I really do have a thing against chain restaurants. I remember having a lovely meal with two of my best friends at a Bella Italia somewhere in London soon after I moved over to England. I didn’t know it was a chain and I enjoyed the food – it was cheap and tasty and the staff were lovely. Then I found out it was one of many, so I haven’t been back. Silly, probably.
Anyway, Cafe Rouge is another one I try to avoid. I went once when a friend, my older brother and his girlfriend were over visiting me in Leeds – and I don’t really have fond memories. The food wasn’t good and the staff weren’t nice.
But, since we moved to St Albans, himself has wanted to go to the Cafe Rouge here – it’s in a beautiful building and he’s an engineer. Plus, he claimed he’d never been to a Cafe Rouge before and wanted to see if I was exaggerating about it (but I’m almost sure he was there the day I went!). Anyway, on his birthday weekend, I finally relented and we went for some lunch on Saturday afternoon. I asked if I could use my Tastecard and the waitress asked if I’d booked a table. I hadn’t, but the place was dead. She hummed and hawed, then said it would be fine.
With the Tastecard, the waitress said it was two for one on all dishes. So we decided to order four petits plats – fromage blue (blue cheese, walnuts and bread), houmous and flatbreads, rillettes de canard (duck and smoked chicken coarse pate with bread), and merguez (spicy beef and lamb sausage with harissa mayo). The dishes were all good – especially the sausage.
Himself also ordered a Cesar salad, while I opted for the salmon nicoise salad. His was ok – mine was actually, surprising, pretty perfect.
We were there for a good while, reading papers, chatting, nibbling on our dishes – and we had a nice time. It was a much better than the last time I went to a Cafe Rouge. But the staff weren’t exactly amazing and when the bill came, it was obvious that the Tastecard discount didn’t apply to all dishes on the menu like the waitress said – only the salads were two for one. We didn’t say anything.
Cafe Rouge St Albans, 29 Holywell Hill, AL1 3LB