25th October 2017
14 Meyers Place
Melbourne, VIC 3000
I had a terrible lapse in judgement a few years back, when I decided to have my first proper steak at Rockpool Bar and Grill. Unsurprisingly, that meal sort of ruined all future steaks for me; although I’ve had some decent cuts of meat here and there since, it just doesn’t compare to the dry-aged, 9+ marble score David Blackmore wagyu served up at Rockpool.
With that said however, I’ve always heard that San Telmo does some bang-up steak, being an Argentinean restaurant and all. First impressions certainly cemented that fact – the dining room was old-school masculine, with ample amounts of leather and marble, and cow hides adorning the walls. The whole place just screams steak really.
Fresh meat and seafood – cooked simply and cooked well – features prominently on the menu. The centrepiece of the open kitchen is a deep charcoal fire pit operated with cranks and pulleys, onto which the chefs throw everything from strings of chorizo to whole heads of cauliflower, imparting them with an intoxicating, smoky aroma. And in the case of the cauliflower, they follow that up with a blizzard of cheese.
The Rudderfish, Octopus, Roasted Pepper, Potato, and Dill ($18) ceviche whetted the appetite with its sharply invigorating flavours. The seafood was fresh as can be, the chewy octopus contrasting with the delicate creaminess of the white fish. The dressing is bright with citrus, a hint of dill, and a slight smoky sweetness from the roasted peppers. Each bite bears a slightly different mixture of textures and flavours, and really gets the stomach rumbling.
The Provoleta ($16) was a must-order, even as my insides churned with guilt at the thought of eating a dish of nothing but fried cheese. But to be honest, this was too good for me to care. Hidden beneath the chewy golden crust was a lake of creamy, molten provolone, edged with the covetable crispy bits that have been burnished by the red-hot pan. Each bite was perfectly, addictively salty, and sprinkled with a surprisingly robust combination of oregano and chilli. Cut through the richness with a squeeze of lemon, and you’ll be left scraping the pan – I guarantee it.
If you ask me, black sausage doesn’t get nearly the representation it deserves in the mainstream Australian food scene. I imagine the thought of blood in food tends to turn a lot of people off. However, the Morcilla ($14) is a great entry point for those of you willing to give it a try. The flavour of this sausage is mild and earthy, with a hearty richness to the soft texture and gentle spices. And I promise – you can’t taste the blood at all.
But what I’d really been waiting for was the steak, and after a lengthy consultation with our friendly, knowledgeable waiter with the awesome beard, I settled on the O’Connor’s Grain Fed Rump Cap ($47, 300g), which was promised to have a buttery tenderness, whilst still being full in flavour.
Sure enough, this was a wonderful cut of meat. Cooked to a juicy medium-rare with an irresistible, charry crust sprinkled with sea salt, this was an excellent, full-flavoured piece of beef. It was delicious on its own, but the crisp, herbal flavours of the chimichurri really helped bring out the richness of the meat.
To balance out the meat was a plate of Chauchas ($15). The beans were bright and crisp, and the fronds of asparagus boasted a smoky sweetness from the grill. Finished off with dollops of creamy baked ricotta and a handful of pine nuts, this salad was refreshing yet substantial.
There was just enough room left for dessert, and it didn’t take much for us to agree on the Panqueques ($15). The soft, delicate crepes were rolled up with a centre of spiced ginger sauce, and served with a scoop of toffee-sweet dulce de leche ice cream. It was simple, delicious, and utterly captivating.
San Telmo has been around for years and years, but it’s still as popular as ever. With that said though, it’s not very hard to see why. San Telmo has an undeniable old-world charm, with food that is straightforward and delicious, and warm hospitality in a warm environment. The prices are a little bit painful, but given the quality of the food, it’s not too bad all up. And if you’re still not convinced, check out their golden empanada trophy! Now if that doesn’t sell a restaurant, I don’t know what does.
Rating: 15.5/20 – old-world pleasures.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.