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El Churrasco

June 20, 2015
El Churrasco, Gran Canaria's premier Argentinian restaurant

The last time Mr and Mrs Gran Canaria Local went out for a meal, the owner of the restaurant in question, Restaurante Tehran, announced with so much fanfare we imagined we heard the bugle of a courtier: “Tonight, we’ve prepared you a vegetarian feast.” As Mr GCL’s eyes lit up like a fruit machine which has just hit the jackpot, Mrs GCL’s heart sunk as if a stone hurled from the highest cliff into the deepest ocean.

Not even the carne vegetal (soya grilled to take on the texture/taste of meat) could appease her. Mrs Gran Canaria Local craved food that she could imagine as a living, breathing organism. And the bloodier the better.

So, it was Mrs GCL doing the salivating as El Churrasco‘s ever-attentive maître d’ Luis Antonio Ramos, the only front-of-house member of staff not dressed in gaucho get-up, displayed the different cuts of meat available to order on a butcher’s-style slab. Later, Mr GCL would be surprised by the number of vegetarian options. “I didn’t know there were so many meat-free dishes available in Argentina,” he remarked to the maître d’. To which the head waiter replied, “Sir, we adapt our menu to reflect the location of the restaurant.” Praise be to multi-cultural LPGC.

Arriving at nine o’clock on a Sunday night, when a lot of the capital’s eateries are closed, we didn’t leave until midnight. In those three hours, we learned three things. Chicos and chicas, they are as follows:

  1. The Aberdeen Angus is El Churrasco’s cash cow
  2. Argentina’s influenced by Italy as much as Scotland
  3. El Churrasco’s a place to be seen on a night out

1. The Aberdeen Angus is El Churrasco’s cash cow

Think of Aberdeen Angus and you could well think of London’s Angus Steakhouse, which has become a byword for over-priced, low-quality food. Their central London locations are the only thing they’ve got going for them. Meaning they’ve become tourist traps. Comedian David Mitchell brilliantly summed up their approach: “Not for them the business model of repeat custom, these steakhouses’ fortunes rely on the much tougher technique of trying to dupe everyone once.” And whilst El Churrasco, situated off Avenida Mesa y López in Olof Palme, is not exactly cheap; you”ll want to go back because of the quality of their food and their unstinting service.

Think of Aberdeen Angus and you should also think of Aberdeen Angus cattle. Despite their flaws, Angus Steakhouse import their meat from Argentina’s celebrated Pampas lowlands. As do El Churrasco, from Estancia San Carlos who have been rearing Aberdeen Anguses to great acclaim since 1944. Indeed Señor El Churrasco, Don Mario Gil, is a shareholder of Estancia San Carlos.

Mario Gil’s business interests don’t stop there. His Grupo M&M own vineyards in Spain’s distinguished La Rioja region and coffee plantations up to 1,800 metres above sea level in Colombia’s Cordillera Andina. You can sample the predictably sumptuous Familia Gil wine and world-beating Colombian coffee at El Churrasco, as well at the recently-opened Café Regina.

Yet whilst the best burrito Mr Gran Canaria Local ever tasted was eaten out of foil in a down-at-heel Mexican eatery in San Francisco, he’s a bit surprised to see his dining companion’s juicy steak accompanied by a potato still wrapped in aluminium. It jars with the rest of the meal’s dishes, including charcoal-grilled vegetables, featuring the meatiest of mushrooms, and the aptly-named panqueque, a caramel-filled crepe. All of which are immaculately presented.

2. Argentina’s influenced by Italy as much as Scotland

With more than 100,000 Argentinians claiming Scottish heritage, that’s the biggest number of Scots living outside the AngloSphere. And it’s rumoured that one of the Scottish Nationalist Party’s founding fathers led to the arrival of the Aberdeen Angus to South America. RB Cunninghame Graham allegedly introduced some selling Scottish farmers to renowned Pampas rancher Don Carlos Guerrero in 1879. Guerrero subsequently purchased a bull, Virtuoso, and two cows, Aunt Lee and Cinderella.

After Argentina won independence from Spain, it lead to increased emigration from Italy. They even make pizza there. Wearing his vegetarian hat, Mr GCL’s pleased that he’s served a couple of Italian dishes: the queso provolone a la brasa which waiter José Luis expertly finishes off at our table and his filling main course of pasta, ostensibly a starter.

3. El Churrasco’s a place to be seen on a night out

Seated close to Mr and Mrs Gran Canaria Local are a table of youngish men. Mr GCL first assumes that they’re out on a stag night, but is puzzled by the fact they all look so healthy and by their designer gear. Then the centime drops and he realizes they must be footballers.

El Churrasco’s màitre d’ confirms Mr Gran Canaria Local’s suspicions, revealing that the table are in fact a Deportivo Alaves side who have just lost 3-2 to UD Las Palmas. Before divulging that European giants Juventus and Real Madrid have both dined at El Churrasco. Hmm, wonder who we’ll see on our inevitable return to this Las Palmas de Gran Canaria institution.

Disclaimer: Mr and Mrs Gran Canaria Local ate for free at El Churrasco in exchange for a review. Nevertheless, our opinions are nothing less than our own. If you’re a Gran Canaria restaurant and would like a review, feel free to drop us a line.