Café Rouge, St Pauls Churchyard

Cafe Rouge St Paul's

Charolais Cote Du Boeuf 'Bull's Head' 32oz 35-day dry aged sharing steak launching in London this Spring

 When I was doing my background research for this review, I stumbled upon a Telegraph article covering their 2015 rebrand which leads with the line – Can Café Rouge ever be cool again?

For people of a younger generation, the question might actually be – was Café Rouge ever cool?

Even before the burger, chicken shop, and posh pizza revolution, Café Rouge was a fading force.

The bistro menu felt as tired as the faux-French décor. Rather than a mid-range or premium dining experience, it seemed to be heading to tourist trap hell. (Not if you’re a tourist obviously!)

New ownership and a new direction has seen their flagship restaurant in St Pauls refitted, rebranded and recently re-menued to showcase their Charolais Cote Du Boeuf steak.

Cafe Rouge Bull's Head

I had never been to the St Pauls version but visually it still looked the same as my local Dulwich version, albeit much bigger, better light, and a view of St Pauls. So quite different. Nevertheless it was busy on a warm Spring evening, with the tourist-to-local / worker ratio being pleasantly lower than I expected.

The menu itself showcases a couple of new brave items – snails anyone – but it’s mostly very familiar. I started with a cheese soufflé which was nicely flavoured although a little heavier than I would expect. For mains I couldn’t go past the Charolais Cote Du Boeuf 'Bull's Head' 32oz 35-day dry aged sharing steak, served on the bone with a Bordelaise gravy with bone marrow. A big dish promising big flavours, and this steak delivered in spades. The steak was medium-rare melt-in-your-mouth perfection. The gravy was rich and complemented the steak beautifully. I’m rarely defeated by a cut of steak, especially one I’m enjoying, but this was too big for me. But what do I expect from a sharing steak. The sides of spinach and frites will good but in hindsight unnecessary. The dessert of fondant au chocolats was a little dense where it should have been light, and not as rich in chocolate as I would have liked. The French Pinot Noir that accompanied our meal was delightful and reasonably priced. The waiting staff were exceptional.

Cafe Rouge Interior

I’m not sure I can answer as to whether Café Rouge will ever be cool. I don’t think it’s a question I would ask. What I would say is that this 90s giant is re-emerging from its slumber. It may not ever be very cool. But there’s every chance that it will be very good.

 

On a rating of * to *****

Wining and dining ***

Serving and pouring ****

Schmoozing and boozing ***

5, Condor House, 5-10 St. Paul's Churchyard, London EC4M 8AY

www.caferouge.com