San Telmo – AGT Reader Dinner

San Telmo
14 Meyers Place
Melbourne  VIC  3000
03 9650 5525
Open: Mon – Fri 7am – 11pm; Sat – Sun 12 – 11pm
Website

I love an Australian Gourmet Traveller Reader Dinner!  They are fantastic events where we get to try out new, recently opened restaurants.  iMac and I always try to get along to any in Melbourne – and this time we were joined by four other fabulous friends – the lovable Professor F, the gorgeous AT, and two special guests – M and N!!  San Telmo is a very hip, very happening Argentinian grill restaurant – happily residing in Meyers Place just behind the Hotel Windsor.  In what is turning into quite the little eat street, it sits alongside a number of great bars, including the very groovy looking Lily Blacks next door.

San Telmo is set in quite a cavernous, ambient building that once was a storage repository for the State Library. Opening less than four months ago, it has been met with acclaim from many Melbourne food aficianados – and the clamouring is more than justified. Upon entering, you have to detour around a magnificent, 2.5 metre wide parrilla (char grill) – where many of the dishes tonight will have been tenderly barbecued and roasted – this is a grill that would set many an Aussie bloke drooling!

We were really looking forward to the evening – the menu tonight was a slight variation on the Surgencias del Chef menu, so we were sure to get a taste of the range of dishes San Telmo has to offer.

Fernet Branca & Chinotto

To begin with we were served a twist on an Argentinian aperitif – Fernet Branca – an Italian bitter digestif, traditionally served with Coke in Argentina – but tonight we had it with Chinotto. I really loved it – but I have to admit, there were a couple of pulled faces around our table – so it wasn’t to everyone’s liking!

Pita with olive oil and pickled eggplant

To start we had warmed pita bread with gorgeous pickled eggplant.  This was light and lovely – and just the right way to get our palates ready for the feast that was to come.

Empanadas with beef, currants and almonds

The empanadas were amazing – beautiful and crisp on the outside, with a light pastry – but filled with this flavoursome mix of juicy beef mince which was beautifully complemented by the sweet burst of currants and the crunch of almonds.  Absolutely gorgeous!

Prawn ceviche with pickled octopus

We were spoiled with two ceviches this evening, but I have to say this was the winner out of the two – the prawn was beautifully paired with the lightly pickled octopus – and the accompanying flavours of celery heart, chilli and lemon juice were fantastically balanced.

White fish ceviche with chilli, sweet potato and ginger

The prawn ceviche was a hard act to follow – there was nothing wrong with this dish, it’s just that it lacked the finesse and balance of the prawn ceviche.  Nonetheless, it was beautiful, fresh fish – but probably a little heavier on the acid and chilli. Good if you really like a punchy ceviche.

Morcilla Sausage

Many people are put off by Morcilla, or blood, sausage – but this was a glorious rendition of the classic. In this Argentinian version – the sausage is mellowed by the addition of onion and rice.  The result is a a beautifully unctuous sausage that is full of flavour. It had everyone wanting more!  Absolutely delicious!

Humitas with chipotle mayonnaise

Who doesn’t love polenta chips?  These were an instant favourite.  Although not quite as good as the ones I tasted in Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen – they were pretty special.  And let’s face it – the Napa Valley is a little bit far away for me to be niggly – so I’m happy with these. The chipotle mayonnaise was fresh and creamy, and had a mild heat from the chilli.

Beef short ribs

These ribs were bursting with flavour – layered with juicy fat, and gorgeously chargrilled – we ate these with lashings of chimichurri sauce and Argentinian salsa – luscious!

Vacio

The vacio, or flank steak was beautifully chargrilled to the point of medium – it was fantastically tender and juicy, and sliced so everyone could enjoy a generous serve.

Salsa & Chimichurri 

Continually replenished throughout the meal were the amazing condiments – salsa (which probably has a much sexier Argentinian name) and chimichurri – they added a real zing and freshness to all the meats.  So good!

Cordero entero – Slow cooked lamb 

Look at this lamb – slow cooked for 8 hours, it was tender and soft.  Its skin was burnished a brilliant bronze and had that gloriously seasoned, roasted flavour to it. Again – beautifully complemented by lashings of chimichurri sauce – it was a standout course and something of a signature dish for the restaurant.

Pimientos con huevos – Grilled capsicum with egg, beans and olives
and Zapallito y berejenas – Grilled Zucchini, eggplant and roast garlic

We were wondering what the wonderful AT was thinking when she invited her vegetarian friend Ms M to this dinner – after all, a restaurant specialising in meats chargrilled on an Argentinian parilla was probably not the most obvious choice.  However, San Telmo took this into their stride and delivered two knock dead delicious vegetarian dishes – which were so amazingly fresh, luscious and vibrant – that Ms M was more than happy.  As were those of us who got to taste of the spoils!

Papas a gallete

This must be the Argentinian take on potato dauphinois – gorgeous layers of potato baked until they’re tender, but with a beautifully crisp topping.

Zanahorias – Carrots, thyme, goat’s cheese

Beautiful baby carrots – served simply with olive oil, fresh thyme and lashings of goats cheese.  Delicious!

Flan con dulce de leche with caramelised salted peanuts

This was another drop dead gorgeous dish – the flan was a bit like a créme caramel with a dollop of thick dulce de leche on top.  The salted peanuts were a brilliant foil to the sweetness of the dish.  Really stunning.

Alfajores

And of course, we were not allowed to leave without trying the Argentian national treat, alforojes – large shortbread biscuits filled with more dulce de leche and generously powdered with icing sugar.  Oh my goodness… I think I might be full by now!

Throughout this amazing feast we were served a range of wines from Jed Winery in the Mendoza region of Argentina.  What an amazing revelation – each varietal was fantastic.  I especially loved the limited release Malbec, which had lovely vanilla notes. The lovable Professor F completely fell in love with the Torrontés – which was a fruit driven white wine. He successfully negotiated for a second glass from our wonderful waiters – and I have to admit – it was a wonderful foil to the acidity of the ceviche when it was served. We also enjoyed a gorgeous sticky with the dessert – Bodega del Desierto Pampa Late Havest Viognier.

All in all – it was a fantastic night and I have to thank Australian Gourmet Traveller and San Telmo for putting on a brilliant night – especially given that a proportion of the evening’s proceedings went to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.  I’m all for eating and drinking for a good cause!

Nicolas, me and Clement

A very special shout-out goes to our wonderful wait staff – Nicolas and Clement, who were absolutely brilliant. Not only did they serve us with humour, patience and professionalism – it was wonderful to be lulled by their lush, gorgeous French accents!  Special thanks also to Ned – who looked after us briliantly and was incredibly attentive despite a hugely busy night for everyone.

Another brilliant night out for the fabulous four – we were very happy!  We all piled into taxis and headed home to try to repair what we could – given it was a school night!! It was truly an amazing meal – San Telmo did not disappoint – and I look forward to returning to try out my favourite dishes.  Hopefully you’ve been inspired to head out to San Telmo – Argentinian cuisine is something that’s been missing from the landscape of the Melbourne gastronomic scene – so we wish them all the best.

San Telmo on Urbanspoon

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