February 2017 marks the sixth anniversary of my eating adventures and, as ever, I'm excited about what the coming months will bring for us foodies! In case this is your first visit (if not, welcome back), I'm a 30-something female with a very healthy appetite!...I promise to share with you my experience of each restaurant, café or bar in which I set foot...so, let's go out!


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Café Rouge – Cabot Circus, Bristol

I love the ooh la la of French food; the in-your-face richness verses the delicate complexities of its fare and the chic appeal that, given its authenticity, can take me back to starry-eyed Parisian visits whereby my love-affair with this genre of cuisine began. Now, I'm not deluded enough to pile these expectations on a chain restaurant that provides a touch of le français for the masses and yet for me, visiting Café Rouge (in this case the branch situated amidst the plethora of eateries within the Cabot Circus composite), almost constitutes a guilty pleasure – perhaps in the same way that you know that X Factor will never be the same without Simon Cowell…but that doesn't stop you tuning in each week 'just to see if it's any good' and let's face it, finding that you enjoy the alternative for what it is regardless..!

Date and Time: Sunday 11th September 2011, 17:45
Name of Establishment: Café Rouge*
Location: Cabot Circus, Upper Ground Floor
Reason for Visit: Avoidance of the Sunday dinner-time roast-up fiasco in addition to a buy-one-get-one-free offer courtesy of 'Voucher Cloud'!*

I think every Café Rouge I’ve ever set foot in has the exact set-up – vibrantly red colour scheme (obviously), token French words scrawled across the paintwork and an old-school Bistro-effect brought about by deep wooden panelling, gold lighting stemmed from the ceiling as well as a multitude of gaudy framed mirrors and pictures tightly arranged side-by-side. Not to mention the soundtrack which ranges from ambient sax to a cheese-fest of characteristically Eurovision ditties! That said, I've never known Café Rouge to be anything other than buzzing with a near-to-full occupancy and the evening of our visit was, in fact, the only exception. Our server mused that the lack of bodies was; 'probably subsequent to half of Bristol flocking to the establishment the previous evening' and although we smiled in agreement, it didn't alter the distinct lack of pizazz that is usually enjoyed as part of the 'Rouge' experience. However, it did mean that The Boy and I could pretty much choose where we sat and opting for an intimate corner booth, comfortably upholstered with cherry-coloured velvet, it proved a rather romantic setting, especially with tea-ilghts flickering from within their small stained-glass containers.
Red Threads!
Dining on a two-for-one basis (as mentioned above) and with an extensive range of typical French favourites to choose from, (Coq au Vin anyone?!), I probably picked a dish which was a little beyond the capabilities of my appetite and yet 'when in Rome'...well France actually...it would have been rude not to indulge in one of their specialities; and so, the Confit de Canard (£13.50) made an entrance. Amply presented, accompaniments consisted of French beans (perfectly crisp) and creamy dauphinoise potatoes topped with Gruyère cheese. I was a little disappointed with the potatoes which, although beautifully textured, proved a little bland in the flavour department. That aside, the meat itself was rich-tasting and succulent with a wonderfully crisped skin which just melted in the mouth – delicious! The finishing touch was a generous dousing of plum sauce which although in my opinion would have been better described as a jus due to its viscosity, had a pleasant twang which both contrasted and complimented other aspects of the dish and added a definite oomph where required! The Boy chose the 8oz Bavette (£12.95); a traditional French cut of steak marinated in rosemary and garlic. Although he assured me this was well-cooked to his medium-rare instruction, I thought it seemed a tad on the chewy side, (that said, I'm not a steak person by any stretch of the imagination so what do I know?!) His dish was served with French Fries, heaped in a appending ceramic bowl and then, in another smaller bowl, a runny yet satisfyingly punchy 'garlic beurre maison' which although was rather well received, was somewhat lacking in volume. Lastly, I have to mention how regimentally organised this plate was, each element segregated into its individual vessel – something which I'm not sure appealed, proving fussy just for the sake of it. We were too full for desserts but I did consider the crème brûlée (£4.95) which, made with vanilla pods and cream, was considered suitably decadent!
8oz Bavette
Confit de Canard












Service was chatty and polite – our waitress in particular proved efficient and commendably un-pushy given the fact that we paid with a voucher and and stuck to tap-water for the duration of our visit! The Boy and I didn't choose to partake in beverages of the alcoholic variety on this occasion as we both had early-starts the following day and besides, neither of us fancied forking out almost £4 for a small glass of vino which, although seemed a little pricey, I guess was moderately in keeping with restaurants of this calibre.

And so, just as anticipated, Café Rouge was fine...fine for eating-out on a budget and fine for avoiding twilight washing-up duties and yet, not providing the wow factor of other independently run and more authentically arranged French restaurants and cafés I've discovered*, (not to mention the eateries I found in Paris itself – high standards as they may be!) Perhaps it just tries too hard to achieve an atmosphere that we Brits will perceive as French culture – I mean the serving staff might as well wear horizontal stripes and a wreath of garlic bulbs around their necks to complete the stereotype! Yet, accept this chain for what it is as well as the notion that subtlety really doesn't work on a National scale and it can indubitably offer an enjoyable, and reasonably-priced night out, (with the lure of an offer that is and with a Prix Fixe menu available 12:00 noon – 5:00pm daily and a Du Soir Set Menu offering two courses for £10.50 after 5:00pm Sunday to Thursday, there are devices in place even if your money-saving 'apps' desert you!) Nevertheless, it's fair to say that overall the most important aspect of this establishment, its cuisine, is of a commendable standard and for that reason we can again settle on summing up Café Rouge as...fine, or as the French would say 'bien'!

And now for the male opinion...
The Boy gave Café Rouge a rating of 7/10 and in three words, described this venue as 'haw-hee-haw'! (Methinks he wasn't taking this seriously!)

*Bistro La Barrique, I will be paying you a visit very soon!!

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