Jonathan Schofield admires the flesh and the architecture

Thank God for the hospitality industry otherwise a lot of Liverpool’s grandest buildings would be facing a vacant future. Hawksmoor, Municipal, Mowgli, Radisson Red, Restaurant Bar and Grill, the list goes on, all occupy fabulous spaces from the age when Liverpool ruled the waves. Gaucho is no different.

The Argentinian steak specialist, Gaucho, sits in the former Bank of Liverpool which dates from 1896 but was remodelled in 1934. The building tells a story of both these periods. Particularly sweet is the 1930s sea-themed Art Deco plasterwork including a handsome clock at the back of the room. 

It was a juicy, meaty, bonanza for two with good fat. Meat is Gaucho’s specialism and this was special

The front doors are particularly grand and feature two wonderful bronze  tigers’ heads with savage, open mouths and ferocious teeth. The tradition goes that Lascars, Indian sailors working on British ships, would rub the teeth for good luck before embarking at the port. 

Tigers and Indians. Argentinians and beef. 

Gaucho Liverpool Water Street Tigers Bronze Heads
The superb bronze tigers Image: Confidentials
Gaucho Liverpool Water Street Interior3
Gaucho, the interior Image: Confidentials

It was early week in the evening on our visit and we had a massive choice of booths and tables. There weren’t many covers in. 

This is a worry for all these restaurants located in gargantuan former banks and offices in Liverpool. Are there enough customers to spread around? It’s a good job Liverpudlians descend on their city centre with greater enthusiasm than any other city on weekends. 

Still, despite the quiet evening, the staff were fabulous, helpful with advice, and when something went wrong with the dessert quick to take it off the bill. 

The food provided an uneven experience.

This began with the seared scallops (£20.50) with ‘Nduja butter, aguachile verde, lemon crumb’. This promised so much with all the ingredients but was just oddly bland, not even the aguachile verde lifting the dish very much, indeed the saucing was all too loose. 

The trout ceviche (£10.50) knocked things back on course, the marinaded flesh very good, rich with lime, while the dill was delightful and the surprise of the pickled cucumber, with its superb tartness, providing a further flourish. 

Gaucho Liverpool Water Street Scallops
Watery scallops, strangely flavourless Image: Confidentials
2023 11 29 Gaucho Liverpool Review 5
Trout ceviche, the best of the starters Image: Confidentials

The 450g Chateaubriand tenderloin (£75) was a cracker, beautifully cooked medium rare, with a lovely charred crust. It was a juicy, meaty, bonanza for two with good fat. Meat is Gaucho’s specialism and this was special.

Meat is also becoming controversial with those millions of cows throwing methane into the air from both ends. Argentinian beef has to accrue all those air miles as well. 

Gaucho are very sensitive to such matters. They are founder members of ‘a group of UK restaurants who are committed to neutralise the environmental impact of cattle rearing to offer ‘Carbon Neutral’ steaks and wines in our restaurants.’ Check this page on their website if you want to know more.

All I wanted to know, though, was did the Chateaubriand taste good and ye gads it did. I also used my handy mobile device to look up why this cut of meat has such a curious name. 

Wikipedia came to my rescue, apparently the famed French chef Auguste Escoffier named it after the Ambassador to Britain, the Vicomte François-René de Chateaubriand. Escoffier perfected the cut from a recipe by the chef of the noble Vicomte and then decided to name his version after the Vicomte rather than the anonymous chef. Money talks and so does influence.   

2023 11 29 Gaucho Liverpool Review 7
The Chateaubriand was marvellous Image: Confidentials

Back to the meal. The firecracker chimichurri (£3) and the bearnaise (£3) sauces were both artfully put together. The best was the chimichurri which, if used sparingly, enhanced the meat. I feel the chimichurri could have been a little more firey. 

The spinach (£6) with garlic and lemon was a fail, far too watery, the mashed potato (£6) was the opposite, with a too-smooth texture like Polyfilla, but not buttery enough, even though it was advertised, to come with cream. The good news is the honey roasted veg of parsnips and carrots (£5) were perfect, very Sunday roast and none the worse for that, with big flavours of thyme, rosemary and garlic. 

2023 11 29 Gaucho And Loose Spinach
The 'loose' spinach dish: very awash Images: Confidentials

A dessert of salted dulce de leche cheesecake (£10) was a mess in construction and a mess taste-wise with the accompanying toasted marshmallow plain ugly. When asked, “How’s your dessert?” I was forthright in response but I didn’t expect it to be taken off the bill. It was clearly intended to be this way so it was a plain and simple bad choice. I've not scored it. As I say the service outdid itself to keep the customer satisfied.

Gaucho was consistent with its meat and inconsistent elsewhere with the food. Things need tightening a little in the kitchen especially with the sides. I keep coming back to the word ‘loose’. The kitchen can be more generous with the seasoning too, maybe go a bit wilder with heat as well. 

Can’t fault the wine and cocktails. The list is extravagant for both. There are glorious Argentinian wines particularly the reds. A favourite from a previous visit is the Verum Pinot Noir from 2020 (£75). 

By the way, you can also hire a magnificent private room and there's live music on weekends.

Gaucho, 7 Water St, Liverpool L2 0RD

2023 11 29 Gaucho Liverpool Review 2
The dramatic exterior Image: Confidentials

The scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.

If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.

Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?

  • Food 6.5/10

    Trout 7, scallops 5.5, Chateaubriand 8.5, spinach 5, honey roasted veg 7, sauces 6

  • Service 4/5

  • Ambience 3.5/4