[Manchester, city centre] Gaucho

Back in the mid-2000s, when Gaucho opened its first branch outside London, we used to come here quite often. We don’t eat a lot of steak but, when we do, we want top quality and that’s what Gaucho seemed to offer. But we drifted away and haven’t been back since 2010, in recent times preferring Hawksmoor just down Deansgate. However, after a couple of poor meals there, we decided to give Gaucho another try.

To start for one us, there was beetroot tartare. Finely chopped vegetable, much as the beef version would be, with the usual egg yolk replaced by mango puree. It sits on diced avocado, and there’s a rather bland buttermilk dressing. It was all OK but it lacked the piquancy from capers and Worcestershire sauce that you’d expect to get in the meat version. The other starter was tuna ceviche. A small portion of diced fish, avocado puree, pickled radish and a dressing which the menu advertised as having chilli but that couldn’t be detected. This wasn’t actively unpleasant but, frankly, it had nothing to recommend it by way of flavour. I don’t often mention prices when I’m writing about meals but, at £13, they really see you coming with this one.

For main courses, we both went with sirloins which were cooked accurately as requested and had a decent flavour. The menu suggests that all sides are extras but we were asked if we wanted chips or salad – presumably a change that the menu hasn’t caught up with yet. That’ll be one of each please. Chips were fine and the rocket & kale salad was nicely dressed. We also ordered a béarnaise sauce which was spot on for the amount of tarragon. We also ordered a portion of mac & cheese which was disappointing in its lack of cheese flavour and, like everything else we’d eaten (except the salad), was underseasoned

We didn’t fancy dessert but did finish with good espresso. But, it really hadn’t been a great evening.

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Disappointing experience indeed.

I’d thought the Gaucho chain had collapsed and was gone last year, but missed the story that it was rescued by a bunch of new investors (article below).

Still, news of unsuccessful/bankrupt restaurants do not sit well with diners or even potential new chefs. Somehow, once a pall has been cast over an eating establishment, it’s harder to bounce back, compared to other types of businesses.

They were in very serious trouble last year. I think they had over extended themselves with their cheaper Cau branded restaurants (of which I think they had about 50 nationwide). They closed all of these within days of the crash, no doubt to make the remaining Gaucho outlets more attractive to the new investors. I think that was right. We went to Cau a couple of times and it was never that great, so no real loss IMO.

Apparently, they are revamping one of their London outlets and, on the assumption that it proves a success, it’ll be rolled out to the others in due course. Like you, I’ll be surprised if Gaucho has a long term future now.

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I still remembered the time when Gaucho Grill (as it was known then) came into existence on Swallow Street in London. It was 1994. I had the latest copy of Time Out London’s annual Eating & Drinking Guide, which had not listed Gaucho Grill yet. It was in the basement of a building - just like almost every other popular restaurant at the time was - from the-then cutting edge Wagamama in Bloomsbury (it wasn’t a chain yet) to Michel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche. The food was pretty good then.

My first Gaucho experience was the Richmond branch. I think I’d heard about them on egullet or similar and it was handy for my hotel. It wasnt a great experience - I remember a ribeye that had overly thick marbling.

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Tagging on to this Manchester thread… John, a cousin of mine is visiting Manchester in early January. What would be your top three choices for a good dinner? I know that’s a broad question indeed. He’s a Manhattanite and likes good food - of any kind. We might join him but are undecided about that. Thanks for any help.

At last we now have a Michelin starred place - Mana. I havent been yet, so am not going to recommend it.

My top two up-market places would be Adam Reid at the French, and Restaurant MCR. In both cases, it’s a tasting menu.

For somewhere with a more casual vibe, the Northern Quarter Restaurant or Wood would work.

And, whenever I’m asked to suggest somewhere for a foreigner, I always throw into the mix Sam’s Chop House. Victorian pub with dining room. Traditional northern food given a modern twist. And a life sized statue of L S Lowry propping up the bar (he used to be a regular).

Sorry that’s five, not three, but hope it helps. All are in the city centre, as I assume that’s where he’ll be staying.

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