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Smoke and Grill

Restaurants, Argentinian Balham
2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

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An Argentinian restaurant and bar in a former pub.

Once home to a bustling boozer called the Clarence, this site has changed hands a few times in the past few years. What it hasn’t done is changed shape: it still looks pretty much like a handsome high street pub.

Its latest inhabitant has moved away from the modern-Brit-sometimes-with-pizza menus of its predecessors to one that’s predominantly Argentinian, plus a few US grill faves. Some of the food isn’t bad. Most memorably, the salmon ceviche: chunks of gleaming fish with morsels of avocado and mango, plus mandolin-thin slivers of radish, all in a zesty embrace. The out-and-out star of the night.

Ham and cheese empanadas were doughy but decent; moreish grilled provolone (Argentines are obsessed with the stuff) nicely accompanied by a tarragon salsa. You can’t really go wrong with slabs of melted cheese, after all. Sirloin steak was properly cooked and flanked by a sharp chimichurri.

But the North American dishes were miserable: overcooked mac ’n’ cheese, a too-dense burger, too-dry corn on the cob blanketed in thick, overbearing bacon. And our waitress, though well-meaning, was completely clueless, bringing main courses with starters and misunderstanding a number of dishes (at one point she described the béarnaise sauce as ‘being made with cheese, I think?’). And no amount of piped Otis Redding – later segueing to mainstream rap – can make up for a lack of ambience. Go for ceviche and drinks, then go elsewhere.

Details

Address: 92 Balham High Rd
London
SW12 9AG
Transport: Tube: Balham
Price: Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £85.
Contact:
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