Originally stating that they would open in May 2014, CAU‘s doors finally open to the public on Monday, August 4th. Embracing both the cuisine and the spirit of Argentina, the Bristol branch is the seventh in CAU’s portfolio.
We were invited to attend pre-opening for a complimentary meal (we paid for drinks) on one of CAU’s staff training days, which were attended by friends, local businesses and bloggers.
We all loved the decor: flashes of green grass and blue skies, along with corrugated walls, are designed to hark back to Buenos Aires. Larger tables are available for groups, while one side wall is lined with larger booths, the other with tables for two, set slightly above the rest of the restaurant to allow for a more romantic, exclusive atmosphere. A well-stocked bar is the main feature on walking in, and the large, central open plan kitchen allows diners to watch their meals being cooked.
The menu embraces the cuisine of Argentina: as you’d expect, there are plenty of steaks, but also burgers, sandwiches and a range of other main dishes, starters, sides and desserts that provide plenty of choice for every diner. You’ll also find an extensive wine list, a range of beers and ciders, soft drinks and some fantastic cocktails – I recommend their “PIÑA-CAU-LADA”, which is made with coconut water for a lighter take on its namesake.
As we were there on a staff training day, our group of six was invited to order a range of different dishes from the menu, to ensure that both serving staff and the kitchen team could smooth out any issues before the big opening.
Starters were impressive, and included a beautiful tomato and whipped goats’ cheese bruschetta (£3.75) with plenty of garlic; and a selection of empanadas (£7 for two), which were enjoyed despite the sauce being deemed a little oily. The stand out starter was definitely the belly of pork tempura (£7.95), which was meltingly tender in the lightest of tempura batters.
We also tried the salt and pepper squid (£5.95), which was perfectly cooked and served with a smokey chipotle mayo, and the Yerba-smoked beef (£6.95), which was beautifully smoked and tender, but slightly overpowered by its soy and wasabi dressing.
We all ordered steaks for our mains, with two people opting for the tender rump fillet known as Lomito (£29.50 for 440g): a huge cut of beef that barely needed the use of a knife. Two of our group chose the Asado de Chorizo (£34.95): a 500g sirloin in a fantastic smokey marinade of paprika, garlic, parsley and chilli.
The Tapa de Cuadril (£14.95 for 200g, £16.95 for 260g) was also a hit: thin, flash grilled slices of steak from the top of the rump with a choice of sauces – the steak was tender and well-seasoned, and the peppercorn sauce had a lively amount of heat. However, the stand out steak amongst our group (and, luckily for me, the one I chose!) was the Tira de Ancho (£33.50 for 500g): an amazingly rich and tender spiral cut of rib-eye, grilled slowly to keep it tender and best served medium rare. Topped with a light and fresh chimichurri, it’s by far the best steak I’ve had in Bristol to date.
One thing that did surprise us was the size of some of the steaks: with 440 and 500g steaks on the menu (and I was even offered a 600g cut instead of the 500g listed on the menu!) There was no way I could have finished mine without help, and one of our group even took half of his steak home as it was simply too much. We felt that there should be the option of smaller, more affordable cuts on the menu so that more people are able to enjoy these steaks but without the expense or wastage.
We also ordered a variety of sides to accompany our steaks. Each steak comes with a choice of thick or thin cut fries or salad, with a range of other options also available. The triple cut chunky chips were actually a bit of a disappointment, with very little crispiness on the outside – but the decadent truffled mac and cheese was a true winner. We also ordered the courgette and onion tempura, which featured batter that was slightly overcooked, but perfectly tender veg.
After ordering a round of cocktails, we decided that it would be wrong to leave without ordering dessert. These were a little hit and miss, however. The baked vanilla cheesecake (£5.95), served with a caramelised banana, was a definite hit, but the churros (£4.95) seemed a little undercooked. We also tried their signature dessert – the cornflake ice cream sundae (£5.95) – which featured an intriguing cornflake-flavoured ice cream, cornflakes, a seriously naughty dulce de leche sauce and crumbled chocolate brownie. It was the brownie that was the only disappointment, tasting a little hard and stale.
Our waiting staff were absolutely fantastic, making us all feel at home and answering all of the questions that we had. We also loved the atmosphere: the restaurant had a real buzz on the evening of our visit, and it was great to see the chefs hard at work in the open plan kitchen. Just be warned that the toilets are quite a trek through a door at the back of the restaurant!
The quality of the food was, on the whole, outstanding – we were all impressed. I do believe, though, that some of the larger steaks should be available in smaller sizes, or marked on the menu as being suitable for two to share: while the Tira de Ancho will live on in my memory for a long, long time, I’m not sure how often I’d be willing to pay £33.50 for the privilege. Definitely worth a visit, though – it’s well up there with Bristol’s top steak houses. Recommended.
For more information, visit www.caurestaurants.com.
Please note: this meal was complimentary as part of a staff training day pre-opening, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the company did not see this review before it was put up on the site.