Cau, Cambridge

I’ve been eating out quite a bit lately, it seems. The latest place on this list is the new(ish)ly opened Cau on Bene’t Street. This being Cambridge, yes, it’s a chain. But it is at least a small one.

If their shtick weren’t obvious from the name, the grass and sky motif hits it home. This is all about the beef. Their specialty is large sharing steaks in exciting sauces, culminating in an 18oz rib-eye, marinated in chimichurri sauce and slow-grilled.

Rib-eye steak at Cau
A standard rib-eye with chunky fries

Sadly, none of us felt up to tackling one of those, so this review doesn’t really get to the soul of the place. This is doubly sad, because the rest was enjoyable if unremarkable, and I’m worried I’m not doing it justice. I’ll need to recruit some heavy-duty carnivores and return in force.

So what did we have? There were three of us for lunch, which broke down into two smoked beef carpaccio starters, one of fishcakes, and mains of steak, sausages, and a beef burger  It was all fine, except the carpaccio, which was excellent.

The steak was beautifully tender – served rare, seared on the outside, with a workmanlike pepper sauce. Appropriately, the meat was the star. A rib-eye is reliably tender and juicy, and this was no let down. Cau’s beef is Argentine and makes fairly lofty claims for quality. I’d say it broadly lives up to those claims – the steak was indeed juicy and flavourful. The chips were pretty good too.

Yerba-smoked beef carpaccio, CauThe most exciting thing was the yerba-smoked beef.

Yerba-mate is a South American infusion/tea alternative, so I should probably have been a little less surprised at the delicacy of the smoke flavour. It was there, and it was gentle. Like the steak that followed, this was meltingly tender. Thin slices were dressed with a little soy and spiced oil, a few peppercorns. The spicing here was a background emphasis, a kick in the umami for sure, but not a full assault. It let the meat do the work. The light pepperiness of the leaves worked with the faint smoke and pepper notes, although the parmesan shavings were probably superfluous. Basically, this was a delicious, quietly-quirky beef carpaccio.

Cau Cambridge - interior

And that’s my beef with cau (apologies). It’s fine, a little unusual, but only a little. I guess I’m just not sure what niche it fills. Having not tried the specials, I don’t really see much on the menu that isn’t done well elsewhere. So you’re basically there for the location and the ambience. Both are good – I loved the decor. But the best steak in town is still getting your own slab of beef from the genuinely fantastic Northrup’s, I’d go to Byron for a burger, good sausages are easy to come by (although these were splendid), and the rest of the menu is pretty standard.

Cau is another perfectly good place to have dinner. That’s nice – Cambridge needs those. It’ll please you, but it won’t blow you away.

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