Super steaks and sensational chips make Broomhill eatery a must for carnivores.
For me the enjoyment of a steak starts around 100 feet and several minutes away from eating.
That step-quickening moment when you get the first hypnotic whiff of grill, smoke and searing beef as you walk towards your meal.
Agonisingly, it smells even better when you aren’t actually going for a steak.
But on this occasion we were, or at least I was.
Veggie daughter Ellen is not the turning type but admits that along with the smell of frying bacon the primal aroma of a sizzling steak is a value challenger.
No such dilemma for me.
I was drooling like a cartoon wolf before we got within a block of La Vaca on Glossop Road, Broomhill, a Chilean steak house famed for its red meat and giant portions.
They actually do a 40 oz steak – two and a half pounds of meat and bone, 1.13 kilos in new money.
More on that later.
We stepped in to the heat and crackle of the grill on a cold Wednesday night, were glad of both, and were greeted warmly and shown to our seats in this no-frills little restaurant.
As we sat down a basket of bread and some warming home-made salsa appeared on the table as an appetizer. Not a lot of it but a nice touch and a really piquant salsa.
For starter I decided to keep to the carnivore theme and went for some sweet Spanish-style black pudding called Morcilla.
I was surprised by the looks and the texture. They really were mini puddings and the content much looser than you would expect from the English version.
Off-putting at first but once the sweetness of the sausage came through I was won over.
Ellen chose aji relleno, bright red chillies stuffed with feta cheese. Not a complicated dish but it was exactly as it said it would be, sweet chillies with the merest hint of heat and creamy cheese – a tried, tested and delicious combo.
So wait a minute. A Chilean restaurant in Broomhill?
Rodrigo Clarke is from Los Andes, a city in Chile’s Andes mountains 50 miles north of capital Santiago.
“My wife Gloria is from Sheffield, said 35-year-old Rodrigo.
“We met in Chile when Gloria was at Duoc university on a year abroad as part of her Spanish degree at Leeds University.”
Is Clarke a common name in Chile?
“My grandfather was Irish and emigrated to Chile, so that’s where the name comes from.”
So what about that meat?
“We get all our meats from John Crawshaw’s in Sheffield and it all comes from local farms and the quality is fantastic.
“Believe it or not we do sell quite a lot of the 40 oz steak – stag parties and lads’ nights out and they are particularly popular with Chinese customers. Sometimes people share one but a lot eat it themselves.”
Six years ago Rodrigo was washing dishes at the West End in Ranmoor where his wife was manager.
Now they have La Vaca (Spanish for cow), an outside catering company called Chile Peppers and are working on establishing an agency specialising in finding work and study placements for English students in Chile.
Throw in a three-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter and that’s a busy life.
Back to the meat.
I ordered the 12oz sirloin which also comes in 8oz sizes among the rumps, T-bones and Porterhouses on the meat-mad menu. I ask for it medium and it’s perfect.
Pink inside, browned but not charred outside, this stuff you can cut with your fork and it lives up in every way to the aroma that had me drooling 20 minutes earlier.
Next time it’s no starter and a bigger steak - like the couple who sat near us and had a 40 oz at £45 and a bottle of red wine between them. It’s a Flintstones-sized monster - maybe not as table-filling as you might think but it has to be at least two inches (50mm) thick.
My steak, modest by comparison but still substantial, came with a green salad dressed in lemon juice and olive oil and some great, twice-cooked chips.
“People come here mainly for steak and chips so they have to be right,” says Rodrigo.
They are bang on, dark and crunchy outside and soft within. As steak and chips goes, this is five-star stuff and all washed down with a glass of decent Chilean cabernet sauvignon.
Ellen had quinoa con queso halloumi -salty, crunchy grilled halloumi cheese and a mixed roast vegetable quinoa salad. The haloumi was nicely done and the quinoa - a trendy substitute for starchier rice or pasta with a delicate, nutty flavour went well with the roast veg.
For dessert we had home - made brownie with ice cream and some home-made Argentinian pancakes with caramel sauce and ice cream.
The brownie was more cake-like than most these days but it had an intensely chocolatey and slightly gooey centre and it’s made from a Rusling - Gloria’s maiden name - family recipe.
The home-made pancakes and caramel sauce were good without being inspiring, I think they would have been better hot. Our Cow Molly vanilla ice cream speaks for itself, always good.
For three courses, a Peruvian beer, a large glass of wine and heavy pre-steak drooling, our bill was £56.70.
Star rating out of five:
* La Vaca, 477- 479 Glossop Road, Broomhill, Sheffield S10 2QE
* Tel: 0114 2676215
* La Vaca * Open Monday - Saturday 5pm until late – last table 10pm. Closed Sunday