For some reason I appear to have ended up at two very nice French chain restaurants in the last few weeks. This is welcome. I can’t say I made the most of the haute cuisine when I actually worked in France at the age of 20, which I am ashamed to admit was 9 years ago. Instead of opting to try authentic French dishes like Coq Au Vin or Fois Grais we decided to spend the season eating one euro carbonara in a bag so that we could spend more of our money on alcohol. For the most part this helped me forget the awful food – so I would have to call it a win.
I have visited Cafe Rouge in the past for a blogger event and I don’t really remember the food. This isn’t a negative on them as I struggle to remember what I ate in the morning some days so just because I don’t remember it, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t nice. Thanks to my incredibly inept memory going to try out the new Summer menu at the Lakeside branch was basically the same as going somewhere completely new.
Cafe Rouge in Lakeside is located on the Boardwalk so if you are coming by car you don’t need to navigate your way through the actual shopping centre. The boardwalk in Lakeside is actually a really pretty location on the lake and you could be forgiven for thinking that you are not actually in one of the UK’s busiest shopping centres while you are in the Cafe Rouge there because it is pretty and intimate – a world away from someone with their elbow in your head in Primark because they have not queuing etiquette or concept of personal space.
We were seated in a lovely table in the corner overlooking the lake. Corners usually tend to be the best place for me if I am having a nice meal out at a restaurant that serves up plenty of wine or ‘inappropriate juice’ as I like to call it. One thing chain restaurants always get so wrong is having an incredibly impersonal decor (Harvester so sorry but I’m looking at you huns). Cafe Rouge manage to avoid being boxed in to this category by selecting paintings and pictures that really do build the atmosphere of an authentic French Brassiere.
I picked up the summer menu which thankfully wasn’t in French as the only words I learned while working there were “Poulet nuggets” and “Non”. The summer set menu is available from 12pm each day until close and we opted for a main and a dessert as let’s face it no one wastes time on a starter when there is chocolate to eat. For the main course I had the Tarte Du Saison which I am assuming means ‘Tart of the Season’ but if not that sounds pretty correct so it would be easier if you all just took it as fact, which is how I have managed to navigate my way through life thus far.
Becoming a vegetarian has made me a lot more aware that if cooked correctly vegetables can actually have a myriad of different textures and flavours that excite your palette, rather than just being something you wolf down in four seconds at the age of ten because you want your ice cream after your dinner. The tart was made from black olive pastry which was a fine concoction that made me a fan of olives even though I have tried them and declared I liked them a few times over the years before forgetting and claiming I have never tried them again. The filling was made with courgettes, red peppers and emmental cheese which gave the texture of a quiche and the flavour of a delightful, fresh, summer afternoon. I had mine served with salad and what I loved about this choice was that it didn’t make me feel like an absolute potato after I had eaten it. Now don’t get me wrong I was certainly full – but not to the point of sitting at the table sweating profusely and wondering if I would fall asleep in my glass of Pinot Noir.
Dessert is a lot of peoples favourite part of the meal and I can understand that but I have never been a ‘sweet’ person myself. The Torte Au Chocolat sounded tremendous so I wondered if I could have a little go of it and Cafe Rouge could convert me into a dessert fan after all?
I must say the chocolate torte was an amazing experience. It literally melted in your mouth and pairing it with creme fraiche stopped it from becoming too sickly. Whatever you have for the main course, if you go there you simply have to get this for dessert. Other absolute delights at this particular branch of Cafe Rouge include a really good wine menu and very friendly and helpful staff who also know about what wine can be paired with what food which is great – because unless it is a £2.99 Aldi number I am utterly clueless.
Cafe Rogue invited me to try their summer menu on a complimentary basis, however a meal for two from this menu with wine will be around £50.