Have you ever wanted to really like a restaurant, but just not been able to?
That’s how I felt about the Buenos Aires Polo Club; one of the latest offerings from the Black Sheep group.
I’d not really been involved in selecting the restaurant for our recent catch up with some of the girls study maters; taking a back seat because my normal selection process for dining with friends usually incorporate a Michelin Star..
In theory, the Argentinian steak restaurant should have been amazing. I mean, right there on their web site, it’s described as “One of Hong Kong’s best steakhouses”; with that level of confidence, I was hoping for a spectacular meal. Buenos Aires Polo Club or BAPC references Argentina’s dynamic grilling culture as well as their passion for the ‘sport of kings’ and the elite members-only clubs of the early 1900s.
I have to say, the restaurant looked the goods too, as we stepped out onto the the 7th floor of the LKF building, we could have stepped back in time, to a place that was way more elegant that you’re typical HK establishment. Royal green was the predominant colour and as we stepped through the reception area to our table, we were graced with a decor that highlighted the restaurant’s representation of a far grander time. References to polo and horses were everywhere, leaving no doubt what the theme of the BAPC was all about.
There was a massive sense of familiarity stepping through the dining area to our table; it only struck me as we were sitting down that the layout was almost identical to another LKF restaurant, Carbone. Coincidentally, Carbone is another Black Sheep restaurant that we love (see post here) and was one of the reasons why the wait staff looked so familiar.
We were the first of our party to arrive, and one of the first in the restaurant as well, so had a good look at the menu well before our first guest arrived. In fact, buy the time the final pair had arrived, we’d grown so hungry that we’d ordered one of the hot starters just to fill-the-gap.
As it turned out, that little gap filler was the highlight of the whole meal! The Provoleta was sensational, and so simple. It was essentially a cast iron frying pan filled with different types of melted cheese and served with rustic grilled bread. I mean, who doesn’t like grilled cheese on toast? This was a supercharged version of that classic, and we were given a spoon to scoop up the melted cheese and layer it on the toast. Super simple and incredibly delicious, the cheese was sweet and gooey; totally yummo.
With our full party at the table, it was time for us to cast our collective eyes over the menu and get the meal under way. The BAPC menu was split into ‘cold & hot’ starters ‘mains’, which were exclusively steaks, ‘other meat and seafood’ and lastly ‘on the side’. There were a good number of options and we all were able to quite easily find something to our individual tastes.
The girl ordered the steak tartare, which was served with gaucho bread; the tartare itself containing crispy shallots and smoked sardine. I was quite taken aback by the rustic and clumsy presentation of the dish, a huge roll of flat bread was included and the tartare itself lacked colour and looked ‘washed out’. While it looked lacklustre, it had a reasonable taste, the steak was sweet and there was an interesting crunch from the crispy shallots. I didn’t really get the smoked sardine, maybe it accounted for a slight salty flavour throughout the beef. I also didn’t get the huge and unsightly flatbread that accompanied the dish, smaller pieces of grilled toast would have made the dish easier to eat.
I’d gone down a slightly predictable route and ordered the chorizo sausage served with a chimichurri sauce. It’s hard to present chorizo sausage in any special way in a restaurant, so the BAPC took the simple way out by presenting two sausages on a small silver platter with the sauce on the side. The house made chorizo was incredibly mild and very sweet, with chunks of pork and other mystery meat visible as you cut into the sausage. It really lacked any punch at all, and if I didn’t know it was supposed to be chorizo, would have thought it was just a pork sausage. It was definitely saved by the chimichurri sauce, which added a nice level of flavour.
I didn’t taste the other dishes ordered by the table, but there was a serve of the grilled bone marrow served with an oxtail Malbec jam, which looked lovely and by all accounts was rich and delicious. Last of the starters was the burrata served with garlic chives, tomatoes and gaucho bread. It wasn’t a pretty dish, a huge lump of soft cheese placed in a bowl with smashed tomatoes surrounding like a moat.
So, with a mixed reception to the starters, it was time for our steaks to arrive; however, before they did, there was a significant and painful delay between us finishing our starters and the plates being cleared away. An issue that was only resolved when I eventually caught a waiter’s eye and said we were finished.
In a restaurant that considers itself one of Hong Kong’s top steak restaurants, you would expect to see two things; excellent quality beef that is cooked to perfection. When our steaks arrived we definitely noted the excellent quality beef, but each of our steak orders had been over cooked!
Let me start by saying, the quality of the General Pico brand Argentinian pure Black Angus beef was well above what we’d had from Hong Kong to date. It was just a shame that steaks had been overdone; my medium rare was medium; the girl’s medium was medium well; most shockingly PL’s rare was both well done in spots and medium rare in others. Unfortunately, it was the fatty part of his ribeye that was medium rare, the fat not rendered well at all and inedible.
It was a testament to the quality of the beef that we did not send the steaks back, the flavour was wonderful and my tenderloin was still super tender. Even the girl’s tenderloin that was medium well was still tender and full flavoured.
Just in case you’re wondering, we did provide feedback straight away, and then again as the plates were being cleared away that all of our steaks were overcooked. We also rejected the offer to have the steaks cooked again; simply put, it had taken so long for the steaks to arrive that we didn’t want to delay any more. As I said, they were not prepared the way we ordered, but they were still edible (largely).
Perhaps the best cooked main of the night was not ordered from the steak menu; with W ordering the pancetta wrapped tiger prawns served with charred tomato and honey mojo. It looked quite appetising and while I didn’t get to sample the flavour, was met with approval from W & M.
We each ordered a side with our mains, and almost exclusively, the sides were much better prepared than the steaks. Not ideal from a steak restaurant!
After a short period of contemplation, we all decided that dessert was called for, and thankfully the desserts were mostly on point. I quite enjoyed my raspberry sorbet, which was served with a coconut cream and fresh fruit; it was an unusual twist on the more traditional ‘strawberries and cream’.
Other highlights were the Ananá a la Plancha, huge quarters of pineapple that contained a mix of pistachio, coconut and passionfruit; as well as a couple of bonus desserts that came out. Most impressive of all was the marshmallow covered coffee ice-cream on sticks, and the open fire that they were served with. The idea to roast the marshmallow over the flames like a kid at a campfire. It was actually kind of cool and we all enjoyed the interactive nature of the dessert.
One thing that did irk a few of us (not me though) was the fact that the Flan was no longer available on the menu; the main consensus being that it would have been the dessert of choice. There was a level of incredulity that a Flan wouldn’t be available on a South American dessert menu!
The meal was wrapped up when one of our waiters came across with a couple of bottles of Fernet-Branca as a digestive. The girl had sampled the powerful digestive before, so knew what she was in for, the rest of our table not so much. I had to chuckle at the reactions, which could be summed up neatly by saying the drink tasted like medicine. I chuckled because I’d skipped the drink – much to the chagrin of our waiter.
By the time we eventually paid up and left the restaurant, we were one of the last groups remaining; first in and almost last out. This was from a combination of really enjoying the company and spending a long time in engaging conversation, as well as the fact that the service was really, really slow. Painfully at times.
Look, the wait staff were friendly enough, in fact, they were really good when they were paying attention; it just seemed like we had to fight for their attention. It could be that they were giving us space to enjoy the company, but there were times where it definitely felt like they were lagging.
The meal at BACP was on the upper reaches of a non Michelin Starred meal; the wine being on the more expensive side. For me, the value just wasn’t there. Perhaps if the steaks had been perfectly cooked and elevated to another level, I would have felt more comfortable with the pricing. If it wasn’t for the great company and stimulation and at times hilarious conversation, I’d have been pretty upset.
For the money, I’d have definitely recommended a Michelin Starred place…..
Sooo, the next time we get together, I think I’ll make the recommendation!