Sunday, 13 June 2010

Steak it to him
The BBBBL (Boy's Big Boozy Birthday Lunch) - Santa Maria del Sur

Like most of the important dates in our relationship, Choux Boy's birthday revolves around eating. What are presents but mere things when I could give the him the gift of really great food? Ok, that's bollocks, treating him to a great meal is actually a rather tasty excuse for me to birthday benefit as well, after all I don't think the watch I bought him would fit my wrist too well...

So after eye-ing it up for months, I booked us a table for Sunday at Santa Maria del Sur on Queenstown Road. Even weeks before the big date they only had mid-afternoon tables left (a good sign surely?) so I plumped for 2.30pm (it was a Sunday after all, it was made for lunching) and the Boy's Big Boozy Birthday Lunch (BBBBL) was born.

Not that that was the start of his gastronomic celebration. Oh no. With a lunch so late there was plenty of time for brunch (the BLBBB - Boy's Little Boozy Birthday Brunch - if you will) Champagne, fresh orange juice and Bacon and Parsley Hotcakes (delicious, easy recipe - I added an extra slice of fried bacon to the stack under the poached egg for good measure - well it was his birthday after all - plus a bit of tabasco to give it a kick) set us up nicely.

You don't go to Santa Maria del Sur if you don't want to eat steak. The whole place revolves around the simplicity of serving really great steak. Plain wooden tables and chairs packed together and exposed brickwork do nothing to detract from the big open kitchen with a huge adjustable grill in the window. The menu is steak. There's few distractions. Starters of morcilla, chorizo, serano ham or, if you're not quite ready for the meat, grilled tuna steak. Sides of chips or salads. Variety is not the spice of Santa. But who cares, you only came for the steak anyway didn't you? The wine list, like the beef, is born and raised Argentinian. We opt for a smooth Séptimo Día - Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - Luján de Cuyo (a choice that prompted the owner to bring us proper red wine glasses 'you need good glasses for good wine' which had the Boy's chest puff a little with his wine choosing prowess) and starters of grilled provolone cheese (which is just cheese, grilled, a lot of it) and serrano ham with palm hearts and mayo sauce. All well and good but nothing special.

It was time for the special. It was time for the steak. They range from 8oz to pound of prime Argentinian beef; rump, rib-eye, fillet or sirloin. The quest for the perfect steak has a almost cultish appeal. It's got a seductive blend of exclusivity, primal carnivorousness and sheer simplicity. It's cow, killed, grilled, on the plate. But what makes one steak great? Who knows. Is the meat, the cooking, the occasion? Well, we ticked all three. Two 8oz sirloins, medium rare.

Gorgeously charred on the outside, baby soft pink on the inside. Moist and packed with flavour. Simplicity as it should be: a handful of salad on the side, a grilled pepper on top. Fat, fluffy chips and a couple of sauces on the side: tomato and onion salsa and mustard and white wine. It didn't need it but it didn't hurt. 'I think this is the best steak I've ever eaten,' says the Boy. That's the idea. Now I knew what all the fuss was about.

Like all good things it had to come to an end and we emerged from our red mist of fine meat and juicy wine back into the Battersea sunshine. Stuffed. Well, not quite stuffed... you see up the road  from Santa Maria del Sur is another great Battersea international import: Italian Gelateria Danieli. Raspberry Ripple and the creamiest Strawberry can-you-even-call-it-sorbet ever in a proper biscuit cone was my final treat. And it wasn't even my birthday...

Santa Maria del Sur
129 Queenstown Road
020 7622 2088

Gelateria Danieli
47 Queenstown Road

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