Argentina isn’t everyone’s favourite destination right now. I doubt there are many flights between the UK and this most southerly country.
We have had a difficult history for the past thirty years, with unfortunate wars and acrimonious football matches. But before patriotism and defiance get the better of you, I should point out that this month’s review – “Birmingham’s first Argentine restaurant” – is no more owned by Argentina than by our blessed Falklands. It is, in fact, owned and managed by the Lasan group, which also runs two excellent Indian eateries of the same name. Aktar Islam (not Argentinean) is the executive chef, its beef is from the West Country and while most of the staff appear to be of Latino extraction, my guess is they’re mostly from the Mediterranean. Just the recipes and the wine is Argentine and so, without another thought about football or foreign policy, Lady C and I headed out for a meal with high hopes.
We started out simply with some crispy white bait served with aioli. There was also some warm bread and balsamic vinegar, which we tucked into happily while we took in our surroundings. Fiesta Del Asado is a warm, homely restaurant. The dining room is a big, Spanish-style kitchen diner, with wooden furnishings and tables without cloths. The kitchen is open plan, which is good as there’s plenty of action and drama taking place. It might be a nice place to go with a group party, or just a handful of friends. This is not meant to be a quiet, intimate restaurant where you try a soupcon of this and a sip of that. This is a lively, garrulous eatery, a place to slurp Malbec and get stuck into some hearty platefuls. Thankfully, I had Lady C with me and we were both starving.
If there’s one way I like to eat, it is to feast. Fill the table with food and let me pick and choose with one hand, while I cleanse my palette with a wine glass in the other. Our waiter advised us to do just that, and if you go as a group I recommend the party menu, as it contains much of what we had here. Our main was a Parrilladda Mixta, which is essentially a big plate of grilled meats. There were some wonderfully juicy and tasty steaks, served with a red wine sauce. There was also a mixture of artisan sausages, a garlic and lemon, garlic and paprika and Morcilla or, as they call it in the Falklands: “black pudding”. There were also some chicken wings and lamb cutlets. It was a big, smoky selection dish, a barbeque-style platter you can only dream of. It wasn’t a time to engage in refined etiquette, so we dug in with our fingers and tore off the flesh with savage bites. In addition, we tried the hake, served with a sauce made with tomatoes, sweet potatoes and chorizo. The hake was juicy and cooked just right, with a sauce that was bold and fiery. These mains came served with a plate of mixed vegetables, including some yellow beetroot, which I do recommend. There were also some chips and flatbreads. All in all, a feast fit for a New World King.
After such a thumper of a main, we thought it prudent to share a dessert. So along with our coffee we ate churros, which are little Spanish donuts, served with a spiced chocolate sauce. Lady C reckons she’s a bit of an expert on churros and says these were “very good”. I tried a couple and liked them, too. As we were finishing, their beef supplier turned up in a van sent from the West Country. Apparently the restaurant gets beef delivered every day, and selected its supplier through a blind tasting. Judging by the steak, I’d say they selected well, as it was one of the best I’ve had.