It’s always exciting when a new restaurant opens, and even more exciting when that restaurant is Argentine, or in other words, that restaurant is serving food from the country that you will always associate with the finest cuisine you have ever enjoyed.
De La Panza opened in October 2011 in De Beauvoir Town, an area of North London between Dalston and Hoxton. It’s location on Southgate Road is a little off-the-beaten track – and eerily quiet at night – but this is all part of the appeal. Gaston, who runs front of house, was previously involved with the Buen Ayre and the Santa Maria del Sur restaurants, so it is clear this is someone who knows what makes an Argentine restaurant tick.
The restaurant’s decor has the feel of an Argentine bodegón, which is exactly what they’re aiming for. It’s interiors are all dark shades of wood, wine glasses and elegance. The only real obstacle from it feeling like an authentic bodegón is the fact that the bar doesn’t take center-stage, something I have always associated with my favourites in Argentina. Considering the owners managed to refurbish the Turkish restaurant that was here before – and supposedly very quiet – and get it so close to authentic though should be applauded.
Now, onto the food. “De La Panza” is Argentine slang for stuffing your belly and that is exactly what we intend to do. First up are the starters. With feelings of nostalgia for our favourite Argentine street food we go for chorizo and mochilla – two types of barbecued Argentine sausage, the first of which is a spicy delight, and the second a blood sausage, that was a little undercooked.
Remember to ask for the chimmichurri when having chorizo. There’s something about that particular sausage/condiment combo that takes some beating. We also tried the spicy beef empanadas which we would recommend highly, though I’m not sure you can go wrong with an empanada! Additionally, we had the provoleta, which is a hard cheese grilled on the parilla (barbecue):
Onto the mains and we went for a couple of Argentine classics. The first was the Bife de Chorizo, which is the sirloin steak, and second in price on the steak menu only to the Bife de Lomo or fillet steak. The meat is imported from Argentina, and as you would expect from an Argentine steak, it tasted incredible.
[I’m not sure the above picture does the steak service. The fact is, it was almost eaten before we had a chance to take a photo, it just looked so good!]
We ordered a side of chips with the steak. It was the best thing we ever did. Thick cut, salty chips – they were an absolute delight.
The other main course was the Milanesa de la Casa con Puré de Papa. A milanesa is kind of like a schnitzel. In this case it was a breaded piece of flattened veal, served with mashed potatoes. This is a very typical Argentine dish, and these guys got it just right.
For dessert we had Budín de pan al caramelo which translates as “caramel bread pudding” but tasted something like a thick-textured creme brulee or creme caramel. The addition of dulce de leche on the side was a stroke of genius!
Our other dessert was ice cream, which was the only item on the menu – at least that we tried – that didn’t come from Argentina. Which is a shame because Argentine ice cream is very good indeed. However, it was still a good way to finish proceedings:
In regards to drink, we simply tried the house red, a Syrah/Malbec, which was more than adequate for us. If you are into your wines then I’m sure you’ll find something here for your tastes. Prices vary from £15 to £50 for a bottle.
Cost – Our three courses worked out at around £30-35 per person for the food and a glass of wine each at £5.
Likes – One of the great things about De La Panza is the atmosphere. There is a real warmth in the room, which is helped by the fact that it’s not the biggest of restaurants. We met some great people there including locals Claire and Danny, who seemed to enjoy the food just as much as we did.
Dislikes – My only criticism is that I think they should make the prices comparable with those of the bodegóns in Argentina! Seriously though, the price could be prohibitive for some who are after something closer to the £20 meals that you can get at many of the rodizio-style restaurants we have featured on the site.
Verdict – a great new addition to the South American food scene, currently engulfing London. We’ll definitely be back!
Words by Russ Slater
De La Panza
Tel: 020 7226 0334
The guys from De La Panza also run an Argentine food stall – where you can buy quality steak sandwiches at lunchtime – at various locations across London. You can find more details of the market at facebook.com/groups/48312478967