Cafe Rouge steak a claim?
At the recent Food Connections Festival, a panel deliberated on whether a restaurant should give customers exactly what they wanted or, rather, what the restaurant thought they wanted. It turns out they were talking about steak and chips.
I find the idea of restaurateurs tossing and turning at night, deliberating on whether to throw in the towel and ‘serve chips’ quite comforting. These culinary guardians, gatekeepers of exotic ingredients, crispers of kale and so on. But what about that steak and chips?
Cafe Rouge are willing to give it a crack and among their french classics menu have launched their new pièce du résistance? A 32Oz cote de boeuf sharing steak.
I invited a french classic of my own (my Dad and his tenuous yet legitimate French family connection) to their branch in The Mall Cribbs Causeway to try it out.
All Café Rouge steak now comes from British bred Charolais cows. Even the beef burgers on the children's menu use the French breed - which is never something I’ve seen Jamie Oliver campaigning for to be honest, but I’ll save my inability to accept premium cuts of beef being used in burgers for another day.
We took our seat at the centre of the food court. ‘Food Court’ aptly named because Dad has decided to take on the role of chief of beefy justice.
Bathed in the glow of the adjacent Spud-u-like, I realised the dining experience, the restaurant ambience, is something I often take for granted. Even with the classic French Bistro styling of the this particular branch to distract us, we are still sitting in the middle of the Mall, surrounded by dead eyed parents listlessly shepherding their brood from Sunglasses Hut to H&M.
That’s not a criticism of the restaurant, nor does it reflect on the food, but the unmistakable hum of shoppers is an ever present backing track. I try to pretend that we’re in an airport; a nice airport. Perhaps we’re on the way to a film festival. It helps. To match my illusions of grandeur, we order the 32oz sharing steak at £45 including a choice of 2 sauces and 2 sides.
It looked great, a huge piece of meat doesn’t require foreplay. Plus a rousing reception on Instagram (which rather sickeningly I will include as a legitimate review consideration). It was evident, as Cafe Rouge had stated, that “these cattle have a high proportion of intramuscular fat (marbling).” But due to the fact that this cut was butterflied and maybe that very marbling - some areas of the steak were quite tough to deal with. I had beef with this steak.
It’s my personal preference that steak should be so relaxed, so tender that it falls off the bone, that it’s almost still mooing enough to make it’s own way into my mouth. The steak is recommended served medium, so that’s what we did. Unfortunately I had to put Cafe Rouge's cutlery to good work. Sensibly dethroning the steak from its pedestal to gain a better purchase, lest I slip and take a chunk out of my Dad’s superior moustache.
Taste wise, fairly unremarkable. No beautiful charred exterior as you would get in the OX, no chimichurri tang that you’d get from CAU. Tasty, but uneventful. It was a steak. It was okay. It would not turn a vegetarian to the light.
We chose a portion of classic french fries which were true in style and a side salad, which came deconstructed (a large chunk of lettuce in a bowl as seems to be the fashion).
We also ordered a glass of Malbec and the Merlot which came in impeccably clean glasses - something that I appreciate and served at a perfect temperature. The Malbec was very easy drinking. Father approved.
Why Charolais then?
These cattle are fed on pastures from spring to autumn, with grains used to supplement their diet through the winter months, and it is this diet that contributes to such a “luxurious premium meat”.
I don’t know a lot about cows. But I do know someone who does. Olly the farmer. You might remember Olly from such international media shitstorms as “The Turkey that saved Christmas”. We asked Olly if he’d come across Charolais cows and this is what he said:
“Fast growing, big muscled animals. Not really any particular reason to use them over other breeds.”
So there we go. As a bit of a PR exercise, the sharing steak is a good move. People will occasionally buy one. But as Dad said, he'd wished he'd stuck with a nice Croque-Monsieur.
How does Cafe Rouge score in a game of top rumps?
£65 for 30oz at The Ox
£85 for 42oz (ish) at Cau which includes 3 different cuts
£55 for 16oz CHATEAUBRIAND at Graze. Prime centre-cut fillet for two to share or a hungry one
£45 for TBCoz chateaubriand for two at Cowshed Includes smoked tomatoes, mushroom and Béarnaise sauce.
This meal was provided by Cafe Rouge for review purposes and did not affect the views expressed in the above review,