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Sacrebleu, call this French food!
Member Name: Renza_e
Advantages: Pleasant atmosphere, lovely starters.
Disadvantages: Overpriced and disappointing dishes.
My French flatmate, who has resided in the UK for over two years now, does love French restaurants. As much as she likes to travel and get away from her native homeland, she has never turned her back on French cuisine. The number of stinky cheeses that turn up in our fridge is testimony to this!
One of her favourite French restaurants in Edinburgh is Café Rouge, a restaurant which belongs to a chain of over a hundred in the UK. Twice she has taken us there for her birthday and, I'm sad to say, twice I have been just a touch disappointed.
*~RED ALL AROUND~*
I first went to Café Rouge last September and the Edinburgh restaurant has a welcoming and relaxing ambience. With a name like Café Rouge, the theme is of course red and a lovely rich red at that. The whole place is covered in quirky French décor including retro posters such as Toulouse Lautrec's 'Moulin Rouge'. Even the bathrooms have French posters up in them (Not that there is much room for many - Don't expect to be able to fit in those bathrooms easily if you are of the more rotund figure).
Since last year, nothing has changed and it still has that pleasant atmosphere that it once had. Upon the most recent occasion of visiting, we had a party of 12 and they gave us a long table at the back of the restaurant. I am glad they did this because it gave us some peace and quiet away from the bustle of the rest of the place.
*~OOH LA LA, WAS IT REALLY WORTH ALL THAT?~*
Upon my first visit to the restaurant, we were in a smaller group of four people. Apart from the vegetarian amongst us, we decided to go for a sharing platter for our starter which included some delicious meats like Saucisson, some French cheese (I believe it was Brie) and some gherkins (amongst other things). I absolutely loved this as a starter because it gave you the chance to sample a variety of things, many of which are distinctly French. I was therefore feeling excited about my main course - a 5oz steak with peppercorn sauce. And what a disappointment! The only way I could describe my 5oz steak was 'TRES PETIT'. Even after googling a 5oz steak I'm convinced it was on the small side and when I say small side, I mean bitesized! I felt a bit cheated that I had spent over £12 on it, especially when the size of the portion of fries was equally tiny. However, being British I didn't say a word. When the waitress actually did come round to ask how things were, we replied with the obligatory 'fine'. Any complaint has been kept amongst friends or, in this case, voiced on an online community like this. I can only say that I am glad that we brought a calorific cake with us for Ludivine's birthday - a home-made red velvet cake covered in red buttercream icing (to match the restaurant of course). If we hadn't had this cake with us I think I would have went hungry for the rest of the night.
As a result of our initial visit to Café Rouge I definitely wasn't in a hurry to visit again. The only thing that really encouraged me to go was that I learnt I could use my Tesco Clubcard vouchers to spend on Café Rouge. This is fantastic as every £5 of Clubcard vouchers equals £15 to spend in Café Rouge. You can use them so long as you've not chosen something from the set menu and so long as you don't use them on drinks. Another restriction is supposed to be that your party has to be less than 10 people. However, I phoned weeks in advance and was told I could use them regardless of the number of people in our group.
My recent visit to Café Rouge certainly felt like better value for money as a result of these vouchers. I had £20 to spend and my boyfriend had £20 too. I therefore only spent about £6 in cash (including tips). Was an absolute bargain! (Thank you Tesco!)
This time round I had two starters. I was rather sad that they no longer had the sharing platter I had a year previously but I settled with two dishes. The first starter was a tiny dish which was part of the 'Petit Plats' selection. The dish was 'Feta et Poivron', which was feta cheese, marinated red peppers and French bread. The cheese and the red peppers were melt in your mouth delicious and you were provided with deliciously crispy and soft French bread to go with it. The second starter I had was 'Crevettes à l'ail' which was king prawns cooked with chilli and garlic butter, also served with French bread. I also really enjoyed this. The prawns had a lovely spicy kick and it was great to be able to dip the bread in the chilli and garlic butter left over.
For my main course I had Salmon fishcakes with fries. This came with a lime and coriander mayonnaise. Again, I'd been impressed with the starter but was disappointed by the main course. The problem with the fishcakes is that the dish is rather dry and could really do with more mayonnaise or a runny sauce which you could pour on the fishcakes. I was thankful that they did bring out an assortment of condiments like tomato sauce and mayonnaise. However, it didn't take away from the fact that the fishcakes were distinctly average. I wanted something that I could distinguish from any supermarket-bought fishcake and this just didn't do the trick. It was a good thing then that I did get some dauphinoise potatoes as a side. I adore dauphinoise potatoes and the ones at Café Rouge were delicious with creamy layers of sliced potatoes.
Now by this point in the evening I was thoroughly stuffed. Anticipating a large meal I had purposely avoided food for most of the day. However, even that amount of food went past my limits (and that was with sharing out my chips to people). I avoided getting a dessert whilst the others ordered theirs. I am yet to try out a dessert at Café Rouge but as I still have a £20 voucher my boyfriend and I may pop round there some time to sample a dessert.
*~FREE WINE? WHAT, REALLY?~*
When we first went to Café Rouge the service was absolutely fine. Everything was served in time with appropriate breaks between the meals. The second time we went to Café Rouge we were not quite so lucky. It seemed that even with us pre-booking a table for 12, they didn't seem to be able to handle such a large group.
We spent somewhere over two hours in that restaurant spending a vast amount of that time feeling like we'd been forgotten. This didn't actually bother me too much as I quite liked having that time to relax and digest my food in the presence of some of my closest friends. However, I did feel sorry for those who didn't order any starters because they seemed to wait an age as it did take an awful long time for main courses to be brought out. This surprised me as the restaurant didn't seem hugely busy. We were even able to German dice game into the space of time between our starters and our main course.
I think by this point, the head waiter must have realized that a few amongst our party had grown just a touch impatient. We'd been in the restaurant for about an hour and a half without any main course. Before our main course, he came out and said 'Would you like some wine?' In this instance, I think a few of us did not realize that what he had actually said was 'Would you like some free wine?' We spent a few moments gormlessly pondering the option before realizing it was on the house. As some of us were not wine drinkers, we opted for a nice cold jug of Coca Cola and a jug of Fanta. I have to say that I was really pleased that they did this. It turned round my opinion of the service for that night. Of course, I'm quite sure they wanted to make sure that we still felt obliged to pay our 10% service charge (which is added on for any party which has ten people or more).
*~A LITTLE BIT OF PARIS IN EDINBURGH?~*
My time at Café Rouge has always been a relaxing and rather enjoyable experience. However, I do feel that it is overpriced for what it is. The cheapest main course there is £7.95 for something like a Croque Monsieur and I'm not entirely sure that I could justify paying that much for what is practically a toastie.
I suppose I could justify the price of the food if the food was spectacular but it really isn't anything special. I've been to a few restaurants in Edinburgh with similar prices and the food has been of a much higher standard.
I suppose one problem with French restaurants, especially in Edinburgh, is that they are rather pricey. Café Rouge is probably the most affordable French restaurant I've come across in the city, although I use the word 'French' loosely. I feel more inclined to describe it as French-styled. There's no Escargot in this restaurant and anything distinctly French seems like a pale imitation to the real French food I'd tried when I was in France. However, maybe I shouldn't judge? My French flatmate after all seems to love it.
I think the main problem with Café Rouge is that it is fairly enjoyable but the food in no way justifies the price. It is a real shame because with the quirky French décor and what looks like a fairly appetizing menu, it has the potential to be excellent. This restaurant, on the other hand, remains far down the list on restaurants I would chose for my night out in Edinburgh.
*~Thank you for reading my review :-) ~*
*~Also published on Ciao - September 2011~*
Summary: 'French' food that's certainly not worth the money.