There’s something about French-inspired menus that makes me feel kinda warm and autumnal inside. Unbundling from jackets and scarves, sitting at a big window and tucking in to some tasty, warming food while watching the world go by has a distinctively European feel for me. I don’t know if this is an everyone thing or just a me thing, but either way, it rocks.
I haven’t actually been to Cafe Rouge since about three years ago – so I was pretty cheerful about being invited down to check out the new Autumn/Winter menu. We bundled up in out autumn coats, and headed to the St. Paul’s branch to get a taste of their latest offerings.
(Confession time: I don’t actually have my own images from the evening, because my camera was being stupid so I’ve had to use photos from Cafe Rouge. Sorry, sorry, sorry – they’re really good photos though!)
For a start, it’s a pretty darn good location. Through those aforementioned big windows, if you sit on the right side of the window table you get a night-time view of the cathedral to look at. Well, if it’s night time when you’re there, at least. If you go for lunch, you’ll quite obviously be getting a daytime view. Very obviously.
To start, I had a new dish, the French Onion Soup. Honestly, I don’t normally go for soup as a starter. I have no idea why. Probably because whenever I eat soup at home, it’s all that Tesco Value tomato business. But Cafe Rouge’s French Onion soup was impossible not to love – such a warming, autumn-friendly dish. I could happily eat a bowlful of this stuff every day. Yum. I also got a taste of another new addition, a Tarte flambée – flatbead served with cream cheese, onion and bacon. Another winner there – also, it tasted extra amazing dipped in the soup…!
For our mains, we both went for steak. Because YES STEAK. I chose the sirloin, with a house salad instead of chips cause I’m trying to be good on Slimming World right now. (It worked out, as I managed to lose 5lbs in a week. Score.) Conor had the rib-eye with bearnaise sauce and chips – and between us, we ordered some green beans and spinach to make our table look like a picture of health. Apart from the chips, anyway.
I’d asked for my steak medium-rare, but definitely felt it was closer to medium-well done. It still tasted good and was juicy and well-seasoned, but I’d definitely have preferred it slightly less ‘done’. However, I really enjoyed the salad (yes, this is a thing I do now. ENJOY salads. Adulthood, hi there), and the vinaigrette dressing it came with was actually brilliant. The green beans were fresh and well cooked, and a great addition to my already veg-heavy plate – although I wasn’t the biggest fan of the spinach if I’m honest.
Finally – dessert. I chose the sorbet, with one scoop of the strawberry and black pepper, and another of the lemon. I exchanged a couple of spoons of sorbet for a taste of Conor’s Fondant Au Chocolates – a big, gooey chocolate fondant with a delicious melting middle, sprinkled with freeze-dried strawberry pieces. As much as I was quite jealous of the chocolate all over his plate, I did really enjoy the sorbets too – they were lovely and refreshing, not too heavy and well-flavoured. The black pepper gave the strawberry a bit of extra kick, and brought out the fruity taste even more.
A bit of a disagreement actually broke out at the table over the sorbet – I preferred the strawberry, while Conor preferred the lemon. Both are pretty awesome though. There’s also a chocolate and lime sorbet that I was so intrigued by, which they’d unfortunately run out of. Sadface (but not really, as the strawberry was still delicious!)
When it came to the starters and dessert, Cafe Rouge have this food thing down. Really good ideas, simple food made great, I’d definitely head back for more soup’n’sorbet. However, after having been to a couple of awesome specialist steak restaurants recently, I feel like the main course was a let down and in hindsight, I’d have chosen something else. But the atmosphere and venue were great, our waitress was lovely and service was speedy. I’d still go to Cafe Rouge again, for sure (and ask if they could possibly serve me a VAT of that amazing soup, please).
*We were guests at Cafe Rouge for dinner. Opinions my own, photos courtesy of the lifesaving Cafe Rouge PR team.