Restaurant Review: Gaucho, Cardiff

Creative cocktails, scene-stealing wine and melt-in-the-mouth sustainable steak – highlights of Dine Out editor Genna Ash-Brown’s recent visit to Gaucho’s Cardiff outpost

I interviewed Martin Williams, CEO of Rare Restaurants, in October 2022, having never actually been to a venue owned and operated by the group. It’s just the nature of business sometimes – in a sector as fast-paced as hospitality, anyone in a position similar to Williams will have a diary that’s chock-a-block throughout the year. This, paired with the technicalities of undertaking journalist duties while living in Bristol and working for a fully remote company, meant that an in-person meeting at Williams’s chosen outpost simply wasn’t possible at the time. But with the group committing to providing carbon-neutral steaks across its entire portfolio – which includes the modern global grill concept M and Argentinian steakhouse brand Gaucho – in April that same year, on top of expanding its estate to include two new restaurants offering entirely carbon-neutral beef (M in Canary Wharf, which unfortunately closed in 2023, and Gaucho in Glasgow, thankfully still going strong), I couldn’t miss the chance to chat with the head of a company so intent on making a positive impact. Then, last September, the group launched a branch of Gaucho in Cardiff, a mere hop, skip and jump away from my Bristol base. Time to pop that cherry.

Industrial elegance

Nestled among the retail hub of Cardiff City centre, a brief 10-minute walk from the central train station, the restaurant looks new and unassuming from outside. Indoors, though, it’s an entirely different story; a horseshoe feature bar takes centre stage in this classy yet industrial setting, with the pampas grass-lined walls and earthy colour palette giving a nod to the rugged landscape of Argentina. A mix of track and rail and hanging lights provide that moody but elegant glow that is synonymous with dining at the more premium end of the scale. If it wasn’t obvious enough already, our coats were whisked away and we were handed tokens in return, confirming that we weren’t at your regular, casual high street dining joint.

The elegantly moody interior at Gaucho Cardiff

The space encompasses two floors and an outdoor terrace, with the sizable ground-floor restaurant offering 118 covers, the top floor an additional 76 and then a private dining room seating up to 26. Being a Friday lunchtime, it was much busier than expected – with the demographic also being far more diverse than I had thought. Groups of friends, families and couples young and old filled the room with busy chatter as we were taken to our table. It’s not every day you see teeny-tiny humans tucking into full platters of steak – but perhaps it’s far more common on the last day of half term which, I realised later, was exactly when we’d booked.

'Like butter'

We kicked things off with cocktails (as you do). I went for the Argentinian Siesta (£10.50), featuring chilli-infused El Jimador Blanco tequila, Pampele grapefruit aperitivo, passionfruit, reconstructed lemon juice and agave. It was delicious, but also one of those serves where you can’t really taste the alcohol. Is that good, bad or downright dangerous? I honestly don’t know, but I can safely say that my partner’s choice picked up where mine left off, with the Banana Bouche (£13) – a heady mix of Eminente rum, Discarded Banana Peel rum, Two Drifters Signature rum, chocolate, Angostura and banana espuma – providing a boozy sucker punch certain to get the blood pumping.

I went with the burrata (£14.50) to start, which came with a classic tomato salad infused with truffle and aged balsamic, then served on toasted sourdough. I’m yet to meet a burrata I didn’t like, but I wish I’d not let my cheese fiend intrusive thoughts win and branched out to something else – the sautéed prawns (£15.50) or sea bass ceviche (£13.50) would perhaps have been more likely to stick in my mind. My husband, Max, went for the velvety seared diver scallops (£22), served with aguachile verde and ‘nduja butter, which gave a delightfully unexpected kick, topped with a crunchy lemon crumb that really finished off the dish.

While I’m a dedicated veggie indoors, I’m a pesci out of home, and the whole grilled sea bass (£27.50) cooked in early harvest olive oil, herbs and lemon was a main I couldn’t resist. One thing I’ve learnt, as the editor of a restaurant magazine as well as a consumer, is that when you encounter staff as personable, attentive and downright knowledgeable as those we met at Gaucho Cardiff, your best bet is to sit up and listen to their recommendations. We were safe in our waiter’s hands, with the sautéed tender stem broccoli (£6) with confit garlic, roasted almond and lemon zest he steered me towards being the ideal accompaniment to my main. He also suggested the Rioja Organza Blanco – a delectable Spanish white featured on the restaurant’s sustainable wine list. It was rich and full-bodied in a way I’ve never experienced with white wine before, but still very much one you’d match with a lighter fish dish as opposed to with red meat. Under my strict instruction, Max had to go for the steak (it’s a hard life, eh?), with the waiter proposing the churrasco de lomo speciality cut (£60) as the way to go, expertly paired with a large glass of the Cuma Organic malbec sustainable wine from northern Argentina. The steak, marinated in garlic, parsley and olive oil and cooked medium-rare, was then drizzled with chimichurri sauce and served with hand-cut chips. Max was in heaven, naming it the best steak he’d ever had and deeming the texture “like butter”. High praise indeed from a truly carnivorous foodie. This was followed by a chocolate brownie (£8.50) for me and Don Pedro (whipped ice cream with walnuts and rum, £10) for Max, but honestly, all we could talk about from that point on was how much Max wanted to eat that steak again, and again, and again…

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