Café Rouge was one of my kids favourites as toddlers – a pit stop for some scrambled eggs or a croque monsieur was their jam. It was more about a quick refuelling in a relaxed environment rather than a grown-up meal. They’re teenagers now and it seems Café Rouge has grown up too.
A new concept simply named Rouge offers Parisian brasserie vibes and a more sophisticated menu than its café cousin. There are some old favourites like beef bourguignon and moules marinière, but also some newbies like cauliflower steak with harissa houmous and pomegranate and a clutch of Champagne cocktails to wet your whistle.
Owners Big Table Group have created two Rouge restaurants so far – one here in the Bullring and one in Haywards Heath, Sussex. The interior feels more grown up and there’s a pleasing noisy hubbub. Word to the wise, if we hadn’t booked we’d have had a bit of a wait for a table – it was the middle of the Easter holidays so that might have had an impact on numbers. A good sign for the new concept regardless.
French onion soup with Emmental-laden croutons was packed with flavour – the kids slurped the lot. Meaty king prawns were messy but delicious served with baguette to mop up the garlicky white wine sauce. Beef bourguignon was the highlight – tender beef and a rich red wine sauce served with herby mash hit the spot nicely while poulet a la Normande – chicken with leeks, cepes and thyme in a decent cider sauce served with winning fondant potatoes was great.
The main courses were large and a bit overwhelming leaning heavily towards pomme de terre. Sea bass fillet served on a sizeable mound of crushed new potatoes was more tattie than fish. Some people love large portions citing value for money so appreciate that might be a positive.
The teens found room for pud – one enjoyed a refreshing mango sorbet while the other ordered a crepe with chocolate sauce and ice cream and got three! As a group we managed to snaffle the lot but would seriously recommend sharing if you’re having three courses. There’s a cheeky trio of mini desserts including a lemon meringue pie, chocolate tart and crème brulee which we also sampled that would be ideal if you’re hankering after a little something sweet.
The outdoor terrace is about to come into its own over the summer, a good spot for people watching over a glass of something chilled and plate of tasty French-inspired food. In the interest of transparency, our Rouge bill was reduced as a PR gift, but we felt under no obligation to gush.