We know it’s not our usual bag, it’s not street food – it’s not even close. But when we heard that the big guy Café Rouge was jazzing up its menu we thought we’d pop by the one on Kingsway, Holborn, and see what all the fuss was about. That’s when we discovered that the fuss was well-grounded… in the seabass, in the duck, and (for the adventurous) in the snails.

Café Rouge prides itself on having something for everyone: you can take your grandma there and she’ll find a traditional French classic, you can take a date there and impress them with your knowledge of the extensive wine menu (and being able to eat snails without a grimace). And sometimes, just sometimes, that’s the kind of place you want. London is awash with edgy restaurants with queues out the door and down the street, we love them, but what is hard to find is an affordable luxury. That’s where Café Rouge comes in.

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Tempura Moules, with smoked garlic and lemon aioli

The new menu is vast, harking back over the 25 years of the restaurant’s existence, taking the most popular dishes and offering a new twist – or simply accepting that the old way is the right way and leaving it be. Café Rouge has the confidence to serve a good old-fashioned, Boeuf Bourguignon and know it’ll hit the spot. The Confit de Canard – slow-cooked duck leg with French beans and cherry sauce is crispy to perfection, with dauphinoise potatoes to die for. I would.

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Confit de Canard – slow-cooked duck leg with French beans and cherry sauce

If fish is your thing, look no further than the Loup de Mer seabass fillet and sauce vierge with tomatoes, basil, olives, sugar snap peas and new potatoes. And for starter why not dabble in the Tempura Moules, with smoked garlic and lemon aioli – a cute take on traditional mussels. But if you’re keeping it simple, there’s even fish and chips on the menu!

There’s Steak Frites, of course, 35-day aged and accompanied by a selection of lush sauces including mayonnaise with truffle, and lobster and dill butter. And they’re all under £20. Bargain.

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Croquettes de Canard – duck croquettes, pea shoots and frisée with chilli and orange marmalade

Don’t leave without getting a mini pot of snails with garlic butter for the table, at £1.95 they’re the restaurant’s wildcard – and if you don’t like them you haven’t broken the bank. For hardcore snail-eaters, there is a beautiful Ragout d’Escargots: snails and mushrooms in a rich sauce with truffle oil all encased in a pastry top. So popular it sold out before we got the chance to try!

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The famous taster pot of snails!

As well as the menu gaining a fresh new look, the restaurant on Kingsway has undergone a transformation by designers Keane – think a Paris Metro theme with French typography, dark mahogany, vintage swan-necked wall lights and chandeliers. But there’s no snobbery here, it’s luxuriously homely. I could have slipped down my seat and sat with my Malbec for hours. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

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Café Rouge, Kingsway, Holborn

We visited Café Rouge, Kingsway, 77 Kingsway, Holborn, London, WC2B 6SR

Look out for Café Rouge’s new menu in all London branches.

For more information go to www.caferouge.com

 

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