I think it’s safe to say I’ve had fairly mixed experiences at Cafe Rouge. After winning dinner for two there, and having a disastrous time (long story short, they had no idea we were coming, and our poor waiter kept promising the manager was coming to sort it out, but she never appeared). As an apology, we were offered another dinner which was, that forbidden blogger word, nice. I didn’t bother to review it, as it was all ‘fine’ without being very interesting. The food was ok, but the service was definitely lacking. However, I keep seeing posts from other bloggers raving about the place. Clearly, I was missing something, so we decided to try again.
We headed to the Bullring branch after work on Friday, planning on ordering from the Summer Set Menu, which is 2 courses for £10.95. First off, I apologise for picture quality. Our visit was unplanned so I was without my camera, and the phone struggled with the (so orange) cosy lighting. Anyway, we immediately started better than our previous visits, as our waiter, Chris, was excellent. Chatty, friendly and professional. We started with cocktails.
I chose the Peach Pompette (£6) which is Absolut Vodka, peach iced tea and lemon. Dave chose the Berry Punch (£6.50) which is Absolut vodka, raspberry, elderberry, blackberry and lime. The peach pompette tasted of good iced tea with a boozy hit, whereas I found the Berry Punch was a bit too much like Ribena for me, but Dave really enjoyed it, so it’s a good pick if you don’t like your cocktails to taste too alcoholic.
For our starters, we both ordered the Mackerel Rillettes. A pâté of mackerel, crème fraîche and horseradish is served in a cute little mason jar, with a couple of slices of sourdough bread. The pâté was delicious, with a pleasant sharpness from the horseradish. It was deliciously creamy with a good, strong mackerel flavour. I was pleased with what a huge portion it is too, and I was able to pile high both slices of bread. I could have happily eaten this by the plate load and not ordered anything else.
For the main event, Dave chose the Porc Schnitzel which is served with celeriac and white cabbage slaw and fries. The coating was crispy, with delicious, moist pork inside. The slaw was very good too, and Dave was very content with his choice, which for a boy who actually lived in Holland for a bit, is high praise.
I opted for Moules. Half a kilo of sustainably caught mussels with basil and pine nut pesto, shallots and white wine, and served with fries. The portion was huge, and I was very happy munching my way through. The mussels were perfect, without a hint of grittiness. I could really taste the wine in the broth, which was gorgeous. The fries too were well seasoned, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed them. My only concern was I would have liked a slice of that lovely sourdough from the starter to help soak up all that tasty broth. I was offered a spoon though, to finish it like soup, but I opted not to.
All in all, Cafe Rouge definitely redeemed itself and I finally understood why other bloggers seem to love it so much. The service from Chris was really excellent, and everything we ate was delicious, and such great value on the set menu! We’ll be back for sure.
We paid in full ourselves at Cafe Rouge. All prices are correct at time of writing. All opinions are honest and my own. Cafe Rouge didn’t know I was a blogger.