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A menu that embraces Buenos Aires cuisine, a melting pot of comfort food inspired by Italy and Spain alongside the jewel in Argentina’s crown, its beef. Mouthwatering steaks, burgers and steak sandwiches are joined by a tempting selection of more-ish favourites, each with a distinctive Buenos Aires twist.
CAU Leamington Spa,
7 Satchwell Street,
With 21 outlets in the UK, plus one in Amsterdam, Argentinian steakhouse chain CAU (Carne Argentina Unica, or ‘only Argentinian meat’) is on a roll at the moment. And if the quality of food and service at its Leamington branch is anything to go by, the company’s success story is likely to continue.
The restaurant in Satchwell Court - which previously housed a Superdry store - opened in September. Its lively atmosphere and contemporary food have proved a real hit with customers - a fact supported by the cheery bustle we encountered on what we’d expected to be a relatively quiet Monday night.
The cheeriness was reflected in our wonderfully friendly waitress, who couldn’t have been more helpful in settling us in, even though I found our table position a mite too open-plan (I prefer a cosy corner). I instantly regretted not requesting one of the corrugated booths off to the side.
That said, the stylish design is part of the CAU experience and extends to the shiny bar area and open-plan kitchen, so we embraced it. Our ability to go with the flow was doubtless aided by the excellent wines we selected from the drinks list, which also contained a great range of beers, cocktails, milkshakes and smoothies.
The drinks flowing, we kicked off with a couple of wonderful appetisers - belly of pork tempura and an Anticuchos skewer of chorizo and red pepper. The perfectly marinated meat of the latter - apparently a popular street food in Buenos Aires - was an instant hit, but was definitely trumped - if it’s still okay to use that word?! - by the meaty pork belly that came encased in fabulously fluffy light batter. Better still, the tempura was taken into orbit by the subtle sweetness of the accompanying CAUchup sauce. The sauce is made to a closely guarded recipe, but the chef did reveal that, along with its secret ingredients, it contains tomatoes, sugar, apples, peppers and aniseed.
I could have eaten these tapas-style treats all night. ‘Feasting’ on small plates is one of the options at CAU (prices range from £5.95 to £6.95), but steak is virtually obligatory at an Argentinian restaurant - especially when the prime cuts of beef come from grass-fed cattle.
My partner chose a 220g rump steak that wasn’t only perfectly lean but superbly - and slowly - cooked, ensuring it melted in the mouth. So too did her side order of baked sweet potato, creatively served in slices with butter and herbs.
I opted for one of the menu’s speciality cuts - an enormous 400g Tira de Ancho rib-eye, marinated in rich chimichurri and nicknamed ‘the king of steaks’. It was a quite stunning piece of meat, fabulously tender and enormous. And when I say enormous, I mean enormous! Even when I reached the point of being full, it still looked as though I’d barely started! And I’d chosen the smallest option too - you can choose up to 600g - so unless you’re a serious carnivore with an even more serious appetite, I’d recommend asking for a smaller cut - an option, the waitress informed me, that comes courtesy of the restaurant’s in-house butchery. For the record, the steaks range from £13.95 up to £39.95 for one of the three speciality cuts. Better yet, £87.95 buys you a feasting plate - 400g of each of the speciality cuts. I can’t imagine this is designed for one person - anyone who managed to eat it on their own should get a medal.
We opted to split a dessert. Even though the unique cornflake ice-cream sundae jumped off the menu at us, we opted for a plate of the most more-ish churros I’ve ever tasted. The lovely, crisp, cinnamon-flavoured batter was accompanied by some delightfully sticky chocolate sauce.
Even though I was full after the steak, I still managed to eat my allotted half. I could probably have managed the lot if my partner hadn’t already devoured her share.
And so our Argentinian dining experience came to an end - but what an experience it had proved to be. CAU is certainly worth a return visit - the restaurant is definitely delivering on its promise to provide a lively Buenos Aires-inspired night out.