Don’t you just love the ever-evolving style in which you can dine out? Eating in London’s restaurants isn’t limited to straight-forward À La Carte any more These days, the ethos of ‘sharing’ is among the most popular culinary trends.
The format of Tapas and sharing plates isn’t exactly new, but many restaurants are beginning to fuse this customary Spanish dining style with worldly cuisines.
And hot on the heels of the growing Latin American food scene is the very trendy Zoilo.
We went along to sample award-winning chef Diego Jacquet’s Patagonian-inspired menu. Based on ‘Asado’ – the traditional Argentine sharing ceremony – this classy spot tucked behind the popular Wigmore Street offers a creative selection of tastes.
But before we even get to the food, the fact that Zoilo’s tapas style ethos extends to the seating arrangements, only adds to the experience.
Customers happy to dine classic ‘café-style’ can be seated within the chic surrounds of the ground floor bar. But if you’re looking for something more authentic like Belle, venture to the basement. Here you can perch yourself on a high stool Tapas-style, where you’re within arm’s reach of Diego and his team.
If anyone was to scrutinize Zoilo’s kitchen standards, this is where you’d sit. But apart from the slightly disappointing fact you can see the dishwashing station from here, picking any other flaws is a difficult task.
While sampling our starter dishes, we became engrossed by Diego’s immaculate operation.
Watching one chef take ‘sous vide’ (slowly boiled) meat and seal it on a hot griddle while another put the finishing touches on a meticulously presented plate, only fascinated us more.
My diet flew out the window when the Provoleta arrived. The sweetness of the honey combined deliciously with the nutty texture of the almonds. And the Provolone cheese was strong and heavenly.
The empanadas proved to be a lovely starter dish too. Served sprinkled with flour on a black slate, I could only compare them to a miniature Cornish pasty or Jamaican patty but not as spicy. Along with a smooth carafe of Malbec, known as ‘Pretty’, from the Mendoza Province, it was a great start to our feast.
The kitchen itself is spotless and we watched as Diego offered a strict yet calm direction for his staff. But he still found time to get feedback on our first few plates.
After insisting we sampled one of his signature dishes, the sweetbreads with onions and lemon, we watched as he delivered this piece of art.
I had to be honest, calves’ thymus glands aren’t for me. Although I’m sure they’d satisfy many other foodies. Diego laughed and explained it was a delicacy he’d never touch while growing up. However, after mastering the beautifully chargrilled exterior and soft interior, it’s now one of his favourite dishes.
My more favoured choice, the Prawns ‘al ajo’, pork belly and chorizo, was a delicate meat and fish fusion with a delicious oil. The potato and artichoke gratin was among the best I’ve ever tasted. But the winning prize went to the ‘Ojo de bife’ and Chimichurry. It was rare, chargrilled, tangy and flavoursome, and is of course, the ultimate Argentinean-style of serving steak.
Surrounded by bare brick walls, dim lighting and exposed pipes overhead, Zoilo had a cool yet relaxed vibe.
With their existing venture Casa Malevo already booming in the classy spot of Connaught village, I wouldn’t be surprised if a wave of Argentinean ‘cocinas’ spreads over the capital.
With tapas this good, you won’t want to share.
Zoilo, 9 Duke Street, London, W1U 3EG, 0207 486 9699
by Lucy McGuire