Omnino Steakhouse in the City: South American flavours with breathtaking intensity
On the edge of the Square Mile, in a subterranean setting, lies the Leadenhall venue of South American meat sensation Omnino. As you step down into the warm, comforting basement space, the room opens up with tasteful driftwood decor, elegant room dividers and a welcoming bar area. Softly lit, yet perked up with splashes of jazz, colourful ornaments and a series of well-chosen artwork, it is a welcoming yet brooding environment.
We are seated and open with cocktails: a non-alcoholic El Paraiso – spicy ginger with herbaceous notes coming through – and a signature Gingerbread Caipirinha, which dazzles again with ginger and rich cachaca rum. Leafing through the fragrant, leather-bound menu, one finds a reassuringly clipped selection – the sign of a kitchen that knows its areas of prowess. Our server brings us a complimentary amuse-bouche of Charred Cauliflower, Mascarpone, and Brazilian Toscana Sausage, which tantalises, stimulates and thrills as we are guided through the dishes in fantastic, friendly, approachable detail.
We choose a Sancerre white wine (Domaine Picard, 2018) full of bright apple and light citrus acidity, and a medium-bodied red at the advice of our server (Nostros Reserva pinot noir, Chile, 2018), that pairs cherries, oak and a little spice with our entrées. Our first starter arrives: Sausage Platter of Argentine Chorizo, Spanish Morcilla, and Brazilian Toscana Picante. A bold, satisfying opening to a meal – three sausages of different textures, flavours and origins. With the rich but moderate Argentine chorizo serving as a middle-point, we reach out into a crumbly, velvety, blood-sausage with the morcilla, and in the opposite direction, the spicy mixed beef/pork Toscana Picante, bursting with moisture. All three are house recipes, portioned generously and served thoughtfully alongside pickles and peppers. The Peruvian Ceviche (despite apparent fantastic claims) doesn’t wow us, although the plate is undeniably carefully conceived and well-executed with regards to the variety of textures.
To explore steak done right, we opt for two mains: a Tasting Trio and a straight-up Prime US Ribeye, and in very quick order we’re served both, along with french green beans and homemade Black Truffle Gnocchi. The trio totally captures the vast knowledge and expertise that this kitchen is able to turn out, with a triplet of 100-gram steaks – a delicate garlic and parsley-rubbed Churrasco Rump, which defies expectations in being the most tender of the three; a flinty, gamey, delicate fillet topped with a fried quail egg; and a final Picanha masterpiece – armed with a brave, breath-robbing, pacifying intensity of flavour. A favourite among the chefs and servers, this rarely-favoured cut has us gasping with delight.
The Prime US Ribeye is plated alone, which lacks a certain creativity, but it swings back with lashings of rich, decadent juice; jumping with smokey, hot-footed energy and fats that vanish on the palate, this steak falls apart under the knife and throws heavy punches far above its weight. French Green Beans bring to mind summer gardens with sundried tomatoes. Stand-out Black Truffle Gnocchi reminds us that starches are still a thing, after all the meat we’ve been through: firm enough to hold shape and little more, they slicken the tongue with sultry, hypnotising, opulently flavoured cream sauce, and finish without the classic gnocchi heaviness. A side dish to remember.
With a dessert menu so sumptuous, one is haunted by dishes left unchosen. We settle with difficulty on Chocolate Zabaione and Dulce de Leche Cheesecake, but our server generously brings samples of the Passionfruit Mousse as well. The first plate is intense – a combination of rich flavours and temperatures, seated on a boozy cake base and flanked by chocolate orange sauce. It is a treat for a die-hard dessert fan. The cheesecake glides past our concerns of a cloying, sickly finish to an already heavy meal: mild, delicate and carefully balanced, it’s a surprisingly light little treat. The mousse alone, however, is refreshing and zesty enough to end a wonderfully executed meal.
Stepping back into the fresh air above Omnino, one is reminded of the close quarters in the basement and the density of a meat-dominated meal. Undoubtedly a stellar dining experience, it does flirt with over-intensity. However, for the right event, Omnino will be unforgettable.
Photos: Cristiana Ferrauti
To book a table at Omnino Steakhouse, 78-79 Leadenhall Street London EC3A 3DH, call 020 3538 3530 or visit their website here.