For a long time, having an extensive menu was supposed to be a sign of a great restaurant. Perhaps it showed how versatile you were. Customers liked having the choice of eating just about anything they could ever have wanted. It took a while, but finally we realised that the true sign of class was a much smaller, specialised menu. It hopefully indicated expertise, focus and genuine passion. Restaurants which specialise in a certain type of food are big news, and Cau, which specialises in Argentinian beef, has fitted perfectly into the trend for sustainable, traceable meat.
Cau is in two locations, Guildford and Cambridge. We visited the Cambridge restaurant on a busy and buzzing week night, after this branch had only been open for less than three months; customers keep returning and filling the restaurant even during the week. Cau, pronounced ‘cow’ of course, stands for ‘Carne Argentina Única’, and Cau’s mission is to serve the best tasting, highest quality unique Argentinian beef. From Aberdeen Angus cattle that roam freely and graze on the pampas on 17 varieties of grass, Cau believes it is the best beef customers will ever have tasted. Finest prime cuts are ‘wet aged’, a process that Cau states brings out the subtle flavour of the meat, without losing any of its juiciness.
After starters of fishcakes and sautéed squid, rib-eye steaks cooked to preference were indeed tender and richly flavoured. These were accompanied by triple-cooked chunky chips, which were without a doubt the best chips we had ever tasted. The ‘Causlaw’ was a tasty, crunchy mix containing red cabbage and onion, a cut above standard coleslaw, and spicy chick peas with chorizo were a great Argentinian style accompaniment. Desserts were membrillo tart, billed as ‘Argentina’s answer to a Bakewell tart’, which was a tasty rich pastry containing quince, and a chocolate fondant.
Staff are universally cheerful, friendly and helpful, adding to an atmosphere of vibrancy and conviviality. The décor is highly contemporary without being pretentious. Cau is a restaurant which thrives on being full and busy, rather than finding it a burden. As full at the end of the evening as at the beginning, the combination of repeat business, new diners and consistently good reviews points to a bright future for Cau.
Info: 01223 357000 firstname.lastname@example.org
Within the Royal Albert Hall, the Elgar Room opens for dining two hours before concerts. Stylish, elegant, modern and relaxed, the Elgar Room has an international menu and a vibrant atmosphere. We visited the Elgar Room for dinner before a performance of Carmen.
Service is slick, no doubt prompted by the knowledge that everyone dining needs to get to their seats on time. We enjoyed delicious main courses that successfully combined hearty flavours and colourful ingredients, including sea bream with a bok choy and chilli accompaniment that had a perfect al dente texture to match the soft fish. Desserts, including a chocolate mousse and a rich apple flan, were equally tasty and well-prepared; always a sign of a really good restaurant, when as much care has been taken over puddings as the rest of the menu.
The simple, contemporary décor includes huge portraits on the walls of renowned musicians who have previously performed at the hall. The convivial, busy atmosphere is complemented by the professional, efficient but discreet service, as the staff successfully manage to meet all the needs of diners despite the fact that they are functioning in a room that is not huge, consistently full and that all diners have an inevitable time constraint. It was clear that many of diners were regulars, who make the Elgar Room their restaurant of choice before attending performances in the hall, which is perhaps partly what prompts a menu that changes frequently. Even though all diners are there for ultimately the same reason, it was pleasing to note that even on an opera night, the overall atmosphere felt congenial and unassuming rather than exclusive.
The Elgar Room also hosts many non-auditorium events as part of the ‘More at the Hall’ event series, which includes late night jazz, comedy evenings and classical coffee mornings. Whether attending one of these events or dining before a performance in the hall, the Elgar Room is the perfect choice for excellent food and professionalism.
Info: 0845 4015045 www.royalalberthall.com/visit/food-drink/elgar.aspx