Sunday, 31 May 2015

CAU Reading Review

CAU is a steakhouse that is inspired by all things Argentinian, with Beunos Aires at the heart of each of the flavourful and tender dishes. I'd heard about CAU mainly in the context of it being the little sister of Gauchos; an up-market, luxurious steakhouse with a strong hub of restaurants in the City of London. I got news that CAU planned to open a small restaurant in Reading, Berkshire, next to The Oracle and my big old carnivorous heart skipped a beat.

I'd been waiting for the opening weekend with enthusiasm, I am a huge meat lover and a rare steak is the best type of comfort food I can imagine after a stressful week at work. I saw the opening announcement and quickly booked a table for the opening Sunday with one thing on my mind; The CAU Sunday Roast.

The restaurant itself sort of creeps up on you. It's located literally just outside The Oracle on the Minster Street exit (the exit nearest Purple Turtle for Reading folk) in a space that used to be an outside area for Oracle staff a few years back.

We walked in to be greeted by a lovely waitress with red hair (I didn't catch her name but her customer service skills were on point) and we were quickly seated at the bar downstairs whilst our table was arranged. The barstaff were dressed very professionally and service was quick and friendly. We were then shown to a booth near the back of the downstairs section of the restaurant.

Upstairs in CAU

Our waitress was quick to greet us and had lots to say when I asked her what her menu recommendations were. My partner and I both ordered the CAU Sunday Roast along with some broccoli in chilli and garlic that the waitress recommended as the special for the day. Whilst we waited for our meals we were offered a top up on our drinks and had a chance to look over the rest of the menu which, I have to say, was probably the sort of thing I'd produce if I was asked to create my dream menu.

The steaks are priced very fairly for the local area. Prices are cheaper than Miller and Carter, a popular steakhouse on the riverside, and there is a deliciously diverse range of menu choices all with varying price points. This means that there is something for everyone regardless of whether you're on that desperate "day before payday" boat or rolling up in your golden yacht after your recent surprise tax rebate. All of the burgers are in the £10-£12 range and come with a choice of chips or salad: bargain! We eagerly discussed what we thought the CAU Feasting Plate might look like (£85 of Argentinian steak. Yes please.) until our food arrived and sent us into a sort of meat-related-stupor.

Look. Bloody look at it. Is that real? Is this real life?

The CAU Sunday Roast was served on a sharing board and consisted of very generous servings of roast rump of beef, Yorkshire puddings, josper roast carrots, beef fat roast potatoes, red wine gravy and onion rings. The beef was rare and cooked to absolute perfection. The batter on the onion rings was absolutely ridiculous, I have no idea how they did that. It must be unicorn dust or something. The Yorkshire pudding was expertly browned and perfectly crafted. The roast potatoes were crispy on the outside but melted in your mouth in a way that even a seasoned food critic wouldn't adequately be able to articulate. My mind was BLOWN.

The vegetables were fresh, crunchy and impeccably seasoned with chilli and garlic .I asked for some extra red wine gravy because I am a gravy fiend, the kitchen were happy to provide it. I can sincerely proclaim that today I had the best roast dinner I have ever been served in a restaurant in my entire life. It was UNREAL, and it cost me £15. Fifteen English pounds. I spend more on a bottle of wine on a Friday night. I spend more than £15 if I park in town for the day. Let's get some context here; the value for money at CAU is simply not questionable- the meal was magnificent.

The Kitchen

I loved the fact that the chefs were visible from your table in the downstairs seating area. You could watch them putting the finishes touches to the dishes with love and affection. The Head Chef stood on the floorside of the line for a while checking the presentation of the dishes before they went out to the tables. The waiting staff operated as if they had been a team for months, not days. The d├ęcor was modern and elegant; a lot of chrome and cream constructed in a way which made the room look a lot bigger than it was. This, paired with an abundance of strategically placed mirrors and huge looming windows looking out to the river made what is quite a compact space seem light, lavish and soothing.

CAU, you have wooed me. You have taken what is essentially a cow and turned it into a lifestyle choice. As we left we booked a table for the following Sunday and enquired about the Fathers Day Menu.

Handmade burgers with an Argentinian twist
We also noticed that CAU has signed up with Deliveroo, a delivery service that visits restaurants (the likes of Nandos or Pizza Express) and will collect your order and deliver it to you for a fee. I can't stress how dangerous that could be.
The verdict: phenomenal. Undeniably the absolute best roast dinner I have ever paid for. I can't wait to go back. Can confirm; will dream of CAU tonight.
P.S. I thought I would include a handy recipe so that you can make the CAU Sunday Roast at home:
  • Prepare your cooking area to ensure cleanliness
  • Open fridge and stare longingly at the contents
  • Close fridge, begin to experience doubt and feelings of inadequacy as a cook  
  • Succumb to crushing depair, go to CAU with the bestie
  • Drink wine and eat meat safe in the knowledge that you wouldn't have been able to make food this good even if you tried

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