Diverse Cultures at Zoilo
2 AA Rosette Argentine Dining
When The Boy and I popped down to London for the D1 Cocktail Exchange recently, we had the rare luxury of some free time together for a lunch date. A cursory Google search suggested that Zoilo was a good shout, close to Lanes of London where we needed to be.
While I have written extensively about the incredible diversity of cuisine that we enjoy here in Leicester, we certainly do not have everything and one of the (few IMHO) joys of visiting central London is knowing that whatever culture’s food you are hankering after, it won’t be far away. We were in the mood for South American, always chasing memories of our round the world trip nearly a decade ago, and I’ll be honest, Zoilo did not disappoint.
The upstairs bar and dining room of this 2 AA Rosette awarded restaurant is cosy and considerately decorated, making it feel smart and clean as well as comfortable. The open kitchen in the basement is a nice touch if you happen to make your way down there also. We were lucky to get a table on the last Friday before Christmas, but they were able to squeeze us in at the bar, while the restaurant soon filled up around us.
Lunch at Zoilo
The lunch set menu offers excellent value given the quality of the food, with 2 courses at £16 and 3 for £19. I also spent quite a large amount of time wistfully perusing the comprehensive wine list. For those of you who missed the memo, I’m pregnant so I’ve been on the wagon for a few months now, so now you know!
Anyway, the Zoilo menu was by far the most interesting and complete menu of Argentinian wine that I have seen outside of Argentina. I have made a note to try and return at such time when I am able to enjoy a cheeky glass of vino again!
Sadly, the promised classic beef empanada was not available from the starter selection, so we opted for the less conventional duck empanada and spinach and goat’s cheese empanada instead. The crisp pastry did remind me of being back in South America, although the fillings were not something you would expect to see. They were tasty though, but just one seemed a little mean for this classic street food dish. I would have hoped for at least 2, even on the lunch menu.
The lunch menu appears to change every month or so, and it is not always empanadas on offer, so take a look on their website before you go if you want to see the range on offer. The a la carte menu is also very affordable and has a huge range despite the relatively concentrated menu – a good grill range as you would expect, but also dishes of land, sea and the rest which showcase the many culinary influences brought to Argentina by waves of indigenous and migrant populations.
And for the main…
This influence was very clear on our choice of mains. I opted for the Delica pumpkin and ricotta tortellini which was served with a corn and crab bisque. Along with Spanish, Italian immigration has provided one of the largest movements of people in modern Argentinian history and the food reflects this.
My dish was beautifully presented and an absolute powerhouse of flavour. The tortellini filling was light and sweet, which complemented the crab bisque beautifully. Although all these flavours are individually delicate, overall I found this to be a really punchy dish, thanks to excellent seasoning and a careful hand in balancing the ingredients. The creamy bisque was extremely light and smooth. The only criticism I could find was that the ricotta was a touch grainy, but I understand this is more of a sourcing issue rather than a criticism of the cooking.
The Boy chose the beef & bone marrow burger. This was served stacked high in a tiny brioche bun, which immediately got soaked with the mass of juices from the high quality, rare burger meat. Personally I would prefer the burger to be half as tall and 50% wider, a little more in proportion! But The Boy informed me that the flavour was certainly there and he found it very filling. The menu promised a braised rib with the burger, which was actually placed under the patty, but this got lost with the mass of quality, yielding meat and so didn’t particularly add its own note of flavour that was distinguishable in the mix.
The chips I can certainly comment on, as I dutifully stole a number of them. All in the name of research of course. These were served in the Provenzal style, smothered in garlic and parsley. They were absolutely delicious – everything you want from a chip. Crispy outside, fluffy inside and with bags of flavour from the seasoning. I could eat them by the bucketload.**
So my impression of Zoilo was overwhelmingly positive. A little gem of a lunch at a reasonable price, with very attentive staff. I found the restaurant comfortable, even seated at the bar, and the menu interesting and a little different to the norm. Definitely worth seeking out if you’re in the area.
Zoilo were not aware of my visit or plan for this review and we paid for our meal in full.
**Disclaimer – I am pregnant and can currently eat pretty much anything by the bucketload. But please be assured that these are very good chips.