The Argentines are famous for a few things; good horses, football, and steak. On this particular evening, my friend *TN* took me to dinner at a wonderful little restaurant round the corner from her new house in Higbury. Located at the crest of a hill on a charming, leafy road, Garufa is a small, privately run establishment specialising in rib eye, fillet, and sirloin. I have to be honest I was a little bit apprehensive when she told me we were going to a little, local place; but I tried to remember to be open minded, and that thus far, on food, she has never steered me wrong. I was glad in the end because it was absolutely delicious, the ambiance was great, and I felt as though I had been let in on a juicy little secret.
Where: 105 Highbury Park Road, London N5 2XE
Good for: A quiet dinner where the emphasis is on conversation
Price Range: Dinner for two plus wine came to about £90 (please note that we shared a steak for portion control purposes, so a bigger dinner could potentially cost more)
The Food: Stunning, just stunning. I cannot emphasize that enough. The bread basket was fresh, and we enjoyed the randomness of the fried spaghetti that came with it. Our steak was tender, juicy, beautifully marbled, succulent and tasty. Chewing the steak with the squishy sweet potato, spinach and the wacky little salsa was an enjoyable sensation of textures and flavours. Washed down with the wine, red of course, an Alpatago 2010 Pinot Noir, we uhmed and ahed through pretty much the main meal. The point at which we got really speechless, was dessert. Oh my goodness. Have you ever had dulce de leche, with caramel popcorn and bananas before? Such a weird and wonderful combination, and for the second time that evening, the mastery of texture really jumped out at me. It almost felt like the old Rice Krispies ‘snap crackle pop’ or fizzy candy, but more refined, and more mellow and yet more exciting. And then there is the taste of caramel, the good, made-from-scratch kind that is a bit unfair and anti-competitive because it dominates your senses, and leaves you no other option but to give in to it. I would beat anybody over the head to have that dessert again, I honestly would. And I wouldn’t even feel bad about it either. I feel sorry for my friend now, because it is a horrible fate to live so close to that kind of temptation. I mean, in the event that she has a bad day, are we really expecting her not to stroll down, set herself up at a table and say, ‘the usual please’. Are we really expecting her, on a very very bad day, not to have two desserts plus wine? That level of restraint is unreasonable to demand of anybody and I am glad that I am safely in Lagos where all I can do is salivate pathetically at the memory, knowing that I have no hope of encountering that deliciousness anytime soon.
The Verdict: The portions are not huge, and it is not by any means cheap, but it is most certainly cheerful with candlelight and soft music and a relaxed attitude to service that means you can chat for ages and not be interrupted every five seconds by a pesky waiter. If you are ever knocking about this end of North London and are in search of a cosy, and tasty steak place to eat, look into Garufa.