Zoilo: More than meats the eye (July 2015)

Think of Argentine cuisine and the typical response is steak. Zoilo, a small and intimate restaurant on the northern edge of Mayfair, proves this claim wrong. The food my comrade and I sampled on a recent weekday lunchtime certainly impressed, as did the ambience, even if the service was something of a let-down. The venue itself is small (but did not feel crowded) with room for around 20 covers upstairs spread between tables and seats at the bar. There is also a downstairs with an open-kitchen, although on a bright summer’s day we did not venture here. In terms of the food, Zoilo’s menu stresses that Argentine cuisine is a ‘fascinating mix of cultures’ reflecting both its indigenous heritage as well as its legacy of immigration. The menu itself is conveniently separated into distinct sections such as ‘land’ and ‘sea’ and our server informed us that the format here was along the lines of tapas, namely we should select a series of dishes, all of which would be appropriate for sharing. We loved the empanadas - a posh take on pasties - with which we began, one beef (rich and hearty) and one spinach & goat’s cheese (sumptuous and savoury). Our crab on toast which followed was also superb, delicately light, but still packed with flavour. At this stage, however, two problems occurred. First, maybe Argentines are a portly lot (I do not know any personally), but we already felt fairly full, although we still had a further five dishes to come. Second, maybe as a result of portion size and the need to digest, we had to endure a notable wait before our next dishes. This is all well and good if you want to linger, but we had deliberately arrived early at the restaurant to avoid the main crowd and were in a slight rush too. The next dishes, when they eventually came, also hit the mark, although Zoilo excelled more with its fish options (both the ceviche and the squid were among the best sampled recently in London) than with its meat (the pork, for example, was fatty and half-cold when it arrived). The wine list deserves note, with an unsurprisingly heavy local bias, and we enjoyed an attractively priced carafe of white made with the Torrontes grape. Overall, do pay a visit here, but don’t be in a rush, don’t over-order and make sure you try more than just the meat.