Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Leffe at Cafe Rouge? Tres bon!

Hotel Ibis Greenwich
30 Stockwell St
Greater London
SE10 9JN

02082 936660


For some reason, Cafe Rouge has always been one of those places I have avoided. I seem to have some rather dark memories of a disappointing meal there that until a few days ago had stopped me from visiting this french-themed restaurant chain. That my most recent experience was purely due to hunger rather than choice should tell you I wasn't expecting much.

Having said all that, I am pleased to report I was pleasantly surprised by Cafe Rouge, Greenwich. The veggie and I, with tired feet and hungry bellies, homed in on the venue for a late lunch.

The place was heaving with families and couples out to enjoy what was left of a mostly rain-free sunday. It was so busy I wanted to turn around and walk straight out again but thankfully we were directed to a quieter corner, albeit right by the toilets (what is it with me and toilets? do I look like I have a weak bladder or no sense of smell?!). Luckily it didn't spoil the atmosphere too much, and I was just grateful to be tucked away from the masses.

Our polite waitress bought us the over-sized menus which were written in translated french and boasted regional specialties, quick dishes, a separate section for fish and a children's menu.

To drink, I requested the Fruli (a strawberry wheat beer), as it was advertised on our table. Unfortunately we were told it was sold out, and I was about to resign myself to a standard lager when I spotted Leffe Blonde on the menu, one of my favourite beers. My expectations immediately rose as in my experience only the minority of pubs and restaurants offer it. The veggie opted for an apple juice.

As I was reassessing my opinion of the place I decided to select the classic french dish of Steak Frites. However, as that was rather large and expensive at 14.95p I opted for the lighter option of Minute Steak instead (a 5oz steak with French fries, watercress and beurre maison). The veggie ordered the onion soup for a starter and the goat's cheese salad for her mains.

As I had skipped a starter we opted for my mains to be served along with the Veggie's. Her Soupe à l'Oignon, with melted gruyere croutons was pronounced "delicious" and as she is something of a soup connoisseur that is high praise indeed.

Onto mains: I knew my steak was worth the wait as soon as the plate swooped down in front of me. It was a tasty piece of meat, nicely cooked as per my orders (medium well done), and enjoyable to eat, if a little tough in places. The fries were lovely; thin, golden and crisp. Both were complemented by the little pile of watercress and the herb butter that melted so seductively on the steak.

I tried some of my companion's Goat's cheese salad, which consisted of a well-dressed mixed salad with olives and onion and 3 large circles of toast covered with mild creamy goat's cheese. It was perfectly agreeable, although the veggie felt the cheese was too mild and compared it unfavorably with one she had enjoyed in Paris. I argued that anything would taste better with in view of the Eiffel Tower! However, we both agreed that the cheese in this case was a little too thin and suffered from the lack of its waxy rind, resembling cheese on toast more than anything.

That being said, we both cleared our plates, so they were definitely doing something right. I mulled over whether to order another Leffe, but decided to opt for a dessert instead. I couldn't resist the temptation of the Fondant au Chocolat with creme anglaise. The veggie initially refused the offer of a second spoon, but I asked for one anyway. The fondant arrived in a pool of the creme, which was a little bit tart cutting through the richness of the dessert. The sponge was slightly too dry but the gorgeous liquid centre made up for it and soon the veggie and I were crossing spoons and chasing mouthfuls around the plate.

Service, as you may have gleaned, was unobtrusive and pleasant, something that chains often seem to be better at than higher 'class' establishments.

The bill came to approximately 35 pounds, which we felt was good value. I will certainly go back as there were enough enticing dishes on the menu to require a return visit.

The writing on the wall:
7 out of 10

1 comment:

Kat said...

You didn't mention the olives - too brine-y and the stones were huge compared to the flesh.

I can't believe you referred to me as your companion! How old are we? 70?

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