I was wandering around at a loose end wearing my New Town scarlets when it suddenly dawned upon me that I should go to Cafe Rouge because rouge means red and I could have so much fun talking about my questionable sartorial stylings as a counterpoint to the culinary creations I found there. I’m practically a genius like that.
This wasn’t my first visit to the place. I believe one of their early branches was near to where I lived the first few years of my life, in Chislehurst. This is where Hanif Kureishi set some of the more mundane aspects of the Buddha of Suburbia. I’d not been overly impressed on previous visits but I’d heard promising reports of their recent endeavours.
Arriving at 8:55pm I was given warning that they closed at 10pm so I only had 65 minutes to complete my dining experience. I felt this was more on their shoulders than mine but I agreed to their demands.
This curious start aside, service couldn’t have been better. My friendly waitress was in clear command of the menu, both food and drink, and gave unfailingly sound advice matched with attentive warmth. Sadly, the food didn’t match this excellence.
Cafe Rouge’s evening menu is in essence a list of dinner party classics. The problem with them is that both dishes I sampled were just that – to a decent home cooking standard.
I opened with pea and broad bean croquettes. These lively legumes were rendered dull and powdery. The casing had crunch but that was as good as it got.
The main course of confit duck was ordinary. The dauphinoise was lifeless and the duck rather drab. The accompanying cherry sauce was generic fruity jam.
This was a shame as service was so very good and well judged. The kitchen just couldn’t back it up.
So overall, Cafe Rouge felt like a wasted oppprtunity. I think there’s a strong market for this type of rustic bistro fare done well. Sadly there was a major lack of quality execution leaving both dishes well short of the mark. I fed back to my waitress that the meal had been only OK. She comped ,y espresso – again, great service. The espresso was at least characteristic of a French roast. I didn’t enjoy the food at Cafe Rouge and suspect you will struggle if you choose to visit.
Blythe scores Cafe Rouge
2/5 for food
2/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for setting
4.5/5 for service
giving an overall 12/20
I ate: croquettes de legumes, confit de canard
I drank: white wine, red wine, water, espresso
I wore: rouge
Total bill: £33.95
Address: 43 Frederick Street, Edinburgh EH2 1EP