Princesshay, Bedford St, Exeter, Devon EX1 1LL- 01392 251042 – www.caferouge.com
Now and again we like to head to one of Exeter’s chain restaurants, they have their place and there is definitely a space in my heart for a few of them. One restaurant that we’ve been many times over the last few years has been Cafe Rouge, a take on classic french cuisine in a nice package served by friendly staff.
We were given the opportunity to have a look at their newly refurbished Exeter restaurant and to have a peek at their new menu which came out last week.
The modernist outside is deceptive when you walk through the classic styled doors, lots of dark woods and an interior that evokes a 1920s Parisian restaurant or bistro; a magnificent gold mirror looks over the bar area and is one of the main features that you notice when you first walk in. The first thing that I note is the restaurant seems to have gotten a whole lot smaller? When I was last here it seemed to drift off in to the distance to a window at the back as well.
The layout has changed a bit, the large cavernous restaurant area has now been sectioned in to two separate areas. The main restaurant is used every day, but a second smaller area is now bookable for corporate events or functions, or as overspill if the main restaurant fills up. Paint and decorative elements have changed, nice new chairs and tables, still keeping that Parisian charm, but with a fresh edge.
With a change of decor also comes a new menu. The website gives you the official news about it but there have been changes to the Risottos; the addition of Bouillabaisse (a longstanding Rouge favourite) has been added back onto the menu – sea bream, mussels, king prawns and squid in a rich tomato and saffron broth with delicious rouille and Gruyère; introduction of Bistro Salads and the arrival of Charolais steak and burgers to the bistro menu.
The scene was set, the table laid and the drinks ordered. We both went for Stella Artois given I rarely ever have it, but given our choice of food tonight Tori also ordered a Red Wine (Malbec on the recommendation of our server) which would come out at the same time as our main.
For starters we decided to go for a classic Cafe Rouge starter
Our main course was one that I had decided on days beforehand, and a brand new addition to the menu. TheCharolais Côte de Boeuf, dry-aged for a minimum of 35 days. This beautiful butterflied rib steak, served on the bone, is also known as a ‘bull’s head’. With this epic piece of meat you also get two sides (Frites and Tomato & Onion Salad for us) and two sauces (Peppercorn and Bordelaise) served in teeny saucepans which we both loved.
The meat was delicious, it was meaty and I can imagine that before it was cooked, it was marbled with little fat. We had a small operation to divide the two main parts of the meat, lots of cutting and pulling, and as the meat was so soft it wasn’t much good pulling the bone! The whole thing had was beautifully presented on its own stand, with some lovely seasoned frites too. I now have 20+ photos of this epic piece of meat on my laptop. The four that you see here are the maximum that I have allowed myself. It was a superbly cooked steak; it was beautiful in that way that meat can be beautiful.
After something so large, we were both very full. We had wanted to go for a couple of the new desserts, the Parfait being one of them but they had sold out given they are so popular at the moment. So we went for a coffee instead to finish off the meal.
Our server was Tracey and she was lovely; she was incredibly attentive and has been with Cafe Rouge for 10 years. Assistant Manager James also explained that the tip we left at the end of the meal goes straight to the staff and not in to some ethereal pot in the management heavens which other chain restaurants tend to do.
Even if you’re not a frequent visitor to Princesshay, Cafe Rouge is one restaurant that is worth trying. Their newly added steak range adds an extra dimension to some of the types of meat that you can get in steak form. To my knowledge there is no other place serving Charolais meat in Exeter in this format, which in itself is quite a USP.
The staff are friendly, the atmosphere is romantic, the interior is themed but tastefully so and there are many positives for a meal out at Cafe Rouge. Let me know how it goes in the comment box if you do go.