Sure, the Gaucho is a gimmicky chain. But I liked it -- starting with the chairs covered in black and white splodges of fake cow fur. It's a business lunch kind of place in a business lunch kind of location. (Apparently it's open on Sundays too, with live music, but for me it's an implausible image.)
Before we've had a chance to look at the menu, a waitress comes up with a wooden board featuring several slabs of red, raw meat. She explains what the different cuts are and what level of cooking (rare, medium, etc) is best for each. A nice touch (my companion jokes that this would be the ideal place to take a vegetarian), but it's too much detail to digest in one go and her strong accent doesn't really help so they might be better off just having a more informative menu.
Bizarrely the two suits in the next table are both having fish. We play the game though. I discover that 300 grams of rump (£13.50) is actually a huge portion, but it's nicely rare and flavoursome and I manage to finish the lot. My companion has a more modest 200 grams of less modest fillet (£16). (The standard sizes go up to 400 grams, but the menu helpfully says that "all steaks can be served in larger sizes". Whole cow anyone?). The chips come in both thick and thin varieties (£2.25) and there are also three other sorts of potatoes on offer. At these prices though, you might expect that sort of thing to be included, rather than to have to pay £5.75 extra for some grilled veggies. The sauces, of course, are also extra, and I am a bit disappointed with the blue cheese one (£2.00) which tastes a bit artificial and is not a patch on the dolcelatte one in Venezia.
Another disappointment is the cheese course -- £6.75 gets you a wooden board with three slivers of Argentinian cheese and some quince jelly. The one a bit like manchengo is quite nice but the other two are pretty unpleasant and for perhaps the first time ever I don't finish. (Don't worry, I didn't break my January cheese fast, I've just been very slow about writing up meals eaten as far back as December).
For two steaks, a cheese, a desert and a couple of glasses of wine each (at almost £6a glass for the cheapest on offer!) the bill tips well over the £100 mark. I have to agree that it's rip off territory. But then I wasn't paying. The service was fine and the company was good. I liked the steak and the cow seats and the cheese bread they served before the meal. So I'd go back -- as long as it's another business lunch.
Gaucho Grill, 29 Westferry Circus, Canary Riverside E14 8RR; Tel. 020 7987 9494; Tube: Canary Wharf; www.gauchorestaurants.co.uk