In the heart of the Colmore Business District there’s been a bit of a revamp. First, The Grand finished its face-lift shops and bars; now 55 Colmore Row, the former offices of Wragge & Co, has been re-vamped as part of a £30m refurbishment.
Part of this transformation has been the introduction of a London staple into the Birmingham food scene. Gaucho, the Argentinian beef specialists, has taken up residency in the basement around the corner on Church Street. There are 18 restaurants, 12 of those are in London, Hong Kong, Dubai, Buenos Aires (of course), Leeds and Manchester so it was high time Birmingham got in on the action.
I’d been invited for a Beef and Malbec masterclass, so what a better way to scope the place out than with a few choice cuts and a drop of the red stuff to help me along the way.
For a basement bar, they’ve been very clever with the lighting. There are two giant studded ‘Ombu’ trees providing a focal point, with tasteful and contemporary lighting and decor throughout. After a quick welcome drink and chat with a few familiar faces, it was into the private dining room.
The walls in the room, tucked at the back of the restaurant behind the trees, are lined with bottles of wine all the way around with stunning light fixtures and it comfortably seats 12. It’s also available for free, if it isn’t already booked, so ideal for parties etc.
After taking our seats, we had a drop of Chandon Brut (made in a Champagne style at Uco Valley in Mendoza by Domaine Chandon, owned by Moet & Chandon), which was nice and crisp with fruity notes: a worthy Argentinian sip.
We were introduced to our two hosts for the evening: Phil Crozier, Director of Wines, and Fernando Larroude, Head of Grills.
Fernando took centre stage to begin with and took us from farm to table. His fast paced, natural hosting skill and easy charm made every word a delight to hear.
Starting with the cattle part of the story, he began with the story of how Angus Cattle first came to Argentina via Don Carlos Guerrero in 1879; how Argentina are the second biggest beef eaters in the world, an estimated 55kg per year; and how the calves are born in winter to protect them from diseases, and the life of a Gaucho.
Next it was onto how Gaucho prepared their meat. Gaucho controls which animals are selected for their restaurants. Rather than the traditional dry age, which most British people are used to with their steak, they use a wet age method. The meat is sealed in vacuum packs and matured during shipping. The natural enzymes break down the meat whilst there is no weight loss, compared to the traditional dry age method. The Gaucho steaks are matured by this method for a minimum of 45 days and an average of 60-75 days and are grilled to order.
If you’re wondering what’s under the black table cloth, so were we!
Apologies to those non-meat eaters amongst you but in my eyes, this was a glorious bounty.
The team had laid out a demonstration of different beef cuts from nose to tail, Rib-Eye to Rump with Flank and Fillet in between.
After roping in a brand new member of staff to be his steer for the demonstration, he showed us where each cut came from, how much ‘work’ the muscle would have to do and how this would affect the taste and texture of each different cut.
He demonstrated his impressive knife skills, showing us how to trim the cuts and slice a sliver of both fillet and rump to compare in the raw beef form, with a touch of traditional Chimichurri to heighten the flavours.
Fernando had shown us both cuts before preparations and there was near-as no difference from my view, and it was replicated on the plate. Both were astonishingly tender and exceedingly tender, disappearing with a celerity that would make The Flash blush!
Next was the renowned @MrArgentina himself. Phil Crozier introduced our first Malbec of the evening to try our palate with a few morsels of steak, in preparation of the tasting later on. The three cuts were paired with a wine from their own vineyard, the Vina Patricia, from the Mendoza region.
We tried flank, skirt and picanha. The flank and skirt were surprisingly a lot more gentle and tender than I was expecting, almost as tender as the fillet and rump. The wine was proud and delicious, with a taste heading straight to the hedgerows for some dark fruits.
Phil was the first person to produced a solely Argentinian wine list back in 1999 and he spends a few months in Argentina each year making sure the quality of the grapes is up to snuff.
Argentina, surprisingly, is the fifth largest wine producer but only has 2% of the market, with most Brits being more aware of Chilean wine. Argentinians drink 85% of the wine grown in the country so that is probably part of the reason why we don’t see it as much as we should. Argentina does have a massive area in which to grow its wine, starting in the Andes high to the north, down to the plains in South. It covers an astonishing 20 degrees of latitude and from sea level up to 3km in altitude, giving a wide variety of climates to work with.
(All steaks cooked medium rare)
Rump with Aniello
The rump was the biggest suprise of the evening. Still keeping the slight metallic tang of wet age this was tender beyond belief; light and delicate with a touch of flame coming through on the outside. It was many people’s favourite of the evening. The matched wine is part of a recovery project to return the southern Argentine vineyards of the Patagonian Rio Grande to their former glory. It’s an extremely windy place with low yield vines so the wine is kept close to the fruit as possible, with a fresh plummy taste to pair with the juice of the meat.
Sirloin with Luigi Bosca D.O.C.
The sirloin was, in all honesty, a slight let down to follow straight after that rump, but it was still very, very good. I wouldn’t be upset ordering this in the restaurant, with a slight more bit of a char to the meat. The matched wine was from the southern Mendoza region with a warmer climate than the previous. It’s a rare wine to be seen with a D.O.C. in Argentina due to the difficulty in getting the coveted mark. This was a very deep red in colour and its oak ageing really came through in the taste, as it was quite heavy on the tannin.
Fillet with Finca Sophenia ‘Synthesis’
The fillet perked me right back up again and was my favourite cut of the night, going against the consensus of the crowd who picked the rump. I thought if it was just a touch more tender it would’ve melted away on my tongue deliciously. The matched wine was another bold, dark wine with a peppery note amongst the rich red fruits.
Ribeye Steak with Colomé ‘Lote Especial’ El Arenal
The Ribeye was rich, with more a metallic tang to the palate due to their dry aging method, but wholesome in flavour and probably the most complex in palate of the meats we tried that evening. The matched wine was from one of the highest vineyards in the world at two and a half kilometres above sea level. A more purple tinged then deep red, it was intense on the dark fruits with a very complex palate.
The accompanying sides were also delicious with a Humita Saltena, steamed sweetcorn and mozzarella served in a corn husk, and a side salad using lovely flavourful heirloom tomatoes.
We were also treated to a lovely little dusted Chocolate Truffle to round out the night with a glass of Malamado, an Argentinian interpretation of Port. A sweet and perfect end the evening.
I’ll be back to Gaucho again with Wifey in tow, though as their evening are filling up at a rapid pace, the Electro Brunch looks to be an appealing alternative at £45 per head and unlimited food and drink in a 2 hour window.
Gaucho do multiple themed nights throughout the year, (at the time of writing there was one slot left on their Beef and Malbec masterclass at Broadgate if you’re quick!). However, they are more than happy to provide a tailored experience on request.
Where: Gaucho Birmingham, 55 Colmore Row, Lower Ground Retail, Birmingham, B3 2AA
Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Gaucho Birmingham & Rewired PR, this provides no bias to the post. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.