A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published June 23rd 2014
Enjoy a BBQ - Argentinian Style
San Telmo is an Argentinian restaurant. If you do an internet search on 'Argentinian cuisine', you will very quickly reach the conclusion that meat is the champion, especially beef, and that the most common way to cook it is by barbecue, or asado. You are also likely to see chorizo, and morcilla (blood sausage) on the menu. Vegetarians beware.
San Telmo is hidden away in Meyers Place, Melbourne
Our most recent visit was the third time I've been to San Telmo, tucked away in Meyers Place in Melbourne, and each time, I've been impressed. The quality and quantity of the food is superb. The decor is warm and welcoming. The share platter approach to dining promotes a sociable experience.
One wall of the restaurant is dominated by the huge parilla or charcoal grill. According to San Telmo's website, this grill was handmade by a master craftsman - Pirincho - whose customers have included former Argentinian presidents. It's certainly an impressive looking structure.
The huge grill or 'parilla'
Another aspect of San Telmo that appeals to me is that all the wines and beers on its extensive drinks list are Argentinian. Rosé tends not to be a popular wine in Australia, which is partly why I decided to choose a 2012 Humberto Canale Malbec Rosé, from Rio Negro, Patagonia, which proved a pleasant, light wine. At $49 per bottle, it was one of the least expensive wines on the list. You could spend up to $240 for a bottle of wine here, that for a magnum of the 2009 Humberto Canale Centenium Blend.
And so to our food experience. The menu is divided into four sections; mas pequeno (smaller), acompañamientos (sides dishes), and then smaller and larger dishes desde la parrilla (from the grill). We started with palmitos (palmheart, preserved pear, jamón and buffalo mozzarella) ($16) and the brócoli (fried broccoli with salted ricotta) ($10). These were mouthwateringly delicious. The broccoli was a stand out, dipped in some sort of very light batter, so it's crispy on the outside, but the broccoli is still tender. I have to confess that in the face of this most appealing food, I completely forgot to take a photo of it!
Our next courses were from the grill: tira de asado (premium pasture fed beef short ribs) ($30), and pollo (free range corn fed half chicken with minced garlic) ($30). With these we had two side dishes: zanahorias (burnt carrots with hazelnut, thyme and garlic goats curd) ($13) and batatas (coal roasted sweet potato and spring onion) ($11). The short ribs were tasty in a way that invited you to pick up the bone and shred off those final morsels of meat. The chicken was tender and moist, with the beautiful yet subtle flavour of the grill.
Our main courses of beef short ribs and chicken, plus one of the side dishes (burnt carrots)
We didn't have time for dessert, as we had a show to get to, but the dessert menu looks delicious. Heavily featured amongst the desserts is something called 'dulce de leche'. I had to do a little research to find out what this is: it's described on Wikipedia as 'a confection prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to create a product that derives its taste from the caramelization of the product, changing flavor and colour'. So you could, for example, have the flan: 'dulce de leche crème caramel with salted peanut praline' ($14), or the tarta toffee: 'chocolate and honeycomb tart with dulce de leche and dulce de leche ice cream' ($14).
If there's one criticism I have of San Telmo, it's that the tables are just a little bit too close together. I was in a party of three, and we were seated at a table that was more appropriate for two people; when you consider that the format is shared platters, this doesn't make sense. There was a large party right next to us, adding to the feeling that we were slightly crammed in.
Inside San Telmo. It can feel a bit squeezy!
Apart from that small negative point, I again enjoyed the experience at San Telmo and highly recommend it.
San Telmo is open 7 days: from 8am until 'late' Monday to Friday, and from 12pm until 'late' on the weekend. Note that there are two sittings on Saturday night, with diners in the early sitting given a two hour window. There is a private dining room available, for groups of 10 - 14.
It's very close to public transport; a short walk from Parliament Station or any Bourke Street tram. Situated just around the corner from Her Majesty's and Princess' Theatres, San Telmo is a handy place to keep in mind for a meal before you head to a show.