Restaurant review: Mingo Argentine Steakhouse, Purley

By - Wednesday 1st March, 2017

This excellent purveyor of meat and drink is not a cheap night out – but you get what you pay for

Time from East Croydon:   15 minutes

6-8 Tudor Court, Russell Hill Road, Purley, CR8 2LA

Photo by Mingo Argentine Steakhouse, used with permission.

Many of you will remember the Buenos Aires Steakhouse chain. There used to be a large one in Purley and some years ago now, a small one at in South End that I remember fondly as a place where they’d let me take the bottle home if I brought it back a few days later; thereby getting to drink the wine I wanted but not drink the whole bottle in one go.

The family that owned the chain has sold the majority of them and, as part of the deal, kept two properties. The first is in the City of London, where there’s obviously a market for quality meat and an extensive wine list. I’m delighted to say they’ve also retained the Purley restaurant, which judging by how busy it was under the old identity and remains as Mingo, has met a significant Croydon/Purley demand for steak and red wine.

What interested me was what has changed and what has remained the same. Mingo is much lighter and brighter than BAS was. The old place was deliberately shadowy, with dark wood predominant. Now there’s a lot more light, quite artfully designed with funky new industrial influenced installations that are intelligently spaced to bounce lights off newly white walls. The general impression is an airier space that is more modern and more relaxed. My wife Kirsty and I felt very comfortable in the space.

The intense beefy flavour was amplified by a bit of crust on the outside

There is a bar where one can linger over a drink before sitting down (if there’s space) and there’s an extensive cocktail list with an impressive range of premium spirits. The guy behind the bar seemed to know his stuff, and had a nice bit of chat as well; friendly service but not intrusive. He chatted Kirsty through the range of gins and accompaniments, and managed a temperamental gas system on the beer with aplomb (I’ve been there, it’s easy to panic and he didn’t bat an eye). Top marks.

Sitting down to check menus, it’s the typical new wave Gaucho/Hawksmoor gig. You get the impression starters are there because they have to be, and ours were tasty, but if you come to a steakhouse it’s really all about the beef. Actually, the olives which we had whilst deciding and having another drink were very good, full of punch with a robust flavour and texture. Always a good sign.

The beef comes in the four expected cuts and from small 8oz to pretty big 12oz. They will go up a scale if you want, but this doesn’t seem as encouraged as it is in other places. After a bit of negotiation I had a 16oz rib eye and it was excellent. There was a real iron, meaty, beefy flavour, a proper chew to the texture, softened by the inherent marbling in the cut. The intense beefy flavour was amplified by a bit of crust on the outside, which mellowed to a perfect medium rare as requested. Not as easy to do with such a big hunk of meat as you might think.

Photo by Mingo Argentine Steakhouse, used with permission.

Kirsty boxed clever, as is her wont, and went for a special of flank steak. Bavette is one of our favourites and this really delivered on big flavour, nicely accompanied by a sauce criola, which is a little like a warmed salsa. It was really excellent as were the crispy cubed fried potatoes that accompanied it. A touch of class was shown by the preparation. Bavette needs careful butchering and slicing to manage the natural preponderance of sinew and fat. I suspect that a combination of a very good butcher and a skilful chef with a razor sharp knife worked on this meat, as it was outstanding. All the flavour with good chew, but none of the potential downside in texture.

The wine list is what you’d expect: it’s dominated by Argentinian reds, particularly Malbec. There’s plenty by the glass and if you want to push the boat out there’s some pretty good stuff that is competitively priced if you’ve seen the same bottle in somewhere like Gaucho. Our Malbec was everything it should have been; smoky black fruit with a bit of punch but pretty silky, which really complemented the beef.

This is not a cheap restaurant, and nor should it be so if the beef is as good as it appears and tastes. Unlike some other premium steak places, the provenance of the beef and whether it is free range or organic isn’t mentioned. Nor is it immediately obvious despite the Argentine branding whether the beef was raised on the pampas and crossed the Atlantic. However, quality beef costs a lot due to the care and time it has taken to rear. Everyone in the value chain has got to make money, and this is represented in the price.

The staff were all lovely, a top mix of professional and friendly

Purley is affluent, there’s plenty of people in the area that can afford this sort of meal on a regular basis either in the town or within a diameter of a few miles in the combination of Surrey, Croydon and Sutton, but I’m not going to pretend that for the average wage this is anything other than a treat. A treat it is however, and it’s not just the food and decor but the staff as well. The staff were all lovely, a top mix of professional and friendly who were great and answering questions and also smart enough to let you to eat your meal and chat to whomever you were with, without constant interruption.

So, is it a four or five star?

For me, it’s a four and a bit. I think it’s as good as the area is ever going to get for this sort of thing. You’d have to be very brave to set up a quality steak restaurant within a few miles because this place is the business. My only ‘buts’ are primarily derived from exposure to the Hawksmoor/Goodman chains in Zone 1 that are a step up across the board, including price, particularly on the wine list; but some of you by now might have worked out that I like a good drink. I also think that they could serve Cronx beer as a nod to localism but also because it goes with steak, and it allows me to crowbar them into a review. As is my wont.

On the same level, what Mingo does do is knock Gaucho into a cocked hat because of its individuality. By selling the Buenos Aires chain and creating Mingo, the team have pulled a real diamond out of the constraints of a successful brand.

Or have they created another one?

Paddy Blewer

Paddy has lived in the Croydon / Sutton area since 1983 and in Waddon from 2001- 2015. A communications advisor in the City, he loves the variety of Croydon, particularly its options for eating and drinking and its great parks for the kids. A sports nut, supporting Munster, London Irish, Surrey CCC and Spurs, he has a sneaking regard for Palace, despite having a Millwall fan for a dad.

More Posts - Twitter

  • Anne Giles

    We have been going to the Buenos Aires restaurant for years. I did a review for The Croydon Citizen as well. We’ll have to try out Mingo’s now!

  • Patrick Blewer

    Hi Anne. I know, you’ve mentioned it warmly before. Would be interested in your view on whether there’s been substantive change or whether this is more cosmetic?

    • Anne Giles

      Not sure when we are likely to go again, but I’ll let you know.

  • Rob McKenzie

    I tried mungo, the menu is identical to when it was Buenos Aires, but the lomo was tough and chewy. Definitely not Melt in the mouth. They did apologise and took 50% off, but I’m disappointed to say I won’t be back

    • Patrick Blewer

      A genuine shame. This might be one of the differences between a big chain and an independent. Does not happen at Hawksmoor, but then you pay a lot more.