Monday, May 26, 2008

Santa Maria del Sur, Queenstown Road

Queenstown Road is a rather unlovely part of Battersea with very little to recommend it except, it seems, a couple of excellent restaurants. I say this somewhat based on hearsay as I have only been to one of them, on Saturday night in fact, and the other is next door - Tom Ilic.

We had passed Santa Maria del Sur several times on the way back from friends' houses and it always looked extremely welcoming, especially in winter with the grill flaming in the window and fairy lights twinkling. We had no problem booking a table for 2 at 8.30pm (I called on the Monday) and when we arrived it was half full already, buzzing with chat and unobtrusive music. They seated us at a table near the door (where the man in the orange jumper sits in the photo) but there was a draught from the open door and people stand there whilst they wait to be seated. It was no problem when we asked to move and we were much happier near the back of the restaurant, tucked in next to a pillar with much more privacy.

There is a very good wine menu and I chose a mid priced red, my boyfriend opted for beer. To start we shared chorizo and the provoleta. The chorizo was tasty, very flavoursome if quite small but at only £3 that is probably to be expected. I was looking forward to the cheese - I had heard good things about this Argentinian speciality, served with oregano and grilled. It arrived in a small metal plate, which was then placed on a dinner plate, a rather unappetising prospect which was actually very bland - much like eating melted mild cheddar. There was a nice varied bread basket provided free though, with olive oil and balsamic.

All of this, though, is delaying the real reason we are there - the steak. We both plump for sirloin, me the 8oz and my boyfriend the 14. They are beautiful pieces of meat, fabulously tender and, unusually I find, cooked exactly as requested. The chimichurri was delicious as well - a traditional sauce made from mixed herbs, onion, salt pepper and olive oil. The menu advises that the steak comes with 'garnish' and so we order a side of chips between us, more than enough. The garnish is chopped iceberg lettuce, tomato and red onion. I find this a trend in many restaurants now and cannot understand it - it is such an unappealing combination of bitter ingredients, rarely very fresh and rarely dressed. This was no exception and, confusingly, we were also served a large bowl of chopped tomatoes and red onion, again with no dressing.

Despite being very full we do share a pudding - milk toffee cheesecake which is not as sweet as it sounds like it would be. In fact, it's got a very subtle flavour and is a very satisfying end to a very enjoyable meal.
The only cock-up was the aforementioned bowl of onion and tomato which turned up on the bill for £3.50. Once pointed out it was removed immediately.

Three courses and half a bottle of wine: £35 per head

Value: 7/10

Service: 8/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Food: 8/10

SCORE: 31/40

Santa Maria del Sur, 129 Queenstown Road, London, SW8 3RH. Tel: 020 7622 2088.


Chris said...

Yes not a bad little place this. It's always rammed too, which is generally a good sign. You might also want to check out Tom Ilic next door.

HC said...

Yes I have heard good things about there - it's on my list!