Casa Malevo aims to be a classier, more upmarket version of other Argentinean restaurants found in London - 'Yet simple...' says Roberto, manager of this delightful and friendly spot on Marylebone's swanky Connaught Street (you know you're in good surroundings when the view from your table is Jimmy Choo). Warm lighting, dark wood furniture and a glass frontage make for an inviting and unpretentious setting for a fantastic steak, served by people who really know what they're doing.
And so they should with Diego Jacquet, ex-chef of one of the world's most famous restaurants, El Bulli, at the helm. Open since late last year, Casa Malevo already seems to have a bit of a following. Roberto and Diego greet several customers like long-lost friends and tell us that they know half the clientele that evening by name. The crowd is made up of mostly locals, along with business people and members of the Argentinean community, not huge in number but growing as word spreads.
Casa Malevo prides itself on its fantastic produce, much of it homemade in house. Delicious oily bread is already on the tables waiting to be dipped in the oregano, tangy tomato and onion oil. There's a wine list boasting a healthy selection of reds (just three whites sit at the very bottom of the menu, daring you to choose anything other than red). All are from Argentina and we go for an Urano 2008 Malbec on recommendation, 'a Pinot Noir will get lost under the flavours of the steak,' advises Roberto. 'Oh and save room for the ice-cream,' is a warning issued before our bottoms have barely hit our seats - Argentineans are known for their love of all things sweet.
Starters are a warm goats' cheese salad with smoked almonds, a winning combination, with beetroot, spinach and Provoleta, grilled Provolone cheese baked in an earthenware pot until oozing and sprinkled with oregano and topped with rocket and roasted tomatoes. It's at least three days calorie intake, but too incredible to worry about. Then on to the steak; melt-in-the-mouth sirloin, cooked to perfection and salty hand-cut chips accompanied by a garlicky rocket and Parmesan salad. It's hearty, simple food just the way the Argentineans like it and utterly delicious.
Having been told about desert from the beginning it would have been rude to decline; what is so great about this ice-cream? We opt for the signature, a rich dulche de leche crème brulé with banana-split ice cream (which as promised is incredible). It's an overload of creamy, caramel flavours suited to those with the sweetest of tooth. We also try the Mate y Pasta Frola (quince tart with mate ice-cream). For those not in the know, mate is a tea drunk cold in the North of Argentina when the sun gets just that bit too hot. Its flavour is unusual but cuts through the quince perfectly.
Casa Malevo is run by people who truly care, not only about food but about the whole experience. You receive the same welcome whether you are sitting down to the full works, as we did, or if you are just popping in for a drink and a nibble. We saw chorizo, Provoleta and pork cheeks advertised on a board as bar snacks and spotted a couple tucking into a meat platter and a glass of red while perched on high stools at the bar. Whatever you come for, give way to the indulgence of it all. Argentineans love their food and Casa Malevo does it well. Be warned though: the dessert-induced sugar rush may take some time to get over.
Casa Malevo, 23 Connaught Street, London W2 2AY (020 7402 1988; casamalevo.com)