Cau has just opened in Glasgow in a newly refurbished swish building in the city centre, but the restaurant is part of a chain that has outlets in London, Liverpool, Bristol and even one in Amsterdam.
The theme of the cuisine is Argentinian, with an accent on top quality steak, so four carnivores made up our party to test it out after a hard day’s Christmas shopping.
The restaurant takes up the ground and mezzanine of the Connect110ns building, so-called because it is at 110 Queen Street, although the restaurant is round the corner on Ingram Street. It is a busy thoroughfare and through the large windows we watched passers-by wrestle with inside-out umbrellas in the rain.
You can also see the Christmas lights of Royal Exchange Square, a better view than the scaffolded building opposite.
The shape of the room is eye-catching but was the cause of my first minor moan; with such high ceilings and a room full of chatter, the music was too loud to make conversation easy.
We were shown past the comfortable looking booths at the door to a table for four and seated in revolving chairs, much appreciated by the younger members of the party. I was placed by a walkway, however, and passers-by more than once caused my chair to rotate when I least expected it.
"The feasting plate for four could have fed all our near relatives too"
Had I a cat to stroke, I wouldn’t have been able to resist saying: “Ah Mr Bond, I’ve been expecting you,” as I swung regally round to face diners at the next table.
The menu promises Argentinian fare with a Spanish and Italian twist but there are other world cuisines represented here too, with pork belly tempura, salt and chilli squid and mussels in coconut and lime seemingly from a whole different continent.
But I was determined to get to the bottom of the South American flavours so bossily chose our starters with a seemingly Pavlovian response to the word Argentinian. We went for yerba beef, lomito-smoked the Argentinian way. It was dressed in soy and wasabi and topped with shaved, salted ricotta and it disappeared in seconds.
The Argentinian flatbread with chorizo, mozzarella and Manchego cheese was equally quickly dispatched. The empanadas, classic Argentinian street food, were the hit of this course. Of the two different fillings, the spinach, ricotta and date beat the ground beef and onion hands down. In fact they were so good that I’d recommend them to any vegetarians eating here – somewhat unlikely given what followed.
The squabbling over the mains was solved by a mixed dish of steaks. For a somewhat eye-watering £85, the Cau Feasting Plate brought us 400g each of the lomito, asado de chorizo and tira de ancho cuts. I’m not sure I understood the implications of ordering well over a kilo of meat between four plus fries, onion rings and salad, but it could have fed all our near relatives too. Our waiter explained that the chefs decide how this meat is cooked and we were happy to go with the recommendation.
When it arrived, it was like a Viking feast, cooked rare and weeping blood and juices – perhaps I won’t invite a vegetarian here after all. The lomito is the fillet of rump considered the finest cut in Buenos Aires, combining the flavour of rump and the tenderness of fillet.
Asado de chorizo was a sirloin steak in a churrasco marinade of smoked paprika, ají molido, garlic and parsley, and as flavoursome as it was tender. Tira de ancho was the real standout dish however. A spiral cut of rib-eye, marinated in chimichurri and grilled slowly for maximum tenderness, it was deliciously charred but still red inside and could have fed us on its own.
Our waiter apologised in advance as he was only three days into the job, but he was efficient, charming and helpful, advising on a good accompanying wine and offering us a doggy bag for our inevitable leftovers – which our poor pooch didn’t get a sniff at.
If the food and service at Cau is this good in its first week, it is a fine addition to the Glasgow scene, chain restaurant or not.
£175 for dinner for four, including drinks
Main courses £9.95-£38.50
ALSO ON THE MENU
The starters can all be ordered as small plates to share and they were tasty enough to sustain a group calling in for a beer or choosing from the extensive cocktail list. As well as steaks, they charcoal grill spatchcocked chicken, salmon and tuna steaks, all of which would be worth a try, as would the range of burgers from £10 to £15. And meat-heavy roasts are on offer between noon and 6pm every Sunday.