50 Broadway Market E8 4QJ
0207 275 9900
AKA: Masters of meat
The deal: Buen Ayre is somewhat of a cult classic in Hackney. A remarkable 10 years old this December, it sits quietly halfway down Broadway Market, with no real fanfare or aggressive marketing/PR campaign to hype up its menu. Instead, its ongoing popularity over a decade has seen other faddy restaurants along the rest of the strip come and go, but the small, 50-seater restaurant is still packed out pretty much every night. And with very good reason. The head chef, John Patrick Rattagan, got all Field of Dreams in 2004 and had a vision of a Argentinian mecca centred round a charcoal grill that served the perfect steak. And he bloody nailed it - you won't be disappointed as you make your meat pilgrimage and bow down to the expertly seared beef. Best to leave any vegetarian friends at home, though, eh?
The food: You know what you've signed up for. This is a selection of Argentina's choice cuts, cooked briefly on their monster parrillada then delivered on a smoking hot grill directly to your table. The mixed grill (£28) is a good a place as anywhere to start and includes a 14oz sirloin steak, 11oz rib-eye steak, two sausages, black pudding and provolone cheese. Yes, you can get chips and salad as a side, but keep your eyes on the prize here: it's all about the meat. Huge, hulking great slabs of juicy meat, drenched in that chimichurri oregano, garlic and herb dressing - it really doesn't get any better than this. Their wine list is exceptionally good - as you'd hope from a country where the vino tinto goes hand-in-hand with a banging steak. Desserts fall on the super-sweet side, which works really well after the salty highs of the chargrilled beef. We loved the flan (AKA creme caramel) with big globs of dulce de leche (a traditional milk jam, if that doesn't make it sound gross) (£6), a pancake filled with the same sweet condiment (£6.50) and a decent brownie and ice-cream (£6.5). Good luck with that food coma...
The signature dish: Get the mixed grill, or go home
The chef: John Patrick Rattagan
When to dine: There's a strict reservation process (choose one of two sittings, pay £10 deposit for each person dining which isn't refundable if they don't show up) but it is worth it to bag a table on a Friday or Saturday night - the restaurant is always rammed and they spend much of the night turning away people who haven't booked. So book. Check out their two-course £9 set lunch menu too.
Damage to pocket: With the mixed grill coming in at £28 a head, we recommend sharing a few for a table, rather than one each. With some wine and sides, it's about £40 a head.
File under: Celebrate good times, Great with mates, Weekenders, Lunch deals, Pay-day blow-out