|Mmmm steak – San Telmo’s rib eye on the bone – check out the gorgeous knife as well|
San Telmo is an Argentinian steak house where the meat is grilled over a charcoal grill, known as a parrilla, to impart a smoky fiery flavour. Located in Meyers Place laneway just off little Collins street the restaurant has a rough hewn warmth with wood lined walls and a black and white tiled floor alongside the bar. The owners have fitted out the restaurant with lots of bric a brac brought back from Argentina like an antique cash register and old soda siphons. Even the front door was salvaged from a Buenos Aries mansion.
San Telmo is named after the oldest barrio (neighbourhood) in Buenos Aires and the menu is faithful to the restaurant’s Argentinian name. It boasts shiny golden empanadas ($6 each), perfectly formed, mixing textbook short pastry with a robust beef, currant and almond filling. Ceviche ($16) is strictly Peruvian rather than Argentine, but I’m happy for them to slip it in as the combination of kingfish doused in lemon and lime juice and dressed with slithers of chilli, sweet potato and ginger is refreshing and summery.
The drinks list features solely Argentine wines and beers which is a brave move but even if it had covered the whole world I think we would still have ended up ordering a bottle of Malbec. We chose the cheapest bottle of the eight different Malbec’s offered (that’s a lot of Malbec), the Jed Malbec 2010 ($45) which was dark and full bodied.
|Slow cooked lamb – sadly cooked for a little too long|
However, with the parrilla firing away, at San Telmo it is really all about the meat, and the steak did not disappoint. The 400g strip loin ($47) served on the bone and criss-crossed with marks from the grill was expertly aged, flavourful and exquisitely prepared. There’s no sides at this price apart from the chimichurri made in house to spice up the steak with the heat of chilli, acidity of vinegar and fresh zing of parsley. The menu also offers a whopping 1kg rib steak for $95 which my friend Rachel and I are still talking about, along the lines of “We could have taken it, I’m sure we could have”.
It wasn’t all perfect, and the slow cooked lamb ($39) proved to be a disappointment. The menu boasted that it had been cooked for eight hours but in this case it was probably two hours too long as the meat was dry and was lacking any tender pinkness.
|My favourite dish – sticky sweet baby carrots with goats cheese|
There is a good selection of side dishes including grilled zucchini and eggplant ($10). Strangely enough in a meat lovers paradise my favourite dish of the night was probably the zanahorias ($12), baby carrots cooked on the grill until they are sticky sweet and dripping with thyme flavoured goats cheese.
|A dulce de leche filled alfajore|
Desserts continued on in the Argentine vein and I could not go past the fantastic caramel flavour of dulce de leche. A national passion in Argentina dulce de leche is a sweet light brown caramelised milk and sugar sauce sometimes known as “milk jam” (check out this great recipe for dulce de leche ice-cream). The dulce de leche is served two ways at San Telmo, firstly as a biscuit filling in the form of a slightly dry alfajore coated in coconut ($5) and secondly, in a fabulous, wobbling flan ($14) topped with addictive caramel salted peanuts.
The service at San Telmo is young and savvy with the staff all decked out in leather aprons but fell down slightly at the end of the night when it came time to pay our bill and everyone disappeared.
|Perfection in the form of dulce de leche flan|
I think Melbourne has been crying out for a restaurant like this for a long while. A decent steak joint in the city is a no brainer really and I am sure the place would succeed even if it was only halfway good. But San Telmo is more than good with its classic Argentine menu and attention to detail that goes all the way from toilets wallpapered with the faces of famous Argentines to cow hide covered menus. As they say to the best grill men in Argentina “Bien jugado”. Well played.
Details: San Telmo, 14 Meyers Place, Melbourne 3000 (Ph: 61 (3) 9650 5525). Open: Mon-Fri 7am-late, Sat midday-late.
Damage: Pricey. Our bill came to $286 for four with two bottles of wine.