Café Rouge is a hugely popular French brasserie-style restaurant franchise with something like 30 outlets in London alone, this Covent Garden branch on Wellington Street included. There are an astonishing 120 branches across the UK. Its uniformed interior is stereotypically French with parquet flooring and quaint seating booths adding to the traditional Parisian bistro look I think the designers were going for. It’s an environment easy to get comfortable and feel at home in.
The Café Rouge menu is a collection of French classics from croques to steak frites and moules. Of course, there is something for vegetarians, pescatarians and even hard-core vegans. We were a group of eight but only ended up ordering three different things (basically everyone ordered the same thing). This is interesting; the moms ordered the Poulet Breton, the dads (me included) ordered the Beef Bourguignon and the ‘kids’ (aged 17 to 24) all ordered steak – surreal.
The starters were a lot more diverse with Breaded Camembert (me), Garlic Mushrooms, Pea & Mint Tortellini and Onion Soup all being ordered, the Garlic Mushrooms times three.
Don’t expect Brasserie Zédel or Côte Brasserie levels of authenticity or quality and you should enjoy what you are served irrespective of what you order. Café Rouge does everything well but does not excel at any one thing. At least none of the things we ordered. The kids did not enjoy their steaks, feeling they were over cooked – they were. The moms were not impressed with their chicken, also feeling they were overcooked. They were a little dry. The dads, however, thoroughly enjoyed their wine braised beef.
For me, the best part of Café Rouge was the service. We were looked after by a wonderfully hospitable waitress whose name, going by the bill, was Jolanta. She started by making us feel at home, brought us our drinks then helped us order our food. Throughout our meal she visited our table checking on us regularly. The food was okay but not something I would return for, not even the Beef Bourguignon which both us dads liked. So, if you fancy a good French meal in the Covent Garden area, I recommend you try Balthazar on Russell Street. It’s a little pricier but in a different league altogether.
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Xerxes physically dines at, or orders from, each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat, drink, take away or occasionally throw at each other. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews or favouritism. What you have read was NOT influenced in any way by the venue. Join me on Instagram @ravenousxerxes or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.