Argentina may remain stuck on the red list, but an exciting new restaurant is offering Londoners a slice of authentic Buenos Aires right in the heart of Soho.
Two decades after opening the original Sucre in the Argentine capital, chef Fernando Trocca (formerly of high-end UK steak chain Gaucho) and bartender Renato “Tato” Giovannon have launched a London instalment of their acclaimed eatery.
As Sucre is widely considered one of Buenos Aires’ best food spots and has twice been featured in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, there has been considerable buzz around Trocca and Tato’s new joint since it opened in July.
Sucre and its 75-cover basement bar Abajo (pronounced “ab-A-ho”, meaning “underground”) occupy a 310-year-old building just down the road from luxury department store Liberty and a stone’s throw from Oxford Circus underground station. After entering the main door, you find yourself in a swanky but dimly lit reception area which doesn’t quite prepare you for the majesty of the dining room it leads on to.
The restaurant – which was designed by Japanese architect Noriyoshi Muramatsu – has no natural light but you’re barely aware of this thanks to its extraordinarily high ceilings (it was formerly the London College of Music’s concert hall) and stunning chandeliers which are made up of more than a thousand cut-glass decanters.
An open kitchen at the back of the room, which features a wood oven and enormous “parilla” (grill), give the cavernous space a homely, relaxed feel.
Open fire cooking is at the heart of Sucre’s concept, along with the use of seasonal ingredients (the menu changes regularly). Dishes are cooked over charcoal, Argie-style, using embers rather than live flames. “We are open-minded about the flavours, ingredients and influences we work with but less open-minded about how they should be treated on fire” say Trocca and Tato, who are long-term friends.
Sucre’s à la carte food menu begins with a small selection of reasonably-priced empanadas (what else would you expect from an Argentinian restaurant?) and chorizo criollo, another traditional dish.
A mixture of vegetarian, pescatarian and meaty “small plates” act as starters; my dining companion and I shared a Dorset crab “tostada” (toasted tortilla) which came with avocado and a deliciously smokey tatemada salsa, and an Insta-friendly salad made of golden and deep purple beetroot, cumin, yoghurt and orange.
Mains are split into two sections: fire and stove. Wanting to try one dish from each, we opted for the monkfish tail (which was coated in an umami seafood sauce and served with black beans) and Sucre’s speciality: veal osso bucco (slow-braised veal shanks) which sat upon a vibrant, melt-in-the-mouth saffron risotto. Our side of tomatoes, capers and onions was simple but its crisp tanginess perfectly offset the rich flavours of the monkfish and veal.
Guests may be surprised to find just one steak option on the menu (when we visited, it was an 800g bone-in ribeye to share) – but this feels like a conscious decision by Trocca to widen Londoners’ perception of his country’s diverse culinary scene.
Dessert helped Sucre live up to its sweet namesake; we sampled a citrusy pavlova made with fig leaf and a decadent dulce de leche fondant. Neither were quite as stand-out as our mains, but were pleasant enough to end our experience with.
We enjoyed browsing through the creative cocktail list, which features charming illustrations, before settling on a Membrillo Bellini (sparkling wine, fig leaf liquor, quince and wild honey) and Sucre’s expert take on a classic Bloody Mary which was made with fresh tomatoes and red peppers cooked on the grill.
Our attentive waiter helped us choose a wine that would go well with our food choices (an in-house sommelier is also on hand for advice). He suggested a crisp Argentinian La Cayetana Criolla Blanca which contained notes of honey, apple and citrus, and was a perfect accompaniment to our meal.
A wider selection of drinks can be found in the basement bar, Abajo. There, cocktails are mainly served on underlit neon coasters, contrasting with the space’s dark, moody interior.
The restaurant opened less than three months ago but you wouldn’t know it – it was almost at full capacity when I visited and the service was impeccable.
With all of mainland South America firmly on the red list, the prospect of visiting Argentina is out of the question – at least for the time being. With its explosive, authentic flavours, Sucre is the perfect spot for some alternative tastebud travelling, no passport required.
Sucre, 47 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7JP; sucrerestaurant.com