The Soton Tab was invited to try a three course meal at Oxford Street restaurant, Cargo. Swayed by the promise of free booze, we agreed.
As soon as we arrived we were impressed by the décor. Cargo’s atmosphere was at once casual and unpretentious, while reminding you not to put your feet on the furniture. The venue is furnished in a lounge style with subtle nods to Southampton’s nautical heritage.
The clientele seemed young and professional, so this might be a venue for a posh birthday dinner or somewhere to take your parents, rather than a meal for a couple of scrubs from the Soton Tab.
Its culture-quarter, Oxford Street location may cater better to Southampton Solent students than Uni of, but if Mum or Dad are driving, it’s very easy to find and get to for anyone familiar with the city centre.
Upon entry we were served by a pleasant waitress, who flattered us tactfully by saying she was a regular reader of the Soton Tab. Flattery will get you everywhere Cargo!
We were sat at a table where service was quick, and our server helpful and polite, despite a couple of unavailable menu items.
Immediately two things stood out from the menu: the (not inconsiderable) price, and the creativity of the dishes. There was a good selection of upper-market beers on offer, as well as wines. We both chose a pint of Asahi.
To start we had the ham hock hash and the duck & orange pate with Brioche.
The ham hock hash was simply presented, but undeniably delicious. We’re sure you can tell we’re seasoned food critics when we describe it as potatoey cheesy bacon goodness, that leaves you wanting more. A perfect appetiser.
The Duck pate with brioche, however, suffered from a clash of not particularly complementary flavours and textures. The brioche was sticky, and very dry, while the maple syrup plums were, if anything, slightly bitter. That said, the generous helping of duck pate was a huge redeeming factor, and made the starter a success on its own.
For the main we ordered the 8oz Rib eye steak and the homemade steak burger with crispy bacon.
The steak was served on a chopping board, which avoids the horrendous screeching noise associated with cutting steak on ceramics, which is not at all what you need when you’re trying to be a serious journalist in a swanky restaurant. Thanks Cargo.
The steak was served with thick chips in a cup and panko (Japanese) breaded mushrooms, which were tasty, unpretentious sides that went well with steak.
The steak itself was thick, tender, and cooked to a perfect rare. Although served with a fantastic chop house butter, I thought it could have done with some heavier seasoning, though steak purists may disagree.
The homemade steak burger with crispy bacon and red Leicester was a fantastic main.
The burger bun was a rustic bread which somehow managed to be both crusty and soft in all the best ways. Topping the bun with a variety of seeds added texture and crunch to the burger, something which is missing in a lot of the greasy salt-fests served in some Portswood burger joints. The steak was moist, and cooked perfectly to a medium rare. It was served with chips in a cup and chutney dip.
Only one of us had pudding due to nuts or egg being present in every one, and Josh’s tendency to go into anaphylactic shock and die if he eats them.
The chocolate fondant was a tasty and familiar dish at the end of the meal, if a little unimaginative. But sometimes that’s a good thing.
Lovely venue, but a bit out of the way for Southampton students. Get Mum or Dad to take you.
A bit pricey for students, with each of the mains costing at least a tenner.
Good food, but the starters are over-complex and as a result it’s lucky dip whether you enjoy (or understand) what you order, or not. The mains are a return to more traditional gastro-pub fare.
Check it out with friends or family for a special event, but probably not suitable (or affordable) for regular meals out.
Have you been to Cargo? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below!