Stick with steak at Edinburgh's Gaucho or you might be disappointed, says Gaby Soutar

I need to invest in some night vision goggles.

One thing they don’t tell you about getting older is that you can’t see a thing when it gets dark.

Sometimes I find myself discussing the weather with lampposts in the street, like Mr Magoo.

Difficult when you’re visiting one of the Argentine-themed Gaucho restaurants, of which this is the first Scottish outpost.

I’ve only ever been to their original London branch and my main memory is of the all-encompassing Stygian blackness of the decor.

It was a bit like being in the Upside Down in Stranger Things.

They’ve gone for the same look here, with a chic bar area upstairs and the main dining room on the basement level.

The walls are covered in a sort of black and silver leaf vein print, there are dusky banquettes, the carpets are ebony and the toilets lined with a sort of sparkly black slate, so you feel like you’ve felt the call of nature while camping, left your tent, but then fallen down a quarry. I think sexy is the look they’re going for.

As we were slightly bamboozled by the unexpectedly high prices, with starters ranging from £7.95 (for a wedge of iceberg salad) to £17.50 for scallops, the three of us decided to share the Seafood Sampler (£16.95).

This featured three petite helpings, and we all liked our bites of limey tuna ceviche, with cola-cube coloured pieces of fish and a bolster of creamy guacamole, while the soft shell crab causita featured a couple of tempura battered limbs, a dollop of smoked paprika mayonnaise, parsley vinaigrette and, on the side, a stub of what tasted and looked a lot like cold mashed potato.

The final addition to our line-up consisted of two delicate slivers of stone bass topped with blackened corn, grapefruit bits and some tufts of cress. All nice enough.

When it came to mains, I wish one of us had tried their steak, but some bad ordering meant the closest we got was the lomo a la Milanese (£19.95). Sides here, even chips or broccoli, are £4.95, so beware, because you don’t get anything for free.

Well, apart from the half lemon that came with my option, which featured two insole-sized pieces of dry and fibrous “tenderised fillet steak”. The cardboard-coloured crumb was supposed to be a chilli and parsley version, but the overriding flavour was salt and oil.

Our grilled swordfish steak (£21.95) was OK, though a little grey and overdone, and came with a pleasant crushed and smoked chickpea mixture, as well as a pointless pyre of chopped raw red onion.

The best of the three was probably the pork matambre (£19.95) – just a gnarled slab of very salty Iberican pork on a plate, but at least it had a good charred flavour. Like all the mains, it looked so starkly ordinary in contrast to the blinging surroundings.

Another complaint: the fat chips are extremely chunky and, thus, work out at about £1 per chip, unseasoned. My resentment of the over-priced potato action was further fuelled by the fact the skinny ones didn’t come with the billed chimichurri.

To cheer everyone up, we thought we’d find something we fancied on the Dessert Sampler (£16.50).

Our fave of the three puddings was probably the rather stodgy wodge of coconut and banana bread pudding, with a shortbread and banana ice-cream on the side.

The winter berry crumble was watery, with only a tiny sprinkling of crumble, like the desiccated remains in a bird feeder, on top of the brambly jus.

We weren’t that excited about the chocolate and praline mousse, topped with biscotti, strawberries and whole hazelnuts, either. It was fine – ordinary – but for this kind of wonga, you want the pampas to be set alight.

If there is a next time, maybe when they’re better established, I’ll stick with the steak, which I’m sure will be decent. For now, at least this place will give me something else to talk to the lampposts about.

How much?

Lunch for three, excluding drinks – £105.20

Gaucho

4a St Andrew Square, Edinburgh

(0131-278 3410, www.gauchorestaurants.com)

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Gaucho, Edinburgh, restaurant review
Food50%
Ambience70%
60%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (5 Votes)
30%

About The Author

Gaby Soutar

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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