CAU: Carne Argentina Unica, Brindley Place, Birmingham City Centre
Three Brindley Place has chucked out the offices on the ground floor and replaced them with restaurants, in a very sensible move to exploit the cafe culture feel of Brindley Place as a whole. This week, a branch of Zizzi’s and this branch of southern chain CAU opened, tucked under the arches on the ground floor. The fountains in the square were closed for repair, the weather was atrocious – rendering the outside seating useless – but the brunch was awesome, and this is an excellent addition to the brunch options in the area.
Inside, the decor is heavily influenced by the idea of meat, in the sense that cows (CAUs) live in fields. Square panels cover the ceiling with grass or clouds print (as you might find in a field), the toilets are plastered with grassy wallpaper, and the bar has large floating cloud sculptures above it. Mirrors and white enameled corrugated panels keep the dark space light, and the seating is comfortable and luxuriously finished.
Today, in its first week of opening, the service was impressively attentive. For the few covers in there at 11am on Saturday morning, there were at least 7 front of house staff on (and at least 5 of them spoke to us in some capacity, seating us, taking our order, helping bring food over, checking everything was okay) and 6 more (that I could count) in the open kitchen.
Tea comes with your choice of milk (semi-skimmed, whole, or soya) in classic white pots. Over 30 brunches in, and yet to find a repeated tea pot. There are so many restaurants and cafes in Birmingham city centre, and every single one has a different tea pot design. The tea pot is thus a useful shorthand for the style and aesthetic of a venue; this one seems to suggest CAU is going for a clean, modern approach, a touch corporate.
Tea isn’t the draw here though: the meat is. And so instead of the full English (which looked pretty sensational when the table next to us ordered), our first dish was steak and eggs. The two elements of the dish were delightful, and ordering sourdough toast on the side was perfect for mopping up the steaky-yolky juice left at the end.
The sweet potato and chorizo hash, with a fried egg on the top, was unbelievably good. I could have eaten this for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It was so flavourful, with perfectly sized pieces, , and again, the sourdough toast was perfect to soak up the juices left in the bottom of the pan.
The only minor quibble might have been that the toast was pretty cold, and so was the butter. But the sharpness of the knives (designed for steak) mitigated the inevitable spreading difficulties a bit, and when the toast was smeared with delicious meaty/chorizoy leftovers, the relative chill wasn’t a problem.
As you would expect given that only about three people can possibly have used them to date, the toilets were immaculate, if slightly oddly decorated with a fierce obsession to the grass theme.They also have those toilet seat/flush placement so that you have to put the lid down to flush. Sparkly light in the individual booths, and a powerful hand-drier complete the set up.
Price: mid to pricey: £6 chorizo hash, £9 steak and eggs, £2 toast
Atmosphere and design: modern, field-themed, mirrors, arty ceiling installations
Food: beautifully cooked and very tasty options; cold toast
Toilets: if you stare at the wallpaper very closely while using the facilities, you can pretend you are outside in a lovely field
Enjoyment: exceptionally attentive service,