Ever since the I read about it at the Christmas menu taster evening in October I’ve had my eye on Café Rouge’s snail ragout: mushrooms and snails in a creamy sauce, scented with truffle oil, tucked in under a blanket of flaky pastry. So when C and I went to review the new menu last week, I already knew what I wanted to start with.
Café Rouge has been a fixture on Frederick Street for years and is the only one in the chain I’ve ever visited, usually for a café crème and a croissant. On a dark autumn evening, its a warm and cheerful place to go. That it takes inspiration from French cafés and bistros is clear. We were hungry and I was looking forward to dinner.
The snail ragout was exactly what I wanted. As I put my fork through the golden lid, the scent of truffle oil rose into the air. The sauce was velvety, the mushrooms lovely and the snails meaty. The sauce mopped up perfectly with the pastry, and pieces of the house’s home-made baguette. C enjoyed his twice-baked cheese soufflé. He has a golden standard for cheese soufflé – The Fox, Micheldeaver, Hamps. – and no soufflé will ever measure up, but this was a worthy effort.
Warm and cosy
For mains, I had the lamb shank with piperade and mash. Lamb shanks are big beasts. The meat was deliciously tender, the piperade rich and the mash comforting. When the dishes first arrived, I thought I had got truffle oil on the mind since I believed I could still smell it. Then I realised it was wafting from Cs enormous portion of mushroom risotto which was generously flavoured with truffle oil.
Since I couldn’t clear my plate, I didn’t think I’d have room for desert, but after a brief rest, I couldn’t resist the chocolate fondant. C, more sensible, settled for coffee. The fondant was lovely, meltingly liquid in the middle and accompanied with chocolate ice cream. A glass of muscat made a fruity counter-point.
We had both been tempted by the cheeseboard – cheese fans that we are, we have high expectations of French cheese boards. But we’d been thoroughly feasted (and maybe the olive, caper, gherkin and sweet pickled chilli plate we started with wasn’t entirely necessary. It was tasty though. A nice way to start a meal, something to pick at over a kir royale.)
It’s rainy outside
Café Rouge serves classic French cuisine from croque Monsieur and Madame for lunch, or steak frites for dinner. There are dishes that those who prefer distinctly British cuisine too, if the steak or burger doesn’t appeal, there’s fish and chips too. I am drawn to the classics – beuf bourgingnon, moules, confit de canard, 32-day matured steak (oh, sauce Bearnaise or mayo infused with truffle oil to go with?), fish en papillotte – but there is something on the menu for everyone, including cheese-loving vegetarians.
It was raining when we left. We were replete and took the cosy warmth with us home.
43 Frederick Street
Edinburgh EH2 1EP
Telephone: 0131 225 4515
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All images courtesy of Gab Consultancy/Café Rouge.