one restaurant in London offers this much cow hide
Luxury bread and a crystal cube candleholder sit elegantly side-by-side
At £16 for the Gaucho burger, and an extra £3.10 for chips, this is my most expensive burger to date. At £19.10 for burger and chips, I'm expecting great things.

Bored. The presentation of the burger was slap-dash. Served lid-off on the plate, a single curl of gem lettuce covered a dollop mustard mayo that had been slapped onto the lid of the bun. On the bun bottom, what could only be described as a ball of anaemic-looking mince was plonked on a couple of rings of onion and tomato, and perched on top were a wedge of cheddar, and a piece of rather tasty looking bacon - the only redeeming aspect of this presentation. Chips looked great, served in a separate bowl on the side.

Bacon was the star of a rather underwhelming set of toppings, it was a thick tongue of char grilled, salty, streaky bacon. The Dansglad cheddar was still in hard slab state rather than being nicely melted, and was even sweating - possibly at the sight of a ravenous burger blogger giving it the third degree. Chipotle chutney was a nice idea, but the chipotle was drowned in the preserve. The malbec mustard mayonnaise was neither malbec-y nor mustard-y.

This could have been so good. This burger is made up from cuts of 35 day aged sirloin, rump, fillet, and rib-eye, minced together and hand-formed into a patty. Salivating yet? Well don't. 

I requested this be cooked rare, and rare it was. What I hadn't expected was the anaemic bowling ball of barely cooked mince that appeared in front of me. Please don't get the wrong impression, I am a big fan of very rare meat, but the white, emulsion-like surface to the pattyball with the merest hint of char-grill lines was less than appetizing. The way it was structured also meant that when lidded and squashed the fats hadn't had a chance to bond the meat and so the whole thing began to unravel as fast as the post-Lehman banking crisis.

The only mitigating factor was that the raw mince had a deep aged beef flavour.

Good. The bun was the winner here, again proving that a glazed, part-brioche bun is one of the most appropriate vehicles to absorb the juices a burger can throw at you, not to mention mustard mayo, and chipotle onion chutney.

The chips were great. Hot, crispy and crunchy. They were a cross between pub chips and french fries, and were delicious. Bread left untouched in case it incurred a hefty cover charge...

Overall Rating: 4/10
This is a fecking terrible burger. If you eat at Gaucho, have the steak. The burger is shit. You can have a more appetizing, better executed burger at the Bishop's Finger, just the other side of Smithfields market. In fact, you can have TWO Bishop's Finger burgers for the price of one Gaucho burger. The problem is the ingredients are good but the execution is atrocious. Gaucho, for what it's worth, no amount of polo sponsorship or cow hide or dark wood can buy your way out of serving up such anything as terrible at this burger. Especially at £16 a pop.

On the back of that burger rant, I would like to note that the service I received was excellent and my waiter was very attentive, a ray of light on an otherwise quite uninspiring burger experience.


  1. Also not impressed with the size of the burger against the bun --- I hate eating mouthfuls of burger bun with no fecking burger in them. And the bacon looks good but again, not enough for size of burger.


  2. It really does look so poor....£21, really? What a real shame, when like you said it could have been top notch, but even so still way over priced. Gaucho is just expensive.... too expensive on all fronts....

  3. £21, are you kidding?!! Evidently not, but still... I'm fairly speechless. You have, however, provided a public service (just about the only one the government hasn't cut as far as I can see). A friend suggested Gaucho for a lunch yet to be arranged - to be his treat you understand - and I plumped for Hawksmoor instead. I'm now looking forward to Hawksmoor even more than before, whether I burger or go the well-aged steak route. So, thank you, Burger Me, I hope your next is tastier.

  4. Kavey - Totally agree, surely Gaucho of all restaurants could be a little more generous with their portions...

    Anthony - Such a shame, have had a few steaks at Gaucho and no complaints, just smacks of laziness.

    Sashimi Girl - Thanks for the feedback. I am glad to say that lack of gvmt funding will cut this public service! Hawks is a great choice, their burger is right up there with the best of them!

  5. I was disappointed to learn from my waiter that the meat is wet aged off the bone whilst on the boat from Argentina. I think its the charcoal grill that makes up for it.

  6. It sounds like the problem is that it was too rare. Maybe it'd be worth giving their medium-rare a go since the ingredients look so promising.


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