It's not always just about design around here ya know. Occasionally I like to dip into other things, like food, coffee and well, more food. You've seen it before with my culture guides but this time I wanted the focus to be all on the grub. Everything becomes much easier when the ethos of creating transfers over to the restaurant business and that's why I accepted, with great pleasure, the chance to have a post-LDF rest-oratory meal with fellow bloggers at the homely Battersea-based Argentinian restaurant, Santa Maria del Sur.
As a vegetarian, I'm very open to finding tasty options while also allowing my carnivorous friends to enjoy themselves too. I am veggie for moral (and slightly stubborn) reasons but I also am firmly of the opinion that everyone can choose their own ideals - hence the easy going attitude to eating in a restaurant that primarily focuses on meat, meat and more meat. At Santa Maria del Sur there's an overwhelming sense of staff knowing exactly where their meat is sourced and how it is treated, so ultimately - knowing that vegetarianism isn't going to take over the world - that's all I can really ask for. As a place where mixed grills seem to be the go-to, Santa Maria doesn't hold back on their vegetarian offerings, with a variety of options for us herbivores. I'm one for serious food envy so small plates are always on my agenda and with this the featured 'F Word' contestant doesn't disappoint.
Manager Jose lovingly took us through the menu, with recommendations of wine and side orders. Not because we're special. Just because that's what they do at Santa Maria, the more questions the merrier seemed to be the general attitude. Owner Alberto chatted to other guests and emanated love and passion for his food and home. From the Spinach and Cheese Empanadas right through to the Grilled Mixed Vegetables, I was in utter heaven, predominantly of the cheese kind. The absolute showstopper had to be the Gardel which although a 'Frenchier' delicacy has had me dreaming of returning ever since as Natasha and Ella will absolutely confirm if you're in doubt (we've spoken about it rather too much).
I also managed to wolf down the Grilled provolone cheese, Batatas Quemadas (baked sweet potato), grilled mushrooms, creamed spinach, Morrón Asado (grilled peppers) and potato gratin. And you know what? While others had lost the battle due to the meat, I felt completely fulfilled and energised - hooray! I couldn't fault any of the offerings and felt satisfied, looked after and like my vegetarianism hadn't just been an after-thought. They also have main dishes such as grilled aubergine with tomato, provolone, roasted seeds for those who don't fancy a selection of smaller items.
Accompanying us on our journey was the selected red wine specially made for Santa Maria, a Malbec titled Abasto 2012, which was smooth and the perfect accompaniment even to my steak-free dinner. To finish off the staff also surprised us with just a little detail of EVERY DESERT ON THE MENU which can only make them top of my list for recommendations - every single one was bloody delicious. If I had to choose it would be impossible and the dulce de leche pancake, banana and toffee pie as well as ice cream with nuts and whisky would all be ordered, for second tasting purposes of course.
Now it wouldn't be my own blog if we didn't talk about the design and while I'm not going to lie about the fact that the menu aesthetic could do with an update, this is the kind of place where you can tell family is at the heart. The abundance of locals in the restaurant, the colourful hand-lettering dominating the signage and the traditional furniture all provide a cosy, comforting atmosphere. Sometimes that's all you need when service and taste take priority. It might not be the next Bronté when it comes to Instagram, but it's certainly a place you'll return to for the loving, homely nature. Oh, and the god damn cheese.
Santa Maria del Sur, 129 Queenstown Rd, London SW8 3RH
Take a look at the menu here: www.santamariadelsur.com/menu/
Disclaimer: Santa Maria del Sur provided food & drinks free of charge for review purposes (lucky lady!) I agreed for my love of red wine, need for a post-LDF pick me up and because food is brilliant. Opinions my own and all that jazz.