Spring is in the air and with that comes an appetite for seasonal flavours. Café Rouge’s Executive Chef Bruno Balle, inspired by his recent travels across France, created a new Spring Menu featuring à la carte dishes and a set menu sourced from the best ingredients and suppliers. Having enjoyed Café Rouge’s excellent Autumn Menu last year (I wrote about it here), Paulo and I were delighted to return to the Cambridge location to sample the new menu.
I’ve been to other Café Rouge restaurants but I love the Cambridge location. It sits among Bridge Street’s historic buildings and even has a bicycle themed entrance to their secret garden.
The inside is quite charming and cosy with a pleasant and relaxing ambience. In fact, if you book after 7:30pm, you can enjoy your table for the rest of the evening, embracing the French way of life of taking your time and savouring the dining experience.
We were warmly welcomed by our waitress Kinga who remembered us from a past visit. We ordered a bottle of the house white, a dry and fruity Comte Alexandre Vin de France.
We found Café Rouge’s new Spring Set Menu to be reasonably priced, featuring a variety of classic French dishes. Paulo and I ensured we didn’t order the same items so we could sample as much as possible. Quels gourmands!
Paulo chose terrine de jambon as his starter. The ham hock, pea & mustard terrine was served with shallot & raisin chutney, baby watercress and chargrilled rye & caraway bread. He loved the terrine but thought the chutney was a bit bland. However, this didn’t affect his overall enjoyment of the dish.
I went for the mackerel rillettes, a rustic homemade pâté of sustainably sourced smoked mackerel, crème fraiche and horseradish packed into a glass preserving jar. It was spread onto a few slices of chargrilled rye & caraway bread, the same as in Paulo’s starter. We both thought the bread was excellent and it was served still warm from being chargrilled. The dill pickled cucumber on the side added a pleasant tang to the creaminess of the rillettes.
For his main course, Paulo ordered the 5oz ‘minute’ rump: called ‘minute’ because the rump steak is thinly sliced and cooks very quickly. It’s a flavourful cut of meat that has little marbling and no fatty muscle. The menu specified that it was British beef. There was a choice of frites or house salad and Paulo went with the whole steak-frites thing. The Portuguese in Paulo thought the accompanying garlic butter wasn’t garlicky enough. I tasted it and thought it was heavy on the garlic so it just goes to show how different people’s tastes are!
I ordered porc à la viennoise, a panéed (meaning breaded and fried) pork fillet served with beurre noisette, thyme jus and capers. The fillet was topped with a free-range fried egg and accompanied by a basket of seasoned frites. I enjoyed the dish but I could have done with a bit more of the delicious beurre noisette, the classic French “brown butter” sauce. It’s basically butter cooked until it turns a nut-brown colour then mixed with lemon juice, salt and pepper. All of the high quality ingredients in the dish went really well together.
The Spring Set Menu could be limited to 2 courses but the desserts were too tempting to pass up. In my last blog post, I mentioned that the desserts we chose were average but not this time! The generous portion of lemon posset, with its sweet and sharp citrus flavour, was luscious and silky smooth. It was topped with fresh strawberries and a delectable almond tuile that elicited an enthusiastic “yum” from Paulo.
My torte au chocolat, a heavenly slice of French chocolate torte, was dense and semi-sweet. The vanilla crème fraiche was a delicious accompaniment.
The Spring Menu also features some new à la carte dishes, such as tuna niçoise, lamb cassoulet and tagine so there are a lot more options to discover. It’s the perfect excuse for many return visits to Café Rouge.
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.
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