LONDON EATERIES – Decadent Dining at Café Rouge, James Street
Halfway between Marble Arch and Oxford Circus and close to Bond Street tube station, Cafe Rouge is right where you’d like it to be after a long day of browsing shops or sightseeing. As you walk down the quaint James Street, passing St. Christopher’s Place, you find yourself removed from the hustle and bustle of busy London – transported into a culinary haven with dozens of choices. However, Cafe Rouge definitely stands out from the rest.
Under its wonderfully familiar red awning, this charming little restaurant sports a number of tables outside – perfect to enjoy a spot of lunch in the sun, or a relaxed dinner in the evening. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by two gregarious members of staff who took us to our table. Immediately, I was struck by the interior. Cream walls and red velvet seating evoked a picture of everything you would expect a French restaurant to be. They managed to get the balance right between chic and traditional, creating a cosy atmosphere with low lighting.
As soon as we were seated, another member of staff offered us the drinks menu and brought over two glasses of champagne – which we definitely weren’t complaining about! We chose a bottle of rosé wine which was light and delicious, and the rest of the selection was expansive.
The cheese arrived like a bubbling volcano, served with rustic bread – perfect for sharing between two.
The updated menu combined some old favourites with new, exciting dishes, all of which sounded fantastic. We took our time agonising over what to choose, and our waiter was good enough to make a few suggestions and definitely helped what was fast becoming an impossible decision. As a starter, we decided on the Bresse Bleu – melting blue cheese with fougasse fingers and baguette. The cheese arrived like a bubbling volcano, served with rustic bread – perfect for sharing between two. The bread was warm and the cheese delicious, salty but not too strong. It would be a perfect option for any vegetarian diners visiting. Along with the Bresse Bleu, we decided to be brave and try the taster pot of snails with garlic butter. Although we weren’t quite brave enough to try the full-sized dish! It was a great idea to offer a smaller sample to people who may be undecided, and hesitant to pay for something they haven’t tried yet. When the snails arrived, my friend and I made a pact to taste one at the same time. While she wasn’t keen, I didn’t find them as bad as anticipated! The garlic butter was a great accompaniment, and while the small pot was enough for me, I can’t definitely say that my reluctance all these years to try them was unfounded!
For our main course, my friend ordered the Boeuf Bourguignon – slow cooked beef in red wine with smoked bacon, mushrooms, baby onions, green beans, carrots and herb mash. The beef came in a beautiful pot with the vegetables surrounding it. The sauce was rich and the meat amazingly tender. Meanwhile, I chose the Confit de Canard – slow-cooked duck leg with French beans, dauphinoise potatoes and cherry sauce. I was pleased that while a generous portion, the food didn’t seem overwhelming on the plate, and was presented wonderfully. The duck was crisp on the outside and a light pink, perfectly teamed with a fresh, tangy cherry sauce. Along with the beans and creamy potatoes, it was, in my opinion, one of the best combinations I’ve had.
I was pleased that while a generous portion, the food didn’t seem overwhelming on the plate, and was presented wonderfully.
As if we hadn’t already eaten enough good food, we were then presented with the dessert menu, and faced with another nightmare of choosing between a dozen delicious-sounding options! Although we were both quite full up, the Fondant Aux Chocolats proved to be too tempting, so we ordered one to share. The hot fondant arrived in the centre of a clean white plate and couldn’t have looked more appetising. On top sat a ball of chocolate and raspberry ice-cream, and after cutting into it, the melting middle spilled out into a puddle of chocolate. For a chocolate-lover, it was absolutely the perfect dessert. The ice cream had a fruity edge which cut perfectly through the rich chocolate, and the combination of hot and cold was delicious. We managed to clean the plate in mere minutes!
Under the soft lighting, we finished our drinks and said goodbye to the lovely staff, already talking about how much we couldn’t wait to return some time! With good service, a great range of dishes for everyone and a fantastic choice of wine, Cafe Rouge is still a classic dining experience which hasn’t gone out of style. It’s perfect for a quiet lunch, as well as an intimate dinner, but make sure you leave room for a dessert!
46-48 James Street, London W1U 1HA
Heart London 5 * Review:
Heart London Magazine, Guest Writer, Laura