24 January 2012

Porteño and Gardel’s Bar: Argentinian, Surry Hills (10 Dec 2011)

358 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 8399 1440

More than just a restaurant

The Gardel's Bar and Porteño restaurant was probably one of the dining highlights of 2011 for me. I felt it was more a dining experience than just another bar or restaurant. The fashionably beautiful host Sarah Doyle may have also swayed my opinion along with the lethal Don the Beachcomber Zombie cocktail which is limited to one per customer but our table of nine all had a lovely time of enjoying the set menu overall ($70). The Porteno Pimms Cup ($16) was a refreshing start and for those who want a bit of passive smoke in their cocktail you might like to try the Thank You For Smoking ($22). The good thing about having the set banquet is you don't have to worry about ordering and I think it gave us a pretty good idea of the range of dishes available and left us wanting to return to try more. The Spiced Eggplant and Grilled Tuna with Asparagus and Charred Jalopeño & Garlic Dressing were flavoursome along with the BBQ Calamari with Pickled Green Tomato & Chilli — simple yet tasty. I didn't think I'd like the Blood Sausage with Red Peppers in Garlic but the taste wasn't as strong and bloody as I feared making it fairly pleasant.

The Pork Sausage aka chorizo was very good becoming a table favourite and one I'd definitely happily order again. It seemed many enjoyed the Crispy Fried Brussel Sprouts with Lentils and Mint which might please those who generally don't like eating brussel sprouts. The Grill selection I believe included some 8 hour woodfired pig and grass fed angus beef inside skirt but I can't quite remember. The steak went well with the homemade accompanying sauces for an extra flavour burst but I wish the pork came with more crackling which I missed out on trying. The South American Style Pavlova was an interesting dessert but I do prefer the Aussie/New Zealand version with cream and fresh fruit. We were pretty much full by the time the Burnt Milk Custard with Cumquat Jam & Chocolate Ice Cream was served which had popcorn on the side which didn't quite work for me but I guess it gave that slight salty edge which is popular these days with chocolate. I'd definitely love to revisit and try other dishes on the menu like the beef short ribs, lamb ribs and citrus marinated seafood with cucumber, grapefruit and yellow chilli paste. It wasn't a cheap night but it was a fun night of drinking and eating all under the one roof in a buzzing atmosphere.

PROS: Interesting decor, Service was accommodating and friendly, Tasty dishes and a fair amount served for the set banquet, Nicely made cocktails that didn't really hold back on the alcohol
CONS: 10% service charge for group bookings of 8 or more, Set menu required for group bookings, Seating times allocated to groups, Bottles of wine are not cheap but they are pretty good
MUST TRY: Don the Beachcomber Zombie because you're only allowed one

Sarah Doyle (host) and me

Porteno Pimms Cup - Pimms No. 1, Cointreau, fresh lemon & cucumber juices, ginger ale & seasonal fruit ($16)

Thank You For Smoking - Buffalo Trace bourban, house smoked vermouth, house smoked maple syrup & chocolate bitters ($22)

Don the Beachcomber Zombie - A secret blend of house rums, pimento dram, apricot brandy, absinthe, real pomegranate grenadine, Angostura bitters, a trio of citrus & pineapple juice ($25)

Apparently this means we'll be back — obviously they've gone for a smoke

Bar area



Christmas tree

House baked bread with olive oil and pork pate

Spiced Eggplant

Marinated Olives


Grilled Tuna with Asparagus and Charred Jalopeño & Garlic Dressing

Accompanying sauces

BBQ Calamari with Pickled Green Tomato & Chilli

Blood Sausage with Red Peppers in Garlic

Pork Sausage

Crispy Fried Brussel Sprouts with Lentils and Mint

Braised Green Beans, Borlotti, Ricotta and Oregano

Grill selection Pork

Shaved Fennel Salad with Apricot, Black Olives and Amontillado Dressing

Grill selection Steak

South American Style Pavlova

Burnt Milk Custard with Cumquat Jam & Chocolate Ice Cream - not sure about the popcorn though

2010 Pinot Grigio Jed Uco Valley Mendoza ($51)

2006 Sauras Select Pinot Noir, Patagonia Argentina ($79)

Desierto Pampa Late Harvest Viognier 2007 ($68)

View of restaurant looking down from Gardel's Bar

The open kitchen — I love a good BBQ

A maze of seating

Old school toilet decor

Bill $1058.20 for nine set menu includes 10% service charge

While taking photos I came across the guys from My Little Cupcake having their Christmas work dinner and one of them recognised me — small world hehe

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Porteño Porteño on Urbanspoon
Gardel's Bar Gardel's Bar at Porteño on Urbanspoon


Row said...

I stopped scrolling down when I hit the pictures of the Grill selection steak. Oh my. It looks very tender and extremely delicious!

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

SO much love for Porteno...! That banquet isn't too bad a deal considering you get the pork and Brussels Sprouts - will investigate for next function :)

Madam Wu said...

Yum! I had the same set menu a few months ago but with lamb. It was drool-worthy. The presentation of the burnt custard was different for us - it was more deconstructed and scattered across the plate but I loved it all. My favourites were the tuna, roasted pork and brussel sprouts.

Simon Leong said...

hi row, i'd love to return to have more of that meat

hi tina, i guess with the banquet you get to try more things than if you just went with 1 or 2 other people.

hi madam wu, glad you enjoyed your visit too. i want to try their lamb for sure :-)

Richard Elliot said...

Porteno was definitely one of my highlights of 2011.

I was expecting the wood fired pork and lamb to be the highlights, but came away being more impressed by the starters and side dishes.

Great service and atmosphere to.

If only they took reservations for smaller groups.

Simon Leong said...

hi richard, i've heard many have been very impressed with the sides. i wish they could take smaller group bookings too. would make it much easier to plan a night out

Ashley said...

This place has been on my wishlist for so long now but sadly I still haven't had the chance to go and am just drooling looking through these photos. That cocktail does look deadly though

Simon Leong said...

hi ashley, it was a very long time on my wish list too. i reckon just grab a few friends and decide on a date and go. hope you enjoy the place as much as i did :-)

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