50 Holt St
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Porteno sits on the graveyard of what used to be Movida Sydney, so I was inclined to dislike it before I even got there. But as much as I loathe to admit it, I changed my mind embarrassingly quickly once I had arrived. Though billed as an Argentinean steakhouse, it is neither aggressively masculine, nor is there any whiff of cultural appropriation. It is in fact, full of charming old-world European glamour, complete with meticulously-mannered staff in waistcoats and bowties. But don’t be fooled: this place is serious about their meat, and it takes just one pass by the kitchen – filled diabolically with smoke and open flames – to hammer that point home. If you really want to be particular about it, yes, Porteno is just a steakhouse, and I won’t pretend it does anything that hasn’t been done before. However, although there isn’t too much in the way of surprises, almost everything about the experience is a delight.
Rating: 15.5/20 – guaranteed good times.
Must order: blood sausage, seriously. best I’ve ever had.
If the special of Bone Marrow with Woodfired Bread ($42) is available, ordering it is non-negotiable. This is sourdough and butter for those who thrive on excess. Scrape out the decadent bits – topped with jammy caramelised onions to really bring out the smoky aroma – and slather it generously on the bread, which comes steaming from the oven, and so fluffy it’s almost creamy.
Blood sausage suffers from bad advertising, so I’m here to clear a few things up. The Grilled Blood Sausage ($32) a) does not taste like blood at all, and b) is one of the finest specimens of its type, and it would be a huge mistake to miss it. With a richly spiced filling and a casing so snappy it almost sticks to the teeth, this is one indulgent starter. But don’t worry – it has its match in the pickled green tomatoes.
The Jack’s Creek Skirt Steak ($74, 300g) was touted to be one of the juiciest, most flavoursome cuts on the menu. And although it’s definitely much less showy than the hefty T-bones, the taste was all that was promised and then some. And it is rich. Very rich. Unless you’re someone who does this sort of thing often, this is definitely one to share.
The hero side dish is without a doubt the Crispy Brussel Sprouts ($18) in all its nutty glory, lightened up by a few sprigs of mint, and a swig of balsamic vinegar.
If you’re a gin and tonic fan, you can get it in three different renditions here. The Four Pillars Rare and Orange ($14) is a great choice for a warm spring day, though I’d argue the cucumber and grapefruit variants also make compelling cases. Or you could just skip past the booze and try out the mocktails, and the Honey Buck ($15) is a stunner. The zestiness of the ginger and lime were mellowed out by raw blossom honey, and it’s just the right balance between warm and refreshing to make it good for drinking year-round.