San Telmo

Beef short ribs from San Telmo.
Beef short ribs from San Telmo. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

14 Meyers Pl Melbourne, VIC 3000

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Opening hours Mon - Sun 12 Noon – 11:00 PM
Features Licensed, Wheelchair access, Bar, Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly, Accepts bookings, Outdoor seating, Private dining, Degustation, Romance-first date, Events
Chef Michael Patrick
Payments Diner's Club, eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone (03) 9650 5525

After an evening at San Telmo, I go home and check my bloke-o-meter. My reading is off the charts. I minced into this modish Argentinian grill palace a woman but I left with a ruddy rare-steak complexion, a bow-legged cowboy swagger and a mysterious craving for a cigar. That's testament to the accomplished realisation of an impassioned vision for this laneway all-day restaurant and bar. Gringos built it but it hums with honour, respect and testosterone.

There's plenty of sensory pleasure. I love the soft leather detailing (it's fine to stroke the placemats, not so cool to fondle the waiters' supple aprons), fat timber-slab tables and claret-coloured carpet that ensures the room thrums rather than clatters. The hero kitchen equipment is the parilla (''pah-reesh-ah''), a charcoal grill with a separate furnace. I'm not convinced it imparts unique qualities to the food, but it's definitely handsome.

The empanada pastries are super, especially the moist, luxurious beef version with the crunch of almonds and sweet bite of currants. The grill selection is well priced and would be great to rip into with a group with the cojones to order tongue, blood and sweetbreads as well as the various muscle cuts.

I love the taut-skinned chorizo, spiced to a gentle blush and full of porky flavour. The ''tira de asado'' (beef short ribs) are cross-cut and fatty, all the better to carry the flavour. They're tasty, chewy, rich and good.

I know real men don't eat greens but we order broccoli. It's thickly (and a bit claggily) battered and doesn't provide a healthy retort to the ribs' doughty whack. Thank goodness for the salsas, especially the gorgeous chimichurri loaded with parsley and garlic.

Knowledgable waiters do a fine job teaching Argentinian Eats 101, steering diners through the all-Argy wine list and keeping the large, jam-packed joint on track. The toilets are unisex, which actually jives with my temporary gender dysmorphia, though it's a shame to note there are still plenty of men who don't put the seat down.

Because I'm a gallant gaucho by dessert, I share my dulce de leche flan. Bad move. Next visit, chivalry be damned - that milky, caramel goodness is all mine. I might share the olive-oil-infused melon salad with its tangy citrus sorbet, because it's as fresh and fascinating as a fun-time bloke like me.

14 Meyers Place, Melbourne, 9650 5525
Licensed AE MC V Eftpos
Mon-Fri 8am-late; Sat-Sun 9am-late
Entrees $3.50-$18; grill $14-$95; desserts $5-$14