I’m born and bred in Quebec, the French part of Canada, so I grew up enjoying many of the French classics. When the crisp autumn air set in, I found myself craving comfort foods the French do so well, such as rich soups and stews. I was delighted to discover that Café Rouge have added some new warming dishes to their Autumn Edition menu to help make our farewell to summer a bit less painful.
I’ve been to Café Rouge before (it’s one of my favourite chains) but never visited the location on Bridge Street in Cambridge. It’s housed in a lovely building with a cosy and charming ambience.
Paulo and I were greeted warmly and shown to a table by the window. The extensive wine list offered a variety of tipples so we decided to pair our meal with some Prosecco. We were drawn to all of the new items on the menu, which included some of our favourite French dishes.
Paulo loves a good French onion soup and the soupe à l’oignon certainly delivered. Made from Café Rouge’s own recipe with Gruyère and giant croutons, I had a taste and loved the sweet, mellow taste of the caramelised onions and rich broth. I could have easily lapped up the whole bowl but the starter wasn’t Paulo’s to share!
Drawn to the menu’s warm and comforting dishes, I initially ordered egg meurette, poached egg in a red wine, bacon and mushroom sauce. However, when our waitress learned that my choice of mains was the boeuf bourguignon, she advised (rightly so) that it was the same sauce and perhaps too much of a good thing for two courses. So I went for Café Rouge’s homemade salmon rillettes, a coarser alternative to pâté.
Packed into a jar, the rillettes were served with chargrilled sourdough bread and pickled fennel that was the perfect foil to the richness of the smoked and cured salmon. It was a bit fiddly to eat as it’s not meant to be easily spreadable but I definitely enjoyed it. I thought I’d need more bread but once I had spread about half of the rillettes on it, I realised it was best to eat the remainder directly from the jar. Two slices of bread definitely would have been too filling for a starter.
Nothing says sophisticated comfort food like boeuf bourguignon, a hearty bowl of slow cooked beef in red wine, smoked bacon and mushrooms. Sprinkled with crispy onions for texture and accompanied by roasted carrots and a generous portion of herb mash, the dish was richly flavoured and thoroughly enjoyed. I would gladly eat this again!
Paulo’s saumon, skin on salmon with buttered spinach, potatoes, croutons, lemon, capers and beurre noisette, was delicious and beautifully presented.
Desserts were a bit of a let down. It’s not that they were terrible but after the excellent starters and mains, we found our desserts uninspiring, especially the rum baba, a light sponge cake soaked in rum sauce. Firstly, the presentation was somewhat lacking. It was baked in a dariole mould, which gave the baba its tall, slightly tapered cylinder shape. Nice to look at but awkward to serve, as it was simply laid on a flat plate with a dollop of rather liquidy crème fraiche and a sad spring of mint. By the time it got to the table, the baba had rolled on the plate, messing up the presentation (as in the photo below).
I believe a little more thought could have gone into making the rum baba more aesthetically pleasing and easier to serve.
My tarte aux pommes warm apple tart was tatin style, served with tarte tatin ice cream, meaning it had some small chunks of what I believe was pie crust. Although the base was very thin, it was a little bit too sturdy so I struggled to cut into it. However, the tart tasted good and the sturdy base meant that there was no sogginess whatsoever.
Overall, we didn’t let the average desserts deter us from enjoying our evening at Café Rouge. There are other tempting desserts on the menu to explore. Our excellent starters and mains were the highlights, complemented by friendly and attentive service. I would certainly recommend Café Rouge to anyone looking for a good experience at a chain restaurant.
I was invited by Café Rouge to sample the new autumn menu. Although the food and drinks were complimentary, all views are my own. I did not receive compensation for my review.
Unless otherwise noted, I am the legal copyright holder of the content and images on this blog. Please contact me for permission if you wish to use, reprint or publish any material.