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!

The Royal Well Tavern

I was recently out in Cheltenham with David Sugden recently looking for somewhere to eat, earlier in the week we had eaten at Brasserie Blanc, this time after a slightly disappointing meal, I knew I had to take him somewhere better. David is a chef and likes his food, so it couldn’t be somewhere rubbish. Like me he’s not a great fan of chains and system cooking, so the challenge was on.

The thing is I don’t know Cheltenham that well, I do work there, but don’t live anywhere close, so personal experience was lacking. I did ask on Twitter and was recommended Bistrot Coco. Now this looked nice, as did the menu, but the recommendation was on the fact the place was new and not from experience.

I then used this internet thing to do some searching and one place kept popping to the top of my results, The Royal Well Tavern. There were a fair few reviews of the place and all very positive.

The Royal Well Tavern is a renewal of the classic British Tavern Offering refined, contemporary British food, warm hospitality and unparalleled service in an informal and timeless environment. The open plan kitchen is headed by Andy Martin. His food is modern British, combining classic French Bistro fare with fantastic British produce.

We offer a daily changing menu which delivers a variety of fresh seafood and locally sourced meat dependant on the seasons and the catch of the day. The menu offers a good choice of options whether you are shopping for the day or require a serious business lunch, food suited to your appetite or the occasion.

So after consulting with David we went there. As we got there early, it was quite empty, so no problems with getting a table. By the time we left it was packed out, so you probably want to book to ensure you get a table.

Now David has already blogged about this meal and you can read that here. There is an ever changing menu, though many things do appear on a regular basis. One of the things I do like about the menu is that it doesn’t split things up into starters and mains, so if you aren’t that hungry you could have a starter followed by another starter as your main course. Or have a few starters as a meal.

I knew that I was going to enjoy the meal when the bread arrived, it was freshly baked and still warm. Combined with lovely unsalted butter it was a delight and the perfect start.

Contrary to what I normally have and David thought I was going to have, I didn’t have the squid and went for the sautéed lambs kidneys, peas and pancetta.

This was really nice. I wasn’t expecting the kidneys to be still pink, probably when I have cooked them in the past then I have overcooked them, but they were very tasty. The peas and pancetta complemented the dish which I am guessing was finished off with red wine.

David had the smoked haddock, clam and mussel chowder which looked fantastic and so full of fish that it looked less like a soup and more like a stew, which a good chowder should look like.

We also shared a portion of pork rillettes, mustard and toast.

Alas this was the only disappointment of the evening. The toast which had been chargrilled unfortunately overpowered the dish. The mustard was very nice, but again a very strong flavour. The onion marmalade, again very nice, but once more a strong flavour. The pork rillettes alas lacked any real flavour.

For my main course I went with the “before 7pm” special and had the 8oz shorthorn beef burger, pickle and fries.

This looked great, but personally I am not a fan of the current fashion of serving food on bread boards… can’t I just have a plate!

So what about the food? The burger was excellent, well seasoned, beautiful flavour and great texture. It was served pink as the chef wanted and though in most other places I would object, as I could see these were been freshly made, I decided I would. The fries were crisp and the accompaniments were well presented. Not a fan of the actual burger bun which was made in the traditional American way and was a bit too sweet for my liking. But the rest of the dish made up for that.

Overall I was very impressed with the meal, much nicer and better than the previous mea l at Brassiere Blanc. I certainly would go again and even thinking about whether I can get there for lunch now and again.

Recommended!