Dinner by the sea in Netanya's El Gaucho

The new outdoor seating area in Netanya's veteran restaurant, El Gaucho, offers an incomparable view of the sea to diners enjoying an evening out.

 El Gaucho, Netanya (photo credit: DAVID SACHCHAR)
El Gaucho, Netanya
(photo credit: DAVID SACHCHAR)

The veteran Netanya restaurant, El Gaucho, has re-invented itself and now receives clients in the great outdoors. A large section of the promenade has been turned into the newest eating place in the city, with an incomparable view of the sea. Fresh breezes from the Mediterranean waft in, making the rotating fans superfluous.

Add some potted plants, some decorative wagon wheels, wooden barrels, sparkling fairy lights and the décor is complete.

Consulting the menu has also been updated and technophobes might find it intimidating. You dial a number and the whole menu appears on your mobile. If you are that rare individual that doesn’t have a smartphone – well, hard cheese.

The actual food on offer remains very similar if not identical to the time-honored menu that we have enjoyed for years now.

My dining companion chose the chicken wings as a starter and I picked the braised mushrooms. To stave off the hunger pangs while we waited, a hot focaccia loaf appeared with three dips – the traditional Argentinian chimichurri, a spiced tomato salsa and aubergine salad.

They provided a more-than-adequate pre-dinner snack until our orders arrived.

Freshly cooked and hot, the wings were as good as we remembered them, slightly sweet and tender and they came with crispy wafer biscuits, which were quite dry in contrast to the schmaltzy tastiness of the chicken.

Even my experienced surgeon husband eschewed knife and fork for this dish and ate them with his hands, having noted the generous amount of wet wipes which came with the dish.

My dish was acceptable but consisted of only one kind of mushroom, the button mushroom we all get at the supermarket. With so many other varieties, one would have thought the chef could have thrown in a few of the more exotic species.

As a main course my husband chose – surprise, surprise – lamb chops (NIS 199). It was a generous helping and came with a roasted potato and onion. The chops were very tender but crispy and had very little fat.

My choice of chicken breast with garlic and olives was a massive portion. The meat can be dry but this was quite juicy and the pungent accompaniments compensated for the blandness of the chicken. (NIS 89).

We each had a bowl of the house salad on the side – the usual mix but enlivened with an excellent vinaigrette.

 El Gaucho, Netanya (credit: Courtesy) El Gaucho, Netanya (credit: Courtesy)

The liquid refreshment consisted of a large draught beer from a selection of several beers on tap, and a Diet 7Up. As usual, a few glugs of the beer made its way into the lemonade when my husband wasn’t looking, and I had a very satisfactory shandy, a refreshing low-calorie drink with mild alcoholic undertones.

After this bountiful meal I could not look at dessert although there is a good selection at El Gaucho. But Alex can never resist chocolate mousse so we ordered one (NIS 39), with two spoons. Very rich, very chocolaty, it tasted more like a cream than a mousse but made a good finale to this exceptional meal.

 On Fridays El Gaucho holds a food shuk where eager fans can buy all the usual delicacies and much more for Shabbat meals. Both Ashkenazi and Sephardi palates are catered to. For an easy, tasty (and lazy) Shabbat, El Gaucho is the place.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.