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The children are off later this week to spend a few days with their daddy.
Whilst I’m practically salivating at the prospect of five nights of uninterrupted sleep in a row (woah there), I’m really dreading how much I’ll miss them. Don’t tell anyone this, especially not them, but I’d probably take the sleep deprivation over spending time without them – I know, I know. Big words.
I’ll do my usual thing of filling my time off with work, the gym and my lovely friends so it’ll go quickly (Kirsty‘s coming to visit from NYC and there will be nights at the pub with Bryony and Amy) but until they depart on Wednesday we are making the most out of our last few days together. And one of my favourite things to do with these little people is go on a Saturday night dinner date.
We get dressed up – Elfie wears a dress, Hux a shirt and me high heels – and have a lovely meal out together. Because I sell it to them as something very special they are both beautifully behaved and we have a wonderful time chatting nonsense and learning about my number one favourite thing – food.
I heard the Chief Executive of the Casual Dining Group (who own Cafe Rougé and Bella Italia) speak at a conference a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed the discussion around the changes that are afoot within the chain. There’s the new menu of classics and new dishes and a programme of re-furbishment happening – exciting times!
As a restaurant I don’t think I would have ever chosen Café Rouge as a dinner destination. Lunch? Yes. Coffee? Probably. But it had never struck me as a place for a dinner date or child-friendly meal so I was interested to see how we’d find our evening.
We arrived at 6pm and were really warmly welcomed by the manager. She showed us to our table and talked us through the menu. I loved her obvious enthusiasm and excitement for the changes that have been made; the Milton Keynes Hub restaurant was actively involved in the development of the new menu and each member of staff I spoke to was so knowledgeable about every item. I was happy to hear they’ve brought back one of my favourite dishes – fried Camembert – and the Confit Duck Leg which I’ve already heard most excellent things about.
We started our meal with the Fougasse à l’ail (£4.95)- an artisan loaf baked with garlic and served with warm garlic butter. It was huge – it disappeared in minutes. We all enjoyed it.
Rib-Eye with Bearnaise and fries
I knew they’d introduced snails to the menu and was excited to try them. I’ve read that snails are the ‘next big thing’ in foodie circles, being so high in protein yet low in fat, and though they still make me feel a bit gross if I really think about what they are I do really enjoy them. And so we ordered our starters of Camembert (£5.95) and Ragoût D’Escargots (£5.95).
The Camembert was lovely – really enjoyable. But the Escargots were the real star of the show; delicately cooked with red wine and mushrooms and topped with puff pastry. I would eat these over and over again. I enjoyed these with one of my favourite cocktails – a Rouge Royal (Café Rouge’s Kir Royal – £4.95).
The mains swiftly arrived; I went for my absolute favourite of a rib eye steak (medium) with Bearnaise sauce and french fries (£16.95). It was perfectly cooked and thoroughly delicious – half of it was eaten by the children. Elfie chose the very French Croque Monsier (her verdict: yummy) and Hux never picks anything other than pasta as he is two – the kids menus (main course, dessert and drinks) came in at £6.95.
Pudding was the only disappointment for me that evening. I always pick a Crème Brûlée which is my absolute favourite but the topping was nowhere near as thick and caramelised as it should have been. The strawberry and black pepper sorbet it was served with was lovely, however.
The kids adored their ice cream sundaes, Hux so much that he insisted on eating it with his hands. You know, sometimes it’s easier not to argue.
I get invited out for dinner a fair bit (and take myself out even more often!) and don’t always review the restaurants I go to. I like to think I have pretty high standards and so if I leave a restaurant feeling disappointed I’d just rather not write about it.
However, we three had a great time at Café Rouge and I think the whole thing was one of the nicest dinner experiences we’ve had in a long time. The staff couldn’t have been more attentive to us (but not overbearingly) and the food was well-cooked, tasty and good value. I was impressed by the wine list and had a try of a very nice Picpoul de Pinet and the restaurant had a great buzz by the time we left.
Plus there’s the bonus of having one of the most awkward family photos taken of us EVER that night. My children, ladies and gentlemen:
Thank you to Café Rouge for inviting us along to try the new menu… we had a great time.