France is famous for its food for pretty good reason. The flavours are iconic, the standards consistently high, and the execution flawless. That’s why a little taste of the French way of cooking – in the form of Cafe Rouge – has done so well across British High Streets in recent years.
That’s why we decided to venture out to try some of the latest Cafe Rouge menu, indulging in a couple of the dinner dishes to see what all the French-flavoured fuss is about.
Sadly, the central Bristol location – Cabot Circus – has now closed down, and the Cribbs Causeway restaurant is the only one left for us Bristol natives; but that doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy our time tucking into some of the classic options from the Cafe Rouge dinner menu!
Cafe Rouge Review – Starters
Given that we had a good amount of time to pick and choose (and enjoy) whatever dishes we liked, we decided to try a couple of the starters and nibbles before we indulged in the mains. A couple of things were all too tempting – how can you resist the lure of sausage bon-bons – and we were all curious to give snails a try too.
And then, well, how can anybody possibly ignore a camembert sharing platter?
Plateau au Fromage – £12
It’s very hard to go wrong when you bake a good quality cheese and encourage people to dip into it, and this was done very well. The chutney and rosemary flavours only came through later into the dish, which allowed you to go all-out-cheese for the first few mouthfuls.
The variety of olives were really nice, and the grapes, apple, celery and selection of breads were a great accompaniment.
… we obviously cleaned up the whole thing.
Escargots – £6
In this dish, the snails played second fiddle to their surroundings – which is a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
The lardons, butter and lemon-tinged crumble would have made anything delicious – as they did with the bread and cheese from above, and the sausage bon-bons below – and with one snail per pot (we had three pots between us) you definitely came to appreciate the crumble more than the snails.
Though, that said, maybe I just don’t like snails. The jury is still out.
Saucisson Bon-Bons – £3.50
I can’t lie – between us, we were expecting the most pretty of sausage fair, likely along the lines of cooked cocktail sausages. We did ourselves a disservice and the dish no justice.
Combined with the bread, cheese and assorted-dipping-elements of the above dishes, these tiny balls of charcuterie-esque sausage added a really nice, deli flavour. They were the perfect consistency – chewy, similar to chorizo – but carried a flavour that suited their size. Really delicious.
Cafe Rouge Review – Mains
This is what I personally was looking forward to most, having seen pictures of the bouillabasse draped all over the Cafe Rouge website (and who isn’t a fan of a burger?).
We also indulged in a Cromesquis – a tricky to pronounce salmon and haddock fishcake – and the utterly, tremendously French Confit de Carnard avec orange (slow cooked duck leg with an orange sauce – literally duck a l’orange).
It definitely helped us get over our brief disappointment at the lack of a sharing steak on the menu – rump steak is always going to be popular enough to sell out, after all…
Bouillabaisse – £14
When you’re presented with perfectly cooked fish and a smooth, rich and tasty broth, there’s hardly any complaint you could make.
A healthy mix of squid, prawns and sea bream was laced with mussels to create a classic mix of seafood, with the broth soaking up all that flavour and combining well with the tomato and saffron.
The bread mixed with the rouille – a pseudo-sauce of olive oil, garlic and saffron – and Gruyere cheese made for ideal dipping, which was of course a necessity when you have a broth like this in front of you.
Cromesquis – £11.50
This approached as a very French fish and chips – thin cut frites and tartare sauce are always a winner, and a crispy outside soft and flaky inside made for a really tasty fishcake.
The whole dish was also well sized too, which can be tricky when you aren’t putting lots of elements on one plate.
Rouge Burger – £11.50 (extras are £1)
Somebody always gets the burger – and for damn good reason. Burgers are wonderful. I’d have got the burger if I wasn’t tempted away by the wafting aromas and seductive imagery of the bouillabaisse.
Brioche buns are perpetually underrated and are a must-have for a modern burger, and Cafe Rouge did this very well. Of course, the charolais beef made for a lovely burger too, and, as always, we can’t recommend bacon enough to round off the perfect burger.
Extra props to Cafe Rouge for consistently offering egg as a ‘topping’ for a burger – something I’m very much on board with – alongside adding camembert as the cheese of choice.
You know things are going well when you’d happily pick every topping to go on top of your burger…
Confit de Canard – £14.50
And, naturally, save the most French dish until last.
It’s good to see what many would see as bold flavours for a High Street restaurant – orange and cherry – making an appearance on a menu, regardless of whether they’re French staples or not.
It made for a strong centre to this dish, bringing everything together and adding some moisture to the duck and dauphinoise.
The dauphinoise also had that necessary and unmistakable crispness to the external too – an important element that would have drawn many-a-scowl from those eating.
Cafe Rouge Review – Desserts
The French are also famous for desserts too right?
Yeah okay, it’s not like we needed an excuse. Naturally, we decided to indulge ourselves, and chose to try the Lemon Tart, the Chocolate Fondant and the Tarte Tatin.
Tarte au Citron – £5.50
A classic lemon tart, prepared lovingly with creme fraiche. The base was thin and appropriately crisp, with the lemon zesty with a bit of bite.
… what more can you say than that?
Fondant Aux Chocolats – £6
Not to sound *too* ridiculously Masterchef, but we definitely all stopped and paused for the first spoon-slice into the fondant to wait for the runny chocolate.
Thankfully, we discerning judges weren’t disappointed, as warm chocolate sauce leaked out of a still moist cake. The raspberry fondant ice cream was a really nice accompaniment, and helped step this dish up a little bit – both in terms of the originality and in the flavour.
Tarte Tatin – £6
The vanilla ice cream was really good – a simple, classic ice cream done well is underrated.
Of course, the apple tart was also tasty too, and was well layered with the right amounts of apple and pastry. The hazelnut crunch was more in flavour than in texture – the whole dish could have done with a little bit more bite – but it wasn’t a disappointment when everything came together so well.
Parfait – £6
Salted caramel is the definition of salty flavours enhancing sweet desserts, and with this it was lovely.
The caramel cream parfait was well balanced texture-wise with the malted pecan crumb – think shades of Malteasers, but tastier – and more fresh raspberry flavour helped clean things up with a bit of juice and a touch of the sour.
To summarise, Cafe Rouge has brought quite a nice collection of French staples to its menu consistently, and the dishes we tried were no exception.
Although a little more on the costly side for a quick evening meal, the wide range of deals, the prix fixe menu and the plats rapide offer up quite a selection that can let you dine on something delicious for a little bit less.
Of course, you can always keep up to date with vouchercloud’s selection of Cafe Rouge offers to help make a saving too.