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Hearty Dining: Abuelo Review


Elizabeth Finney heads to the Abuelo Café to sample this blend of Australian and South American cuisine

The cosy café feels more like the dining room of an art-loving family than a restaurant. Vast river scenes cover feature walls, the water appearing to glimmer in the soft candlelight. I sit at a small table to one side of the centrepiece wooden coffee bar, enjoying the quiet hubbub emanating from the group at the long dining table that stretches the length of the room.

My guest and I start with a couple of sharing plates, accompanied by a bottle of Argentinian Pablo y Walter Malbec, which adds a vibrant blend of velvety zing to the whole meal. First, we tuck into the pulled lamb tostadas with chipotle mayonnaise, pickled onion and radish, which ooze flavour and leave behind a satisfying deep heat. This cools off when we sample Burrata cheese with colourful roasted beetroot, honey, walnuts and charcoal salt. It’s so delightfully creamy and sweet it could almost be a dessert.


The minimalist Scandi interiors of Abuelo Café are a world away from the eclectic menu, which offers an array of coffees and homemade cakes alongside its Australian and South American dishes. Looking around at the carefully curated furniture and contemporary wooden panelling, it’s no surprise that its founders have backgrounds in design and architecture. While achingly cool and modern, it feels incredibly homey and relaxed. All around me friends and family are chatting animatedly, sipping coffee or wine, bathed in the warm orange light radiating from filament bulbs topped with delicate wooden domes.

 Family is at the core of this venture, which fully explains its initially confusing selection of offerings. An Australian coffeehouse combined with a South American menu? I’m completely intrigued. Lynette De La Vega and her daughter Cloe, who comprise the team at the helm of the restaurant, started out in Sydney, where they worked with some of the first people in Australia to roast beans. They went on to train up thousands of baristas across their five different venues, moving the local coffee scene forward drastically during the 1980s. But the family significance runs far deeper. The café is deeply inspired by Cloe’s grandfather (hence the café’s name), who was a carpenter by trade but had a passion for cooking and baking. Despite speaking only a little English, he passed down his favourite traditional Argentinian recipes.


For my main course, I opt for a South American classic, the Carne Provoleta. It features melted Argentinian provolone cheese topped with juicy organic beef brisket and a side of sourdough toast to load everything onto. It’s so rich, flavoursome and indulgent, my mouth continues to water between bites. I really couldn’t recommend this dish enough.

To satisfy my sweet tooth I go for an opulent homemade brownie and a cup of the café’s signature Antipodean coffee, selecting the single origin Café Femenino. This particular coffee is grown and processed by a woman-only co-operative that aims to increase social empowerment – no wonder it tastes so bright, complex and smooth. 

Abuelo is the perfect spot to catch up with close friends and family in a relaxing environment with delicious, unpretentious dishes, coffee and wine. Simple, elegant and unfussy, this café tucked away off Covent Garden ticks every box.

Abuelo, 26 Southampton Street, WC2E 7RS, 020 7836 8476,


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