14 Meyers Place
Melbourne, VIC 3000
(03) 9650 5525
While it may not be the most well-known of the Latin American cuisines, there is only one thing you need really know about the Argentinians: they like their meat. As an Argentinian-style bar and grill in Meyers Place, San Telmo is naturally geared towards beef: animal hides on the walls, cowhide menu covers and leather placemats and aprons worn by the staff, all help set the mood. Vegetarians get out now.
Named after their favourite neighborhood in Buenos Aires, San Telmo was opened in 2011 by brothers Michael and Dave Parker and husband and wife Jason and Renee McConnell who, except for their love of the country, have no real connection to Argentina. Perhaps this is why we can forgive them for throwing us a few curve-balls in the menu, including the civiche, a dish credited to the Peruvian. The version here is nice enough, made with cured white fish, chilli, sweet potato and onion ($16.00), although on the occasion we visited was screaming out for seasoning.
Also from the collection of starters we tried is the fried brocolli with salted ricotta ($10.00). If there was one way to get fussy eaters to eat their greens, this would be it. Encased in a light, almost tempura-like batter, the tender brocolli is transformed from mundane to marvelous. A must-try.
The polenta chips with chipotle mayo ($12.00) may have been done before, but the version here is good. If you’ve never tried polenta chips, you should really give them a chance – they far surpass regular chips with their subtle corn flavour and extra crunchy exterior.
If you’re a fan of saganaki, the provoleta – pan fried provolone cheese ($12.00) is a safe bet. The provolone is a bit sharper than haloumi, but quite similar. The night we visited, they were having trouble frying the cheese so they treated us to an extra slice. Bonus.
Then of course there’s the steak: flank, hanger, rib eye, striploin or scotch, there’s plenty to choose from. The scotch is a 400g Cape Grim pasture fed fillet, which for $55.00 is quite expensive considering it doesn’t come with any sides. It’s a nice cut of meat though, cooked on their custom-built parrilla grill which uses hot coals to impart a subtle smokey flavour.
A little kinder on the wallet is the 300g hanger steak for $36.00. The hanger, a cut from the diaphragm also known as skirt or bistro steak, is a deliciously underrated cut of meat prized for it’s flavour. Recommended to us by our very knowledgeable waitress, It is considered a tougher cut of meat but was the clear winner over the scotch we thought.
The braised Berkshire pork jowl ‘cheek’ with crackling ($19.00) also caught our eye on the smaller dishes menu. Essentially a salad of fatty pork and crackling, it’s another good example of how cheaper cuts of meat are used extensively throughout Argentinian cuisine. Dishes such as short ribs, liver and sweetbreads all star on the San Telmo menu.
Still hungry, we decided to order the pork and paprika chorizo ($14.00) after seeing it wander by. Straight off the grill, sliced and slightly charred, it packs a smokey flavour punch.
While the they may focus heavily on meat, it’s nice to find the sides are good too. There’s the roasted beetroot, butternut pumpkin, walnut praline and lemon salad ($14.00) which is a nice flavour match with the meat. The beetroot and pumpkin are a classic combination, while the walnut praline helps make the dish special.
While Mum may have warned me off brussel sprouts growing up, San Telmo’s version served with roasted shallots, hazelnuts and agave vinaigrette ($12.00) is enough to make anyone a fan. Slightly charred, their subtle bitter flavour is offset by the sweet agave in the dressing.
If you’re after sweets, the tarta toffee – chocolate and honeycomb tart with dulce de leche and white coffee ice cream ($14.00) is a good offering. Dulce de leche, a sweet, caramelised milk and sugar sauce typical in Latin American cuisine, is a perfect match with the chocolate and honeycomb.
If you’re not after sweet aren’t quite done, you can try the cheese board which comes with two Spanish cheeses, quince paste and walnut bread ($22.00). Again, it’s not a cheap dish given the serving size, but the quality of the cheeses makes it justified.
It’s a bit of a man cave over at San Telmo. The dark-hued dining room, impressive steak knives and meat-centric menu make it an excellent place to take your man for a special occasion. Just don’t tell him that you’re really there for you.