People say it’s all about location. That’s probably true, as there is no finer spot than CAU in Kingston on a hot summer evening. Sitting outside with just a footpath between the diner and the Thames, one can bask in warm contentment, lifting a glass and the silverware being the only exertions.
The team behind Argentinian restaurant chain Gaucho has launched this more-casual dining concept. CAU is actually Carne Argentina Unica and the menu reflects the beef-biased cuisine of Buenos Aires. They have refined but accessible dishes there, inspired by Italy and Spain from where much of the population originated.
Gaucho is polished and prices reflect that. CAU is more relaxed and the cost of a decent meal isn’t prohibitive. The waiters sport shirts proclaiming that they are CAUBOYS. Diners are predominantly young and discerning. CAU is vibrant!
There are non-bovine offerings here but you would come craving substantial plates of beef, at least for your main course. We started with a beautifully presented Blue Corn Tortilla. Yes, the corn truly is blue, although the colour is a little less pronounced on cooking. The light and crisp tortilla was topped with succulent chunks of braised beef garnished with pickled red onion and jalapeño peppers. CAU also does veggie and fish options.
Leche de tigre
Empanadas are a classic South American snack, with every country and every region having its own version. They are miniature pasties and perfect as a starter or a nibble alongside a glass of Malbec, which is the celebrated wine of Argentina. The corn and cheese filling was mild and creamy and the pastry flaky and light. Salmon Tiradito is another delicious and non-beef offering: cured salmon, leche de tigre (Peruvian citrus-based marinade for ceviche), beetroot mayo and a garnish of moreish crisp lotus root chips.
Steaks, obviously, are here aplenty. I chose Medallions of Beef as my main course. Granted, this isn’t the tenderest of cuts but it has great flavour. The trick is to cut across the grain. If you are looking for flavour and melting texture then perhaps Tapa De Cuadril would be best. This is cut from the top of the rump and is a signature dish served the Brazilian way – thinly sliced and flash grilled.
Latin Burger was my guest’s main dish. He is a man who appreciates a good burger and he was pleased with this one. The beef patty was topped with jalapeños, guacamole, charred peppers and fresh avocado in a brioche-style bun. A burger can be the best meat dish ever when it’s made with quality meat and thoughtfully chosen condiments. This one was, and the recipient was sufficiently impressed to promise a return to evaluate the rest of the burger list.
Architectural interest and textural contrast
People say it’s all about location; and they also say there is always room for dessert. CAU Cornflake Ice Cream Sundae was recommended by our waiter. Layers of cornflake-flavoured ice cream (that was a new one for me), cornflakes, crumbled chocolate brownie and dulce de leche filled a classic Sundae glass. It truly was remarkable and far too good for kids, who would likely not appreciate the subtlety of this ice cream nor the gastronomic juxtaposition with the dulce de leche attractively coating the perfectly proportioned goblet, with a flourish of cubed brownie topping the whole, to present architectural interest and textural contrast …or one could just describe it as a sweet stunner.
The aforementioned Malbec puts in a surprising appearance on the dessert wine menu! Zuccardi Malamado Port-Style Malbec from Argentina was a change from the too-syrupy white dessert wines which are more common. This had intense black and red fruit with a hint of mild spice.
CAU was fun, with great ambiance. The dishes, both meat and non-meat, were as one would hope and one can’t say fairer than that. Location, location, location and bon appetit!
Kingston Upon Thames
Phone: 020 8546 4339
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018