Weekend Lunch Spot: Cafe Rouge, Leicester Square

Cafe Rouge Irving Street  Leicester SquareA great spot for a bit of weekend lunch is Cafe Rouge, Leicester Square. There are two branches of this well-known French restaurant in the vicinity of this bustling West End spot – one on Charing Cross Road right opposite Leicester Square tube station, and one right in the square on Irving Street.

The latter one was where we were heading. After recently undergoing a complete make-over, Oh So London was invited to check it out. We happily obliged.

On arrival, the newly refurb’d interiors were surprisingly chic actually. The old school style French interiors characteristic of this restaurant group still remain in the form of classic framed French adverts and paintings, parquet floors and wooden tulipan cafe chairs, but there’s an element of the old meets new thrown in.

Oversized clocks, shiny modern red coffee machines and low-hanging bare light bulbs all give it that 1940s cafe feel. Add in the checkerboard flooring, marble topped bar, red leather booths and it oozes chic cafe culture.

So far, so good. I was completely sold by the new look.

Cafe Rouge, Leicester Square, London

Cafe Rouge Irving Street Leicester Square

Food-wise, the menu doesn’t seem to have changed dramatically since I last paid Cafe Rouge a visit. Although I’d never tried the ‘petit plats’ (sharing plates) before.

Petit Plat Cafe Rouge Irving Street Leicester SquareYou basically get a plate of fresh, warm bread and crisp breads with your own choice from eight dips and pâtés which set you back £3.50 each.

We went for the crab pâté, warm gruyère cheese fondue, duck and chicken rillettes and cold saucisson and cured pork loin.

My friend Mr C, who accompanied me, agreed, that this platter alone, with good company, good wine, and a good old gossip, was a fab way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Speaking of wine, I tried Cafe Rouge’s house white while Mr C went for their house red.

The Cafe Rouge White, or ‘cuvée de la maison blanc’ was nicely chilled, dry and crisp and Mr C said the Cafe Rouge Red, or ‘cuvée de la maison rouge’ had good body and tonnes of flavour going on. At £5.55 we’d highly recommend.

Cafe Rouge Irving Street Leicester Square

For mains, I went for the salmon niçoise salad (£11.95) which was a deliciously crispy grilled fillet of salmon served on a bed of salad leaves, red onion, boiled egg, tomatoes, green beans and new potatoes. With a squeeze of lime and a little pot of French dressing it was filling yet healthy lunch option.

salmon nicoise salad Cafe RougeIrving Street Leicester Square

Salmon Nicoise salad

Meanwhile, Mr C went for the 7oz Bavette steak which is basically flank steak and is popular on the Continent. It was juicy, chargilled and perfectly rare as he ordered. It will typically set you back £13.95 so is below the sirloin (£15.95) in terms of price. Served nicely on a slate with crisp fries and a little pot of Bearnaise sauce, made him a a very happy guest.

Bavette steak, Cafe Rouge, Irving Street Leicester Square

Bavette 7oz steak

almond and apricot pudding with creme Anglaise Cafe Rouge

A superb almond and apricot pudding with creme Anglaise

Was there room for pud? Just. By the waiter’s recommendation we ordered the almond and apricot pudding with two spoons (£5.75).

In the words of Mr C, he could have happily ‘sat with a spoon and the jug of crème anglaise and polished that off alone. (It was good). The pudding itself was spongey, fruity, sticky and sweet, just how a pudding should be.

For a weekend lunch spot, the newly revamped Cafe Rouge is a great choice.

Several hours later, the lunchtime rush had died down and we were still putting the world to right from the comfort of our leather booth over a glass of wine.

Do Cafe Rouge Al fresco and it’s a great spot to people watch over the buzziness of Leicester Square. But with such chic interiors, friendly waiting staff, a great bustling atmosphere and great tasting food, this was a hard place to leave.

artwork cafe rougeCafe Rouge, 17-18 Irving Street, London, WC2H 7AT, 020 7930 9135

www.caferouge.co.uk