San Telmo is known to many as one of the oldest suburbs in Argentina. One that is very popular with tourists seeking a real Buenos Aires experience by walking the cobblestone streets while observing the antique stores that line the way. San Telmo, Melbourne, is known to many ‘in the know Melbournians’ as a new and exciting restaurant, which is churning out customers night after night, serving up excellent Argentinian fare. Due to my recent trip to the South of America, I like to think of myself as an adequate judge of this cuisine, and I tell you, the crew here are doing a bang up job.
Could Argentinian be a new food trend to take Melbourne by storm?
Located on Meyers Place in Melbourne’s city, San Telmo could be considered just a number in the scheme of top restaurants in this part of the city. Open for breakfast Monday to Friday from 8am through to lunch and dinner till late and from 9am till late on the weekends, you can rest easy that you will find a time that suits. A pleasant entrance, which isn’t too fancy, one would have no idea of the treasures inside.
The restaurant is a large space that spans from the formal entrance in Meyers Place through to the parallel lane way of Windsor Place. The above photo displays the open kitchen where you can sit and watch these guys boil while cooking many different pieces of meat. The floor is lined with black and white tiles around the kitchen and changes to dark red carpet for the majority of the restaurant. Staff in serious work aprons, cow hide along the wall, with a massive display of wines and thick leather place mats lining the tables are some of the interesting features you may notice upon arrival.
Empanadas are a very popular snack to get you through the day while touring Argentina and will often find their way to becoming an entree before any lunch or dinner. We ordered both varieties of Empanadas on offer – firstly, beef, egg and olives. The other was provolone, mozzarella, basil and capsicum ($6.00each). To my surprise, these were heavily fried, which is interesting because I only remember eating baked ones during my travels. Nevertheless, they were a delicious treat to begin the feast and can be easily divided in half using a knife or the hands god gave you.
Humitas – fried corn, polenta and chipotle mayonnaise ($12.00). I like to think of polenta chips as the newer and cooler version of french fries and for some odd reason I convince myself they are healthier. They are, right? Delicately crunchy with a hot soft gooey inside, each bite was heaven. I may have overdressed the polenta sticks in the light mayo provided – it tasted so damn good it had to happen.
Ceviche is a common dish found in many South American destinations, from my experience, namely Peru. It usually consists of raw fish dressed in a tangy or spicy sauce and served cold. We ordered the white fish, chilli, sweet potato and ginger ceviche ($16.00). Very soft, bite sized pieces of cold fish were used, small enough to be fully coated in the superb dressing.
Provoleta – grilled provolone cheese ($12.00). Provoleta or saganaki? Are these one and the same or are they cousins? – one from Arg and the other from Greece. I am not going to debate backgrounds, I’d much rather just say: – Intense. The only word I can think of to describe how good this starter is. Squish that lemon juice all over and slice this warm piece of dairy up as well as you can out of the dark ceramic serving dish. We shared between three and that was perfect.
You will order a Chorizo Argentino – pork sausage ($14.00). It is a hefty price tag to pay for a single snag but once you sink your teeth into the pre-cut slices of juicy meat you will easily forget finances. Might I mention this is best suited for two people (three at a massive stretch) and once you have one slice, you are drooling for more. I found this to be a little oily in hindsight but considering how quickly this dish was chommed, it is amazing that any neurons had time to process a conclusion.
Zanahorias – Burnt carrots, thyme and goat’s cheese ($12.00). These soft, buttery carrots were a pleasant side to the upcoming meats. Might I mention the excellent use of melted goat’s cheese rather than the standard solid cubes you will find with breakfast.
Just to throw it out there, I have a fetish for ribs. They are fun to eat, are generally extremely flavoursome and just a top notch dish to put smiles on every face. Tira de Asado – Beef short ribs ($28.00) These ticked all my boxes as I chewed the bones dry of the salty but carefully charred little treasures. A decent size serve, cut up to share, is great to put in the middle. My accompanying Chommer did not agree with my view of these treats with the comment “they have fantastic flavour but there is little meat and are thus predominantly fat and bone.”
Something inside bellows that you have to put some greens on the table. So we followed our thoughts and ordered Pimientos con heuvos – Grilled capsicum, with egg, beans and olives ($10.00). Very self-explanatory salad with a perfectly poached egg on top just in case you haven’t had enough protein in the meal.
We probably didn’t need to order any more, but we did any way and, before we knew it, the Asado especial del dia – 8 hour slow cooked lamb ($39.00) was perched on our table. This dish is only available after 6:00pm due to the lengthy cooking time and results in amazing, tender pieces of lamb that melt in your mouth (aka no teeth required for this succulent meat). Brilliant! – mind you there are still those fatty pieces which always accompany lamb.
You don’t always have to order dessert, you don’t, control yourself…..We will have one Flan de dulce de leche please. The Flan with caramel and salted peanuts ($14.00). A sweet end to a meal is always a good end to a meal. This perfectly sized, soft creamy option was a winner and ideal to share. A couple of mouthfuls is all you need. If you are a Where’s Wally expert, I’m sure you undoubtedly saw the problem with the above photo. (Don’t tell anyone, but someone couldn’t wait for the photo to be taken – a bite is missing from the rear end)
The standard of food and drink in Buenos Aires, Argentina was exceptional to say the least (of course, granted you know where to dine). During my short visit last year, we ate meat every night till the sweats came on and drank amazing red wines well into the early morning (probably too often). San Telmo is your more local alternative if you can’t get to Argentina in the near future. Besides the pricing, I found this place to be a very authentic Argentinian Bistro that includes a variety of Argentinian wines such as Malbec, which brought back some cherished memories of South America. Make a booking, aim to go with four people or more and don’t be scared to try it all because ‘La comida es rica! (the food is delicious!)
The Important Details…
Noise: Yep, plenty
Bookings: Yes, via phone and website
Suitable for: Over 18+ crowd
Dress: Casual – smart
Price: $65 per person
My View: Pricy authentic Argentinian well worth seeking
Address: 14 Meyers Place, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9650 5526