November 22 2017

Dinner at CAU, Milsom Place

And so it came to pass that we finally – finally! – made a date to review dinner at CAU, the chic, super-glam carni-centric contemporary steakhouse that totally revitalised and revamped a rather spacious little corner of Milsom Place back in January 2016. January 2016 – that’s absolutely ages ago! But good things, it seems, really do come to those who wait.

Milsom Place has to win the award for being Bath’s prettiest little shopping/merrymaking quarter, especially at this time of the year, when super-stylish Christmas lights and festive flourishes turn the whole domain into a kind of sophisticated, grown up version of Santa’s grotto. If we run with this analogy, then CAU is where Santa’s little helpers would most likely kick back at the end of their shift: it’s cheerful and inviting in a thoroughly modern kinda way (and, talking of helpers, the lovely staff deserve a very special big-up in their own right here – they really do make you feel right at home and very, very special from the off), complete with silky chrome fixtures and fittings, shiny white banquettes, American diner-style furniture, futuristic space age lighting, a fluffy cloud feature wall mural and more little white clouds suspended over the bar adding attention-grabbing details at every turn; heck, I felt as though I might be cautioned by a member of Starfleet Security if I made a wrong turn on the way to my table. And the food served here, too, is arresting in its own right…

The CAU USP is all about ‘contemporary cuisine inspired by the vibrancy, colour and cultural diversity of Buenos Aires’ – now I’ve never been to BA, but I trust that Argentinian food and flavours are pretty well represented here.

We began our tango around the array with starters of Beef CAU-paccio (see what they did there?) – slivers of tender rump steak marinated in kickin’ green chimichurri and scattered with sunblush tomatoes, which turned out to be a really, really good choice. Also highly recommended is the Empanada selection, from which we opted for one chorizo and cream cheese, and one creamed corn and Taleggio, with the latter in particular proving to be exceptionally moreish. Both starters were generous in portion, but not so over-the-top that they threaten to dull your appetite for the main event… which is just as well, really, as our choices proved to be massive, even though I chose the smallest sized (400g) portion of Asado de Chorizo: a super-silky sirloin fillet that had been reclining for hours in a seductively smoky churrasco marinade involving smoked paprika, Aji Molido (dried, crushed red pepper powder, very Latin in temperament), garlic and parsley. For Mr Pig, the Lomito fillet of rump – again, the 400g cut, which again was huge, so goodness knows who opts for the supersized cuts. His beefy slab came with a rich, creamy blue cheese sauce that perfectly complimented the sturdy, robust rump. The verdict? Mine was sublime, his was divine, and vice versa. We did, of course, have chips too: skinny for me, chunky for him. And we had tempura-battered onion rings. Oh, and we had peas (gotta get your greens in somewhere.) And it’s hard to believe I’m confessing to this, after all that, but we also had puddings – and if you don’t go full-on blow out and try the fresh pancakes drizzled with sweet, thick rivulets of Dulce de Leche and the properly, authentically crisp Churros (served with yet more DdL) then you’ll really, seriously miss out.

We may be a little slow when it comes to spreading the moos about CAU, but y qué? We got there in the end – and it really es bastante bueno.

The small print: there are non-steak options on the CAU menu too, including fish and chips, chicken dishes, and solid vegetarian options. The restaurant opens for imaginative breakfasts all week, segueing into a chillaxing Bottomless Brunch menu on Saturdays. The intelligent wine list is largely dominated by Argentinian/Spanish varietals with a handful of Frenchies for good measure – our advice is to take advice from your server, who I guarantee will be really knowledgable about matching personal predilections to your chosen dish. There are alfresco terraces both at courtyard and upper-floor level, and private hire space available for parties. And now, a word about sourcing…

All CAU’s beef is sourced in Argentina, and wet-aged (a vac-pac process) on the journey to the UK – not an ideal prospect for supporters of local sourcing policies, considering that we rear the most spectacular beef right here on our doorstep. But this is how it is in CAU world and anyway, it’s a fact that at least shipping beef is far less of either a local economy or a carbon footprint problem than, for example, air-freighting New Zealand lamb (which I patently refuse to purchase, on many grounds), or American apples, or Chilean blueberries, or Zimbabwean broccoli.

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