Updated: Tuesday, 19th February 2019 @ 2:58pm

Review: Gaucho’s ‘Midnight Feast’ @ St. Mary’s Street, Manchester

Review: Gaucho’s ‘Midnight Feast’ @ St. Mary’s Street, Manchester

By Glen Keogh

When I was told Gaucho was offering a ‘midnight feast’ menu, my first thoughts centred on its proposed target audience.

“Don’t people just want a kebab or chips at midnight on a Saturday?” I asked my girlfriend. 

“Who is going to want a four course meal at midnight?” I continued, as she looked back at me with eyes that said: ‘oh, you poor uncultured boy’.

My questions were soon answered upon our 11pm arrival at a packed Gaucho, situated just off Deansgate in the city centre.

As expected, the surrounding bars and restaurants were being orbited by Saturday night revellers preparing to visit further pubs or clubs, but as soon as we set foot inside the restaurant we were enveloped by luxury and the unorthodox dining time became irrelevant.

Initially, you’re taken aback by the sheer amount of Friesian cow skin which adorns almost every wall, seat or cushion, and whilst it could look slightly tacky, it somehow seems to work.

Gaucho is unashamedly striving for the luxury vibe.

As well as the leather and cow-skin seats, it is complete with chandeliers, low-level lighting, sparkling bar layout, immaculately dressed waiting and bar staff and a spiral staircase leading to the second floor.

Housed in the former St. Mary’s Church building, the interior makes the most of the high ceilings and wide floor-space and it oozes decadence.

First thing to point out is the vast cocktail menu, boasting drinks created by Tato Giovannoni, who was recently named Argentinian bartender of the decade.

Prices ranged from around £8 to £11 and our waiter was extremely knowledgeable.

As a gin fan, I eventually plumped for an English Caipirinha and the bartender concocted his own Rum Punch for my girlfriend which was impressive, brave and ultimately, delicious.

We were right by the kitchen which runs the length of the tables.

In other restaurants this could be seen as a down-point as the clinking of pots and pans and the shouts of stressed chefs can sometimes disrupt the ambience of a romantic dinner for two.

AT WORK: The Gaucho kitchen still in action after midnight

However, our seats made us feel like we had an enviable ring-side position where we could view dishes being created and expertly crafted on to plates in all manner of quirky ways.

Many restaurants may style their cuisine as quirky, but recent TV shows from chefs such as Heston Blumenthal mean punters require life-size gingerbread houses to deem something unique rather than a sprig of parsley to garnish your plate.

The first course of our four-course ‘midnight feast’ was beef and chilli popcorn which is Heston-esque, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Now this isn’t your usual Saturday meal, so it would be wise to let David Rotherham, one of the managers who introduced us to the premise behind the evening, explain.

“We’re looking at the post-theatre crowd. Manchester has great theatre on at the moment with the Lion King, for instance,” he said.

“We’re taking influence from mainland Europe-dining as Manchester is a very cosmopolitan city so we’re trying to introduce some light food which is fun and exciting and we’re going to see how it goes.

“The menu is based around fairground and carnival dining so basically we’re hoping it will be an extension of theatrical entertainment which will appeal to customers.”

I’m not usually a fan of the notion of forced fun as it evokes memories of holiday camps as a youngster where a middle-aged man in a tiger costume would ask us, “are you all ready to have some fun!?”

The next three hours would consist of table tennis with similarly bemused children while the parents sat pool-side with a drink.

But at Gaucho the theatrical nature of the meal certainly made us smile.

The set menu is priced at £35 and you get more than enough for your money.

What the beef popcorn lacked in flavour (specks of beef in relatively bland popcorn), it made up for in quirkiness, and the second course of Cerviche Dog was so tasty that we soon forgot we were enjoying a themed meal altogether.

The ‘dog’ was Gaucho’s turn on a conventional hot dog, made of Ecuadorian prawns on corn bread – a true hit.

By this time we were sipping on wine from the solely-Argentinian list which was provided by our own waitress for the evening.

At the front of the 400-cover restaurant were an acoustic guitarist and female singer who played relatively mainstream chart hits – old and new.

While it was extremely pleasant it detracted from the Argentine carnival atmosphere created and lent itself to the British Saturday night staple of karaoke, but when an evening is all about fun, you would be hard-pushed to complain.

Mains arrived billed as ‘a trio of savoury sweets’, which I thought was going to be dessert – cue more withering glances from my dining partner opposite.

Two hefty Lomo fillets of beef were served on sticks to look like lollipops with roasted beetroot and humita, which is essentially sweetcorn, served in a poppy seed cone like an ice cream.

I can’t remember fairground food ever tasting this good and I’m unsure whether I’ll be able to face up to a midnight takeaway in Manchester when I know I could plump for this.

For dessert, you can’t get more fairground than candy-floss, so this Dulce de Leche twist was perfectly in-keeping, served with a Dulce de Leche mousse, ice-cream in a cone and a perfectly sweet dessert wine which managed to compliment rather than detract from the course.

FUN OF THE FAIR: Dessert comes with candyfloss - yes!

While I suspect some will remain sceptical about the appeal of a four-course meal at midnight, I can see the event taking off with the proposed post-theatre crowd mainly because the food is so good and the service and décor really can make it an extension of your evening’s entertainment. Or make an evening out of it in itself!

Taxi time was signalled by the sight of two middle-aged women dancing up-front to Jimi Hendrix’s Cocaine.

It seems you can successfully bring Argentina to the city, but you can’t take the girls out of Manchester.

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