Well it was with some excitement I had a booking in the newly opened restaurant CAU in central Tunbridge Wells. I had known the property for quite a few years and had been instrumental in possibly it’s first incarnation as an eatery when it was a travel agents & restaurant as “Travel 101″ before then becoming a Burger King. Then hence a variety of eating and drinking establishments.
I think now as CAU there has obviously been some “Blue Sky” thinking and the makeover of the premises has undergone is major – Blue Sky with clouds murals on the walls and modern cloud shaped lamps over the bar counter along with some pretty funky contemporary decor and lighting. Black tables with black and white leather swivel chairs all add to the funky and modernistic decor.
The open plan kitchen provides a sense of theatre but at times a bit of a “blue fug” as opposed to “Blue Sky” appeared as the grilling caused the room to smoke up!
So how was my visit… well having booked a table (very easy and efficient on line with Top Table) we arrived possibly about ten minutes late to find our allotted table was by the entrance door. Not particularly conducive or welcomed – they however changed it quickly to a table in the centre of the room with a good view of the kitchen.
Down to the menu and our choices… Our waiter explained the concept of the Argentinean inspired food with small tapas style starters and then a range of steak dishes as mains. (there are other dishes such as Chicken and Fish for the non carnivores) We remarked the weight sizes for the steaks seemed huge – the Lomito cut at a whopping 440g and the Asado de Chorizo at 500g and inquired were they designed to be for two people? He remarked normally one person would order and consume! Tunbridge Wells obviously has gargantuan appetites!
We kicked off with a selection of small plates to share… The Belly of Pork Tempura, Empanadas – we chose the spicy ground beef & onion and the Spanish Chorizo & Cream Cheese. Then finally Anticuchos Skewer of Marinated Chicken with Guacamole. Presentation was simple and stylish the tempura was a generous portion of five hunks of tender pork in a crisp batter. The BBQ style CAUchup with it was much needed as we both felt the pork lacked something in terms of flavour. The Empanadas were well made and we preferred the beef one as it packed more of a flavour punch and whilst the chicken skewer was also well executed it was just a touch under seasoned.
Our main course choices were the same with the Tapa de Cuadril – a top rump steak cut into thin steaks just flash grilled. We chose triple cooked chunky chips and a house special of “Causlaw” plus a small side salad to share as the additions. There was also some assorted sauces to choose from as well but with an additional charge. In fact the whole menu might seem initially quite good value but it is all the add-ons that could quite easily bump up the cost per person.
The steak we consumed was OK, not outstanding or that memorable. The seasoning was a little light and whilst the steak was cut thin it was for me very slightly overcooked and some pieces were even tough to eat. Triple cooked chips were OK – again not memorable – the highlight for me was the Causlaw that was made from finely shredded red cabbage.
Overall I have to say it was not a meal that excited us in every way, service was friendly and attentive, check backs were regular and possibly too many requests as to everything all OK. The room is noisy with loud music when quiet and when full of diners the conversation noise drowns out the music.
I however will be going back as it would be unfair to judge totally from this sole visit and when you compare it to their competitor down the road from them in the form of “Côte” this place will be a welcome addition to the town and fulfils a need.
The Argentinean theme is interesting and different but I am not sure whether importing the “Ice Creams” from this said country will go down well with the “food miles conscious” residents of Tunbridge Wells when they have a local supplier of quality ice creams on their door step that could make to their specification.
I will certainly go back “en famille” next time, but for me the jury is still out a bit and whilst I have read good reviews from others I will reserve my final judgement.
It is welcoming to see something else open in the town and I am sure it will flourish especially when you see how busy it was on the night we were there.