We eat at many restaurants that have recently opened and invariably there’s something amiss – service can be slow, food cold, bills wrong – they usually get better as the weeks roll by (not always, and safe to say those places like Isaacs don’t last long). The 130ish seater CAU restaurant which opened a fortnight ago in Brindley Place initially seemed to us not to even have had those small hitches, perhaps thanks to having Zeev Godik, the creator of successful 18 restaurant global chain Gauchos as one of the directors. CAU Birmingham also has another 17 sister restaurants throughout the UK, so we’ve obviously got a serious taste for Argentinian beef at the moment.
The office building that the restaurant now occupies has been smartly converted. A portico offers outdoor heated seating – perfect for eating a summer lunch, or supper in the evening with a beer or a wine. Inside quirky lighting and wallpaper designs provide a stylish background to a meaty dinner in comfy booth seating, though the overall effect may be too playful for some diners.
On its opening Friday we took 26 (twenty-six!) of us for breakfast ahead of our Good Friday pub crawl. The waiting team were somewhat nervous at dealing with us but we were dealt with brilliantly including being given some jugs of perfect Bloody Mary while we waited for food (really, we are very picky with them but they were very good). For breakfast I had the Latino eggs (£7), which consisted of sliced cool avocado, runny poached eggs, and chimichurri sauce (garlic, parsley, oil, oregano) on toast, a very tasty morning dish to wake up the taste buds. Several people had the scrambled egg (£5) – all good though all a slightly different colour and done-ness. Alas, we had one minor disaster – a small foreign object, no doubt a leftover from the recent fit-out, in a scrambled egg! The staff were very apologetic and remade the dish very quickly. The sweet potato and chorizo hash looked really hearty and I shall try that next time. We also tried the Pink Lady apple juice which was sweet and refreshing.
Needing somewhere to dine for Easter Sunday lunch we thought we’d go back and try the mains, though we only inflicted four of us on them this time. We didn’t opt for starters as we were in a hurry to catch the boat race at the pub (Cambridge won, boo!). We enjoyed their BBQ Burger (£11.95), complete with stacked crispy onion rings. I loved the twice cooked pork belly (£14.50) with juicy rendered fat, soft meat, and crispy crispy crackling sticks served on a bed of sweet and earthy puréed sweetcorn. A side of cheesy polenta mash (£2.95) was an excellent accompaniment. We also tried the Sunday Roast Beef (£15) – a massive portion of tender pink sliced rump with Yorkshire pudding, josper roast carrotts, crispy beef fat roast potatoes, red wine gravy and onion rings. It was all brilliantly executed, and I’d be happy to eat it every week!
Unfortunately, we went back again on a Thursday evening. We were seated on a tiny round table in a corner where one of us looked over a table a foot away with a couple having a romantic dinner, and the other of us had a view of a table of four having a chat. We moved tables. I had a competent if somewhat bland sausage cassoulet, and we ordered the 400g £28.50 Lomito steak. Firstly, grams mean nothing to me, having done the conversion now it’s just over 14oz, and that’s a ridiculous amount of steak. Secondly, we ordered it medium, and it came very rare and I suspect not rested. After cut one, as the waitress saw it bleeding on the plate, she asked if it was OK – we said we’d give it a go but by the middle of the steak there was a red pool of blood to deal with and that was that. Steaks are such a matter of opinion aren’t they. The waitress asked if we wanted it done more but I don’t eat food that’s had to go back to the kitchen. They took everything off the bill which was kinda nice of them but felt like an overreaction and made us feel like it was our problem somehow. It wasn’t. If you’re going to sell me £28 of steak, cook it correctly the first time around. Should you be interested in the science of steak resting here’s a good article on it.
Will we go back? Yes, the Sunday lunch and the breakfast were excellent. Would we have steak again? Maybe after we’ve had our foodie friends revisit and had some more reviews. For now at least, Anderson’s Bar & Grill and Fiesta Del Asado are Birmingham’s go-to steak houses, but for dinner with friends CAU will mostly fit the bill.