Over the past couple of years the UK has witnessed a major boom in all things protein, reignited by the emergence of swanky city steak houses, designer burger bars and kept firmly ablaze by this years fascination with the humble rotisserie chicken. Protein is well and truly back on the menu, and we are lapping it up.
Since the 1980s, red meat in particular has gained its fair share of bad press, so you might be surprised to hear a Nutritionist being so upbeat about the whole meaty renaissance, but the good news is that we are now paying much more attention to the provenance of our meats. In fine dining circles the beef simply must be free-range and grass-fed and this is not solely about ethics; we now know that the healthier the animal, the better it actually tastes.
Free-range, grass-fed beef contains more antioxidants, more omega 3 fatty acids and less saturated fat than its intensively reared counterpart, and it’s these very differences that result in a deeper, richer tasting meat(1). So as you see, this is right up my street as a Nutritionist seeking out any opportunity for a healthy indulgence!
While we do produce incredible beef in the UK, many seek out the illustrious Argentinian steak for those special nights out. You may be forgiven for thinking ‘well a steak is just a steak, how good can it actually be?’ But the second you tuck into your first medallón de lomo or bife de chorizo, you’ll immediately be struck by the unique taste of Argentine steak. Not better, just different – almost a different meat entirely.
My own personal protein pilgrimage has taken me to some of London’s best Argentinian steak houses, and if you are looking for a good place to get your meaty fix, then I would definitely recommend bagging one of the sought-after tables at Buen Ayre (Hackney), Santa Maria del Sur (Battersea), Buenos Aires Cafe (Blackheath), or the recently opened Glass Dome (Putney).
You can imagine my delight when the opportunity arose for me to visit this incredible country and sample the legendary meat first hand. In Argentina the average person eats approximately 55kg of beef per year(2), and it seemed quite likely that during my 2 weeks stay I would be making a big dent in my own personal average.
13 hours on a plane later and before I could say ‘What’s new Buenos Aires?’ I was in one of the most renowned steak houses in the (surprisingly European) capital city. I am reliably informed that locals prefer to eat steak at lunchtime, as this is often the largest meal of the day. This is something we don’t really comprehend in the UK, where going out and eating a 350g sirloin just before heading to bed is somewhat commonplace. And we wonder why reflux is so common! I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of time we
were encouraged to take over our lunch. None of this ‘we have another sitting in 35 minutes, so eat up’ mentality. There was something very comforting about knowing the shops were shut, and there was nothing to do but focus on the food and the company. On a very practical note, any discomfort I had ever experienced following a big steaky dinner was not present here. Brits take note!
If ever you find yourself in this incredible city you must head over to the disconcertedly Canary Wharf-esque Puerto Madero district, get yourself a waterside table at Puerto Cristal and tuck into their fine selection of choice cuts.
After a short stay acquainting myself with all things Evita, I ventured south towards Patagonia. My journey took me straight through vast grasslands dotted with contented cattle. It is Argentina’s steady rainfall and temperate climate that gives rise to these lush pastures which, when eaten by these celebrated cattle, gives the meat its unique taste.
As I approached El Calafate I was again very aware of the ever present livestock roaming the expansive scenery. In this part of the world, however, these livestock were primarily sheep, and so it came as no surprise when I was informed that here in Patagonia it is much more common to eat lamb than beef. The grills or parillas welcome you on the entrance of nearly every restaurant with carcasses unceremoniously splayed atop burning coals. It certainly made remnants of my Paleolithic DNA spring into action as I literally salivated at the thought of tucking into this succulent meat. And whilst the Argentinians are famous in the UK for their beef, I must say they do a pretty splendid job of their lamb too.
My journey ended there, with many a great steak in between. Back in the big smoke, there is much to learn from the way Argentinians approach meat. If you are going to enjoy beef, then insist it is grass-fed and free range. Book a table nice and early to allow plenty of time for your steak to digest and most importantly, take your time. Steak needs a lot of help when it comes to digesting so make sure you chew it well and really savour the experience.
Stay smart, stay healthy!
Tomm Coles is a Nutrition Consultant at Paget & Coles Ltd, 10 Harley Street, London
1. Daley C A, Abbott A, Doyle P S, Nader G A, Larson S (2010) A review of fatty acid
profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutrition Journal, 9:10.
Available at: http://www.nutritionj.com/content/9/1/10
2. The Economist (2012) Kings of the carnivores. [Online] Available at: