Do an office poll of the country that produces the best steak, and the general assertion will be Argentina. There might be some wayward heathens proclaiming otherwise, but once you have tasted meat from this region, there’s no going back. And it’s not just the hefty pieces of cow; it’s also the idea of the exotic - the fizzing, chaotic melting point that is Buenos Aires. No dry Texan deserts or pampered Japanese livestock being massaged here – instead the vibrant energy of Latin America.
This is why I love CAU. A group of restaurants that can boast meat-emporium Gaucho as a sibling. They are bringing prime cuts of blindingly good steak to the masses, at a superb price, without compromising on quality.
The general decor in CAU establishments is pretty similar – they all tread the line nicely between slick chic and tongue-in-cheek fun. Swanky black with silver and white accessories give the place a nicely trendy edge, but then you get a wall resplendent with emerald green grass, or a bolt of painted blue sky. You’re further transported to the pampas of Argentina with the groovy cloud lampshades hanging above the bar (I wouldn’t mind acquiring some for my house, actually).
The most recent addition is St Katherine’s Docks, bang next to London Bridge. It’s a cool little area, which I had not yet set foot in. The cluster of boats resplendent with rigging gives the impression you’re at some seaport coastal town, and a million miles away from London. This isn’t a bad thing sometimes, especially when you’ve spent the day navigating sweaty armpits on the tube.
It’s lovely and cool inside, with one wall completely dedicated to glass for people-watching and also furthering the feeling you’re on holiday. There are also larger booths and tables towards the back, and comfy banquettes (I bet this place is popular with groups, all ready to chow down on various cuts of cow.)
This is precisely what I’ve come for, and have brought a hungry mate of mine of the male persuasion to help me munch through the menu. We start with a couple of cocktails – we’ve got the summer vibe, so indulge in some brilliant margaritas.
Starters all give a nod to the worldwide influences Buenos Aires can boast, while retaining a focus on South America. There are quesadillas, Spanish croquettes, Argentinian street food... pretty much something to tantalize any taste-buds.
Since we’re in for a meat-feast we know we should go for something, light like the Swordfish Carpaccio, but instead ignore our trembling arteries and opt for the Belly Pork Tempura with CAUchup and the Yerba-Smoked Beef. The former is as melt-in-your-mouth as it proclaims, and given a lift of tangy flavour from the sauce, while the latter comes as wafers of delectable meat, all layered with the complex and altogether fragrant oriental additions of soy and wasabi.
Now it’s on to the main event, and true carnivores should do as we did, ordering the Feasting Plate. Not for the faint hearted (quite literally – it amounts to 1200g of meat, although we had a lesser portion), it gives a taste of three of CAU’s best steaks.
Asado de Chorizo has a hefty punch of smoky flavour that combines absolutely ideally with the succulent flesh, while Tira de Ancho has been grilled so slowly that the tenderness is unbelievable – I almost want to break into an Otis Redding chorus. The real kicker is the Lomito – considered the finest cut in Argentina, it really is a lesson in how proper steak should be enjoyed. Charred on the outside, with the inside as pink as Paris Hilton’s wardrobe, and as juicy as the gossip that surrounds her, too.
We accompany this with crisp gold shards of chip and the most divine Mac 'n' Cheese, because what our body needs at this point is more cholesterol, obviously. But FYI, the latter side has to be tried.
There was no need whatsoever to get dessert, but we did anyway, and after trying CAU’s spectacular Three-Milk Cake then I urge you to loosen that belt buckle and do the same. Words don’t describe how damned good it is.
And to drink? It can only be red wine, and once more CAU are bang on with a portion of the list dedicated purely to Malbec. These are exclusively from Argentina, except for the Amélie, which is made for the restaurant in the Languedoc region of France and is bloody delicious – give it a go.
Upon leaving CAU, I had my first ever experience of the meat sweats – and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I felt like I had truly feasted well, on quality produce cooked by expert chefs. And although I was glad I wasn’t actually hopping on a boat, since I was pretty sure I’d sink a ship, then CAU is one place I’ll be making a repeat voyage to very soon.
Edited by George Cheley