I was glad to see the back of dreadfully poor Italian shit-shoveller Strada a few months back. It was a pointless waste of restaurant space. Taking over the premises is CAU the South American steak restaurant chain from the team behind Gaucho.
I visited initially on a drizzly evening with two thirds of the Strumpets team, Hayley and Ingrida. I spotted Bite magazine’s Sharon sampling things, then had a friendly word or two with one of the CAU staff members who’d asked if I was also in reviewing. Given that this clearly had a bit of a impact on how the evening progressed I resolved that I’d come back for lunch before reaching a firm verdict.
The lunch visit saw me give a couple of their menu staples a try. Aubergine lasagne (but without pasta so essentially melanzane parmigiana) is available on their set lunch (two courses for £10.95) for both starter and main, so looks to be their go-to veggie option.
I’m a big fan of this dish and have reviewed versions of it a lot over the years. It’s rarely a looker, but this one was very nicely prepared with the aubergine smartly cooked. Seasoning was, however, far too timid making it very light on discernible flavour.
I thought I’d give their burger a go for my main course. It had a good soft texture and the bun had solid structural integrity, but flavour was again light. It was reasonable eat but little beyond.
The evening visit had highlighted that the overall quality of their Argentinian beef is somewhat inferior to our excellent locally sourced meat, but this was hardly news. The ribeye and fillet medallions had been fairly inaccurately cooked and quite disappointing. The deep-fried pork belly starter had been a textural mismatch.
Where they were offering something that was much more distinctively South American, as with my yerba beef starter or tapa de cuadril main, things were on a much surer footing. The chips were weak on both visits but the sides pretty strong, with the truffled mac n cheese particularly noteworthy.
So overall, CAU is an upgrade on what went before in this space and has some interesting dishes that are worth trying, but it doesn’t rival our better places for steak in the city. The interior is smart and the weclome warm, so it’s a decent spot for lunch. Make sure to try their specialty dishes as that’s where you are more likely to find rewarding dining experiences. Oh, and if you’re annoyed by the automatic addition of service charge to the bill, prepare to be displeased here.
Blythe scores CAU
3.5/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 14.5/20
Today’s questers were: Hayley, Ingrida, Blythe
We ate: (dinner visit) Yerba smoked beef, tempura pork belly, empanadas, ribeye steak, fillet medallions, tapa de cuadril, mac n cheese, fries, sweet potato, chocolate fondant, pancakes; (lunch visit) aubergine lasagne, CAU burger
We drank: red wine, coffees, water; pilsner, water
We wore: traditional smart questing gear
Total bill: £117.37 (dinner for three); £16.39 (lunch for one)
Address: 15 Castle St, Edinburgh EH2 3AH