I started working in the Marylebone just over a year ago now, before this time I barely ventured into the area. Most of the restaurants back then we're long standing local favourites, or chains. Within only a year, such a small amount of time I can't count how many new restaurants have opened, Marylebone seems to be becoming the new place for openings, especially burger joints!
The new face on the block is Zoilo, focusing on Argentine tapas, or sharing plates as they call it. It's exciting to get a new restaurant in the area serving up something different, especially as most Argentine restaurants I have been to always disappoint. The great thing about Zoilo is for the quality of the food you get, the prices are very attractive.
The staff here are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to the menu, they know how every item on your plate is cooked and also have a good understanding of their wine list, which is entirely Argentinean. We started our sharing plate journey with a ricotta gnocchi, grilled pumpkin and sage butter, a dish I was not expecting to see on the menu as it sounded suspiciously Italian, but then I realised it was probably from the migration of Italians in the 17th century to Argentina, bringing along some of their recipes with them. The gnocchi was slightly softer then I'm used to having it, but I liked it, the pumpkin was flavourful and soft while the rich sage butter brought the whole dish together.
Next we had the Provoleta, with honey infused with oregano and almonds served in a small iron pan. A dish I have seen hyped up all over twitter, but I'm not sure why, to me the cheese was immensely overpowering and the flavour so strong it was causing slight pain to my mouth. I couldn't taste much of the honey or almonds. Maybe I'm missing something, as it didn't do anything for me, and I love my cheese.
How could we not try an empanada, especially one based on a recipe from the Salta province, known as empanada saltenas. Slightly thicker pastry to the traditional we all know. Filled with meat, eggs, various spices and vegetables. It was OK, but I've had better from some of the street food stalls across London. None the less, it was certainly enjoyable.
Mackerel escabeche, which is cooked fish served cold, sometimes pickled, but not here. Served with sliced radish and a garnish of rocket, all served on a delicious sour creamy sauce. This was probably my least favourite dish, the texture of the cold fish felt as though it had been frozen, though it hadn't and the cold temperature held back its flavour, thus producing a mediocre dish that was presented beautifully on the plate.
Now finally on to my two favourite dishes of the meal, first the prawns "al ajo", pork belly and chorizo. A neat square of succulent pork belly cooked sous-vide, rich in flavour which only needed my fork to cut through it, no knife needed here. The bold flavoured cubes of chorizo added smokiness and the perfectly cooked prawns al ajo (prawns in garlic) were a great addition to the dish. Great value for money at only £8.95, but be warned it will leave you salivating for more.
"Asado" flank steak, celeriac and bone marrow were simply stunning. One of the best pieces of beef I have had in a while. From an under rated cut which is normally minced or used in stews, I didn't realise flank could be so good, it also has something to do with the long resting period they give the meat. The celeriac and bone marrow mash was smooth and had lots of flavour. I can't wait to go back and have it again.
Delving into desserts straight after we had mopped up the juices that had drained from the asado, we opted for the traditional "alfajores de maizena". A light maize sandwich covered in coconut and filled with dulce de leche. They were nice with a coffee, otherwise a little dry. I have yet to sample an amazing alfajores, someday I’m sure!
The crème brulée was really good. Lots of flavour running through it with a sweet, crisp, slightly charred layer of sugary goodness. A good breaking in from the spoon and a few seconds later we devoured the dessert along with the spoonful of banana split ice cream. Very nice.
Zoilo is not your average Argentine restaurant, its food has many influences from Italy and also some modern twists which I think will work great in the UK. The wine list is excellent, so long as you’re into Argentine wine of course. If you manage to get down to Zoilo you'll soon realise it’s the service and food that are the real reason you will be coming back time and time again to this place.