I love Milsom Place – there’s just something about the warren of narrow passages lined with golden stone and creeping ivy, the balconies and roof terraces, and the fabulous mix of shops and cafes that reminds me gloriously of Florence. When I spotted that something new was coming to the space next to Carluccio’s, I was immediately intrigued, and then within days of the new CAU Bath opening, I was hearing good things – so I knew I had to go down and find out for myself.
I must admit that when I googled CAU and discovered it was a chain, my heart sank slightly. I don’t hate on the chains – I think that’s ridiculous and counterproductive, because a good number of them were once independents that just made it big, and how can we discourage people from that kind of success? But I love The Cowshed, just up the road, and I confess I wondered how a chain steak joint like CAU could possibly measure up.
|Tira de Ancho – one of the special
Argentinian cuts on CAU’s menu
Thankfully, we had a fabulous evening at CAU, and I was thoroughly impressed with their offering. The vibe of the restaurant is kind of funky student nightclub (albeit much, much cleaner) with panels of blue sky and grass on the ceiling, illuminated clouds hanging over the bar, and booths with padded white banquettes, all soundtracked by thumping tunes from the ‘Noughties Classics’ night. The staff were extremely helpful and very knowledgeable – I must give a shout out to Jimmy, who looked after us for most of the night, and knew the menu and wine list inside out. On his recommendation, I started out with a glass of Lorca ‘Graffiti’ Malbec (as it says on the CAU menu, “There are nice reds, there are very nice reds and then there’s Malbec”) and a plate of Sticky BBQ Beef Ribs. Ribs are a tricky area – so often they’re not worth the faff required to eat them – but these bad boys were absolutely heavenly. With the bones removed, the meat was so tender and juicy it simply fell apart. My dining companion was off the sauce and so ordered a delicious Homemade Lemonade to accompany his Picada – a plate of Argentinian charcuterie with sourdough and pickles, which was full of fabulous flavour.
Scrumptious as the starters were, we weren’t there for nibbles – the draw of CAU is its steak menu, which it takes very seriously. My dining companion stuck to the classics, ordering a sirloin steak, but I was keen to sample one of CAU’s special Argentinian cuts, so after more consultation with Jimmy, I ordered a Tira de Ancho – a spiral cut of ribeye that the CAU menu describes as ‘the king of steaks’. I’d failed to pay attention to the weights given on the menu, beyond ordering the smaller of the two, so I was a little surprised to say the least when my steak arrived, overhanging the (enormous) plate at both ends, and accompanied by a dressed green salad and a handsome portion of triple-cooked chips. I have a big appetite, but I must confess that I couldn’t eat the whole thing. It was absolutely, swooningly delicious, perfectly cooked and smothered in tangy chimichurri, and I can give it no higher praise than to say that I abandoned the amazing chips almost completely in order to be able to eat as much steak as possible. For me to leave my chips is a serious, serious thing.
|Churros with dulce de leche – incredible|
With the end in sight, we knew it was our duty to sample the dessert menu, but we could only manage one between us. I’m so glad we did, though, because the traditional churros that we ordered were completely fabulous: crisp, fresh and drenched in cinnamon sugar, served with creamy dulce de leche. I couldn’t resist trying CAU’s dessert Malbec to go with it – I’m a new convert to dessert red wine and I’m completely head over heels. A small, fragrant glass of Zuccardi Malamado Malbec was just the thing to finish the meal and went perfectly with the churros.
In conclusion, the food was fabulous, the wines delightful and the staff excellent. I must admit that I’m still disappointed in CAU for shipping all their beef over from Argentina when such good beef is raised here in the west country – I know the point is that this chain is all about Argentinian food, but wouldn’t it be possible to do those fabulous dishes justice with more local ingredients? – so that’s why my heart belongs to The Cowshed, but I can’t deny that I would go back to CAU, and I’d recommend it to you guys too.