It’s now been over 2 years since I started blogging and campaigning for South American food – where has the time gone? It feels like yesterday that I was writing up (very amateur) recipes back in Guildford, where the only South American restaurant in the area for me to review was the vibrant and trendy high street steakhouse, Cau. Two years later I’m in London and I’m struggling to keep up with all the South American restaurants and pop-ups around me.
As it happens, Cau has now opened up in Blackheath. As close to London as it’s going to get at the moment, I had to check out my local Cau and revisit the authentic Buenos Aires inspired food.
As a sister restaurant of the exclusive Gaucho chain, Cau is an Argentinian steakhouse serving quality steaks at high street prices. Offering a far more casual and friendly dining experience than Gaucho, and located in the affluent and “yummy mummy” area of Blackheath, this branch is in a prime location for summer, with views over the heath.
We were warmly welcomed by the staff and talked through the extensive menu. The staff were eager to help us order, recommending the best South American wines and describing each of the many steaks on offer.
Between the four of us, we ordered a feast of starters, steaks and various sides.
The menu combines Argentinian classics like empanandas, chorizo and chimichurri steaks, as well as a variety of modern European dishes like the divine Truffled Macaroni Cheese, coconut steamed mussels and a variety of fish and pasta dishes.
Cau’s empanadas were delicious, with a crispy wafer thin pastry and flavoursome fillings. My favourite was the Spinach, Ricotta and Date Empanada, where the sweet pungent flavour of date makes it a really unique treat.
Another starter worth trying is the Yerba Smoked Beef; a unique carpaccio dish of thinly sliced beef smoked with yerba mate. Yerba mate is a South American tea, with a distinctly spicy and smoky flavour.
With so many unique starters and main plates to choose from, the menu is impressive, but the real show-stoppers are the steaks.
Cau steaks come in various cuts and with various marinades. You can choose from the speciality cuts, like the “King of Steaks” Tira de Ancho or thinly sliced Tapa de Cuadril, or the classic steaks. Having previously shared Tira de Ancho, I went for a classic rump steak, medium rare, which arrived cooked just how I wanted it.
The steak was brown on the outside and a juicy pink colour in the middle. The waiter gave us his advice on how best to have each of the steaks cooked, but the chefs will obviously endeavour to cook it to your liking.
You’d expect nothing less than perfect steaks from a restaurant owned by Gaucho big boss, Zeev Godik, who I met briefly at the restaurant. It’s clear that the Cau management want to uphold the reputation of Gaucho that precedes it, which an appreciation of good Argentinian food and drink, but with a high street price tag.
As much as the steaks are made with the best Argentinian meat, this isn’t the most authentic Argentinian food that you can find. The menu brings together a wide variety of European and South American flavours, with pasta, salads, burgers and fish dishes. Cau seems to want to please everyone, rather than having a very focused Argentinian identity. But then, for a restaurant that was inspired by Buenos Aires, a city full of different flavours and influences, this doesn’t negate Cau’s status as a quality Argentinian steakhouse.
There’s certainly a gap in the London market for a chain like Cau. But for now, Londoners will have to venture down to Blackheath for the vibrant Cau experience.
Cau Blackheath, http://www.caurestaurants.com/, (Twitter: @caurestaurants)
Cau Tunbridge Wells has now opened.