Cafe Rouge, Petergate

Finding a table for two on a Saturday night can turn into an ordeal, playing it safe by going to a branch of a restaurant chain is a good bet, but don’t let a student budget put you off Café Rouge in favour of Bella Italia or McDonalds.

The maitre-d’ inflicted an excruciating wait upon us and I felt distinctly underdressed while he checked for space, but when we ventured upstairs there were several empty tables, this, however did little to distract from the rich faux-Parisian atmosphere – which extended even as far as the gentleman sitting on the adjacent table: alone, reading Herges Adventures of Tin Tin.

Though the waiters are probably students like us there is the feeling that one should be attempting to order in broken schoolboy French, and I was all for whipping out my “je voudrais de…” when our waiter addressed us in plain English, saving us from a moment of bilingual inadequacy.

Ordering one starter between us as typical students was a mistake. The crab cakes were delicious (if a little thin) and drizzled in a delicate sauce. The problems arose as with only three on the plate arguments over the last one made sharing a nightmare.

A bottle of house red was easily the most expensive item on our bill, and as with all restaurant wine was over-priced, but no more so than in cheaper haunts such as Toto’s. Though palatable, it tended to be heavy and did little to compliment my main course of moules and pommes-frits.

The wait for our food was reassuringly longer than expected in a restaurant chain; although others around us seemed to be served slightly more promptly we were offered gracious apologies.

After the measly portioned starter the main course left no room for complaint, a healthy serving of moules with plenty of pommes-frits to dunk in the garlicy sauce. My partner’s pasta with chicken (and extra chips) was in a thick creamy sauce, the likes of which my dairy aversion prevents at home.

When the bill came to just over £12 each (and we could go for a drink without taking out a hardship loan) I was pleasantly surprised, although the food was not amazing, I confess to spending more than that in the Charles in the past, where the moules aren’t up to much!

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