The newest venture from Fernando Trocca is bringing a taste of Argentina to London, with plenty of global influences and stylish surroundings. Andy Lynes reports.
Famed Argentinian chef Fernando Trocca couldn't have chosen a grander setting for his first restaurant and bar in London. Sucre opened in July this year (20 years after the original launched in Buenos Aires) in the former concert hall of the London College of Music near Oxford Circus, which has been transformed by Japanese architect Noriyoshi Muramatsu.
Bespoke chandeliers made up of more than 1,000 cut-glass decanters hang over the glamorous, 123-cover dining room. But the real focus is the open kitchen, with its wood oven and charcoal fireplace, where Trocca and head chef Steve Wilson are reimagining Argentinian cuisine for up to 180 customers a night.
Main courses on the regularly changing menu are divided under the headings of ‘Fire' and ‘Stove' and, as this is an Argentinian restaurant, it's no surprise to see steak featured. Unexpectedly, however, the 800g bone-in ribeye to share (£75) and a sirloin (£34), both cooked over fire, come not from Las Pampas but from Paddock Farm in Oxfordshire.
"It's probably one of the best ribeyes I've tried in my life, and I've tried a lot of ribeyes. Also, it's on the bone and we cannot get beef on the bone from Argentina. But we probably will have Argentinian beef on the menu at some point I'm sure," says Trocca, who serves the meat with his own particular take on the classic Argentinian sauce chimichurri. "It's 80% parsley with garlic, aji molido – sweet dried chilli flakes, which is very typical – shallots, olive oil and red wine vinegar."
Trocca serves another classic Argentinian sauce, criolla with sweetbreads (£9) as one of the restaurant's selection of six small plates. "Criolla is very similar to pico de gallo and made with white onion, red peppers, tomatoes, parsley and olive oil. Sweetbreads are classic Argentinian barbecue food, and so we do them exactly the same as we do in Argentina, on a grill with salt and pepper," he adds.
"They're a bit different in the way they're cooked," explains Wilson. "In the classical French style, you'd blanch them and peel them, whereas we take the sinew off when they're raw and then cook them over coals really slowly for 20 to 25 minutes. The sweetbreads come from Ireland, and they have a high fat content, which helps to keep the buttery texture."
The menu also features another Argentinian classic dish, empanadas, currently on the menu filled with aged Cheddar and onion (£4) or beef (£5). Trocca buys in the pastry, which he says would take up too much space to make in-house, and fills it with a northern Argentinian-inspired mix of chuck steak braised with onions, garlic, aji molido and beef fat, finished with boiled egg, spring onions and parsley.
However, there are plenty of dishes reflecting wider influences: scallop tiradito with jalapeño, horseradish and soy (£12) is a Peruvian dish, while spiced aubergine with ricotta and muhammara (£10) calls on Middle Eastern influences.
A best-selling dish of Cornish monkfish tail (£26) is accompanied by Trocca's take on a Chinese XO sauce. "We double-skin the 400g tails and then cook them slowly over coals for 10-12 minutes," says Wilson. "We baste them in the XO sauce, which is made with dried shrimps, aji molido and a scallop roe butter – made from the roes of the scallops from the tiradito dish. We serve it with black beans flavoured with lime and coriander."
The brigade of 10 chefs and four kitchen porters are also responsible for the short menu served in the 60-cover Abajo cocktail bar in the restaurant's basement, which is overseen by Trocca's friend and business partner Tato Giovannoni, a fellow Argentinian and owner of the world-renowned Floreria Atlántico bar in Buenos Aires. Most of the menu items are also featured on the restaurant's à la carte, but a slice of fugazzeta (£5) is only available in the bar.
"We have very good pizzas in Argentina, because of the Italian influence. Fugazetta is the pizza everyone has a slice of on the street. It's a lot of mozzarella and onion," says Trocca.
Trocca has a busy few months ahead, with the opening of another Sucre in Dubai before the end of the year (in addition to running existing restaurants in Miami and seasonal beach restaurants in Uruguay and Montauk in the Hamptons in New York state), after which he has tentative plans to relocate to London for a year.
Despite his international reputation, Trocca doesn't believe Sucre is on Michelin's radar – not that it seems to bother him. "It's a restaurant with one mission. I just want to make good food and for people to enjoy the service, the music, the ambience, everything. That's my goal."
I just want to make good food and for people to enjoy the service, the music, the ambience, everything. That's my goal
47b Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7JP
From the menu
- Dorset crab tostada, avocado, tatemada £14
- Aguachile, stone bass, cucumber and plantain £12
- Beetroot, cumin, yogurt, orange £9
- Ibérico pork matambre £22
- Cod, bone sauce, samphire, tarragon £24
- Veal osso buco, saffron risotto £21
- Strawberry choux bun, olive oil, almonds £8
- Bitter chocolate, cherry, ginger £9
- Dulce de leche fondant, whisky, hazelnuts £9
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