Time for a toastie…

Looking for a reasonably quick lunch, I decided to venture to Cafe Rouge at Cribbs Causeway. Parts of this venue are quite nice, those tables hidden away in the inside, the tables out towards the entrance are less cosy and it feels more like a service station or typical food court than a French bistro.

My phone contract often provides me with special offers, one of which time was with Cafe Rouge where I could have any burger or croque sandwich for just £5.

I did think initially to have a burger, but decided to have a croque toasted sandwich.

I went with the classic grilled Emmental cheese sandwich on sourdough with béchamel sauce, served with frites. The filling I chose was Portobello mushroom with baby spinach, goat’s cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil.

I went with the classic grilled Emmental cheese sandwich on sourdough with béchamel sauce, served with frites. The filling I chose was Portobello mushroom with baby spinach, goat's cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil.

I did think the béchamel sauce was overdone. I was expecting a bit more crunch to the bread, but overall there were some nice flavours.

The fries were a little overdone for my liking and a little bit too much salt.

Service was friendly and welcoming. Maybe a little too attentive, for example, I had literally just taken my first bite when I was asked how was my meal!

Overall it was a nice quick lunch, quite tasty, not perfect, but good value for money.

Temps pour un steak baguette s’il vous plaît

In the past I have had some poor eating experiences at Café Rouge so have generally avoided their branches when looking for somewhere for lunch. Either the food wasn’t as good as I was expecting, or more usually poor and late service. However I still like the concept of a French bistro and the menu often is quite enticing.

I had arrived early in Cheltenham for a meeting and wanted somewhere I could get some lunch I hadn’t even considered Café Rouge. I had a look round, and not wanting something too heavy or too expensive I wasn’t sure what to have. I then saw Café Rouge and recalled seeing a special offer with my Three Wuntu app.If you have a mobile phone contract with Three then you often can get special deals and offers. The Wuntu offer was for a baguette, burger or croque for just five pounds. Well that fitted the bill, so in I went, though I was a little cautious. There was a warm and friendly welcome and I was able to choose where to sit from a few options offered to me, which was nice. Alas for some reason I was unable to get a decent 4G signal at my table so was unable to do the work I had intended to do over lunch. Not sure why, probably the construction of the building. Glad I managed to sort out the special offer on my phone before I went in. This branch of Café Rouge looked similar to their other branches, they have tried to give the place a French feel and look. It works for me.

I perused the menu and in the end decided to go with the Steak Baguette. I didn’t really fancy a burger or croque so I went with the steak baguette. The steak baguette was filled with sliced Black Angus rump steak with red onion chutney, watercress and Dijon mayonnaise and served with my choice of fries or salad. I went with the fries.

sliced Black Angus rump steak with red onion chutney, watercress and Dijon mayonnaise and served with fries

It arrived on a narrow wooden platter with a bowl of fries. I wasn’t too sure about how I was going to eat this, as it felt like it might be a bit messy to eat. I should have asked for a plate!

The steak was cooked as requested and was quite flavoursome and tasty. I think it could have been sliced more thinly in order to make it easier to eat. The watercress and Dijon mayonnaise worked well with the steak, but I did feel the red onion chutney was a bit of a miss and I think it could have been left off entirely. The baguette was fresh, with a crispy crumb and fluffy inside. The fries were crispy and hot and were a nice accompaniment.

The only complaint I had wasn’t about the restaurant, but was about the deal, the steak baguette incurred a £2 supplement, which wasn’t clear in the offer terms and conditions. Also the steak baguette was cheaper than the burgers, so still not sure why it had the supplement. So it was £7 not a fiver, but that was still quite a good deal. It was nice to sit down and eat, rather than grab a sandwich on the go.

You never know I might go again!

Despite the service, the salad was quite nice…

Despite the time it took to arrive (see my previous blot post), I did enjoy the salad I had recently at Café Rouge.

Paysanne Salad

The Paysanne Salad (£11.25) consists of grilled chicken with egg, bacon, avocado, tomato, French beans, and Parmesan, lemon & garlic dressing

I did feel the accompanying Dressing was a little sharp and I didn’t use very much of it. I am not sure I recall it even tasting of lemon. I think if I was going to cook it myself, I would use lardons instead of a sliced slice of bacon. This would have been much nicer.

I also thought it was a little pricey for what I had, I’ve certainly had better salads at Café Rouge for a lot less money. Though I am reminded that due to the poor service I didn’t actually pay for it!

Overall though I did enjoy the salad, it was fresh and tasty.

Well that’s ironic…

You may recall an earlier blog post about poor service at a branch of Bella Italia that I experienced. I did fill in the web feedback form, and Tragus the company that owns Bella Italia did respond with a really nice letter and some vouchers for use at any of the restaurants that Tragus own.

We had already decided that we wouldn’t go back to Bella Italia and so on a recent shopping trip to Cribbs Causeway we chose Café Rouge.

We arrived before 1pm and the place was very busy, but there were still some free tables. Cafe Rouge is one of the many eating places available in the food area at Cribbs. When Cribbs opened it was full of fast food places with lots of tables. A few years ago, the food area was redeveloped and fast food establishments, well not replaced, were supplemented with a range of restaurants including Carluccio’s, Cafe Rouge and others. This made it a much more attractive environment for eating out than before. Having said that remember it is a shopping mall, and so not quite a real alternative to a “normal” restaurant.

We were greeted well and shown to a table. We sat down and waited a short while before some menus were dropped off on our table. They were literally dropped on the table and before we could even say thank you and possibly order some drinks the waiter disappeared into the throng of the other tables. We were a little surprised, a little put out, but well they were busy… We didn’t worry so much, he would be back in a couple of minutes.

Ten minutes later we needed to get up and find a waiter. Despite trying to catch the attention of the waiting staff, we had to go and find one to take our order.

Now our order wasn’t too complicated, two dishes, one was the Paysanne Salad, the other was the Goat’s Cheese Salad. So we didn’t expect any problems.

We did feel we had been waiting for a while, and after twenty minutes, we noticed that the next door table had not only ordered well after we had, but now had their food, we got up again to ask where are food was.

After another ten minutes, I was getting quite annoyed, so for the third time we got up and asked to speak to the manager. Now she did listen, immediately offered us our meal for free, which we accepted. Within a couple of minutes our food arrived.

I do find it ironic that having received vouchers as compensation for poor service that when using them at a different restaurant expecting good service, it was actually worse! At least we didn’t need to use the vouchers.

Very nice indeed…

I have a kind of love hate relationship with Café Rouge. I really like the concept behind Café Rouge and like the menu, but then I am let down either by poor service or over seasoning.

However on my latest visit with the family, we had excellent service, great food and it was all, very nice indeed…

It was, how it should be, how I expect it to be, and what I want when I go out and pay for lunch.

My son, avoiding the children’s menu, he went for the Tartine Marocaine, an open sandwich of sautéed spicy Merguez sausages & caramelised onions with houmous and crisp chicory on grilled sourdough bread served with a minted crème fraîche.

Tartine Marocaine

I am a great fan of Merguez sausages and these, though slightly overdone for me, were very nice, and my son really enjoyed the dish. I was quite surprised how much he enjoyed the onions, the crisp chicory (which is quite bitter) and the salad. He wasn’t that impressed with the minted crème fraîche, but once he worked out that it helped cool the spiciness of the Merguez sausage he understood how it fitted into the dish. I have had this dish myself before and enjoyed it back then.

My wife went with the Salade de Chèvre, grilled goat’s cheese croutons on a bed of marinated red peppers, black olives and herb salad with a light vinaigrette.

Salade de Chèvre

She let me try the salad and I liked the freshness of the salad leaves with the marinated red peppers and black olives. The goat’s cheese had a subtle flavour, but was nice.

I went with the Tartine au Maquereau, an open sandwich of pan-fried mackerel fillets, baby plum tomatoes, horseradish mayonnaise and rocket on grilled sourdough bread.

Tartine au Maquereau

I really enjoyed this dish, the mackerel was cooked really well and the tomatoes, rocket and horseradish mayonnaise complemented the fish. The dish was full of flavour and was delicious.

My two younger ones had meals from the children’s menu, they enjoyed their food, but the fries came with salt on them… personally I think they should come without salt, especially on the children’s dishes.

So what about the service? Despite the fact it was a busy Sunday, we got a table as soon as we walked in, and the waitress was friendly and efficient. The food came within a reasonable time frame and we weren’t rushed or anything. As a result it was a very relaxing and enjoyable meal out.

Very nice indeed…

Merguez and Baguette Rouge at Café Rouge

Needing a quick lunch in Bristol, I popped into Café Rouge.

LunchI have always preferred having a starter over a desert so I went with one of their Petits Plats, Merguez, spicy beef & lamb sausage with harissa mayonnaise.

I was a little surprised as I was expecting to get a whole sausage, not a sliced one. However I guess it was presented in this way, as the Petits Plats are designed to be shared.

I felt however that as the sausage was cooked (or possibly re-heated) sliced it lost a lot of what makes a decent merguez sausage. I’ve certainly had better at Café Rouge was a little disappointed. It should be noted that the flavour was good, but the cooking process and presentation let the dish down.

LunchFor my main course I went with the chargrilled rump steak baguette with Dijon mustard & oregano mayonnaise, French fries and a salad garnish.

I asked for the steak to be rare, and it was delivered medium! Apart from that the steak was okay, there was no depth of flavour, but I kind of expect that, this isn’t a steak house, it’s a chain! I think I would have preferred the Bavette I have had before.

The fries were crisp and were not overseasoned which is normally my experience, and the salad was fresh.

Overall I enjoyed my lunch and the service was excellent, which made for a nice change and I hope is the norm rather than the exception.

Tartine Marocaine

On a recent lunch at Café Rouge I decided for my main that I would go for the Tartine Marocaine, an open sandwich of sautéed spicy merguez sausages & caramelised onions with houmous and crisp chicory on grilled sourdough bread served with a minted crème fraîche.

Those of you who have read my other blog posts on Café Rouge will know that one of the things I like about the place is that they have the merguez sausage.

This is a different dish to the times I have had it before. The sausage was great as were the onions. I was less enamoured with the chicory, but it was fresh and crisp. The bread was slightly on the thin side, but with the houmous worked well.

I did enjoy the dish and it worked well.

Assiette de Porc

On a recent lunch at Café Rouge I decided for my starter to have the Assiette de Porc, slices of saucisson and cured pork loin with French bread. It’s one of their Petits Plats dishes which are £3 each (or four for £10).

According to the website it should look like this.

This is what I got.

Though the French bread the the cured pork loin were good, I was less impressed with the saucisson. According to the picture it should have been slices of a proper saucisson. What I got was mini saucisson sausages that had been sliced in half. I guess you could call them slices of saucisson, but wasn’t quite what I was expecting. They also didn’t taste that good, felt like they had been cut some time ago and as a result had oxidised. I expect it was prepared either earlier that day, or even the day before and stored in the fridge.

I also had to ask for butter for the bread! That should have really come with the dish.

I did like the dish though.

They’re back…

It would appear looking at the new menus from Café Rouge that started this April, their merguez sausage is back!

I lamented a few months back that

What I did notice was that the merguez sausage was no longer on the menu, which is a personal favourite.

Well it’s back!

In Café Rouge’s new Petits Plats assortment, one of the choices is

Merguez – spicy beef & lamb sausage with harissa mayonnaise

These Petits Plats look and sound a lot like Tapas.

You can also have them in a sandwich.

Tartine Marocaine £7.95
Open sandwich of sautéed spicy Merguez sausages & caramelised onions with houmous and crisp chicory on grilled sourdough bread served with a minted crème fraîche

I do like the Merguez sausage and therefore I may, just may go and try them again.

So you went again…

As my last experience wasn’t too bad, when I needed to get a meal recently I did try Café Rouge one more time.

After my last meal, back then I said:

So despite my reservations I in the end had a good meal, good service and may go again.

One of my main issue (and it would appear I am not alone in this) with Café Rouge is not necessarily with the food, but with the service.

I have had issues with the food so still not entirely confident with the chain.

However there is something I really like about the concept behind Café Rouge, the idea of a French bistro is very appealing and the menu always sounds nice.

So having had a reasonably positive experience last time I felt quite positive about this visit. I did go safe though and I went with the steak I had last time, the Bavette. I did as the menu recommended ordered the steak rare. The Bavette is a flank steak so if cooked medium or well done it will be a tougher than say a sirloin cooked to medium.

So what of the result?

Well it was very nice and the fries were good too. I don’t think it was as good as before, but was still tasty and full of flavour.

Alongside I had a side salad, that was much more than just lettuce. In there was red onion, olives and green beans.

To wash it down, I had a glass of Cotes du Rhone, full bodied and full of fruity flavours.

So what of the service?

Well I think I was lucky in that I went in quite late and the place was quite empty, only three tables with diners. They were also at the end of their meals, whereas mine had just begun. So the waiting staff were basically waiting on me!

Overall, not a too bad an experience, good food and good service; in other words what it should be every time I go to Café Rouge and should be the rule not the exception.