#9 – Argentina – Santa Maria del Sur, Battersea

The night EatFIFA had dreamed of.

With eight major nations already eaten, eyes are starting to wander further down the FIFA rankings to see what lies in store for EatFIFA in 2013 and beyond. First, though, we had to negotiate the highest-ranked uneaten cuisine – Argentina.

The burgeoning reputation of Santa Maria del Sur, tucked away on Queenstown Road, meant that a decision was reached quickly on this month’s venue. Several debutants signed up for what promised to be a tasty edition, with one guest earning his EatFIFA cap for his fifth outing. A late booking allowed some leisurely drinking beforehand (and some entertainingly arduous journeys home for some), and we arrived through SMdS’s doors in high spirits.

Welcomed very warmly indeed, we then took in the sultry atmosphere – this is as much of a date venue as it is one for seven starving friends. We took our waiter up on his recommendation of several large bottles of Quilmes to share, with a well-made pisco sour thrown in for good measure.

To the menu. Eyes were drawn to the all-bases-covered appeal of the mixed grills – often the anti-climactic afterthought in the Punjabi grillhouses and ocakbasi of east London. In this case, the parilladas on the menu gave us the opportunity to try two cuts of meat and a selection of their entradas. The  majority of our party opted inevitably for a share of the Deluxe, and we suggest you do too. Boasting a 14oz sirloin and 10oz fillet, along with pork sausages, black pudding and provolone cheese, they were delivered on huge hotplates to which we gleefully helped ourselves. The juicy, salty chorizo was an early bite-sized victim, before the impressive chunks of fine beef were divided and plated up.

The rind of god. Santa Maria del Sur was proving to be the Maradona to Hawksmoor’s Shilton, for this must be the best steak in London. The medium-rare sirloin was attacked first, saving the fillet for a grandstand finish. All the steak clichés applied here – the knife gliding through the juiciest chunks of meat EatFIFA had yet witnessed. The chimichurri sauce was ladled generously over these bovine breezeblocks, and we barely stopped for breath. The provolone cheese was an inspired accompaniment, sturdily standing up to the hotplate but not daring to threaten overpowering the meat. Garlic chips completed the set, with perhaps only the basic mixed vegetables blotting our selection copybook.

The final forkful of fillet was consumed with a rueful sigh, but we knew we’d eaten just enough. No-one fidgeted in their seat, uncomfortably full, and we happily declared ourselves ready for dessert. Out came a textbook slice of creamy cheesecake (I wasn’t paying any attention to anyone else’s dessert by this point) and I was already reaching for my EatFIFA scorecard to dish out the plaudits. The scores rolled in, and Argentina’s immaculate showing seemed destined for top spot:

Food: 88.2

Drink: 72.3

Service: 74.4

Atmosphere: 79.6

Value For Money: 71

SCORE: 77.10

The bill was hefty (not surprisingly so) but this was a glorious treat on a rainy end to a working week. Argentina have stormed to the top of the EatFIFA rankings, over six points clear of Italy, and have laid down the gauntlet to the remaining 195 nations.

As things stand, Colombia lie in wait for us in November – all suggestions welcome, and please get in touch if you’d like to join or, dare we say, host us!




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