Hmm, le weekend – Sunday papers, fresh coffee, a stack of pancakes, with a background of French music. These can all be yours, and more, at Cafe Rouge, a nationwide chain of French-style bistro cafes. Fun fact: the first Cafe Rouge opened in 1989 and after numerous mentions in the original Bridget Jones' Diary novel it became a household name, with over 120 branches across the UK. If you squint your eyes you could literally be in France; there's wine bottles everywhere, those curved-back chairs that I don't know the name of, and monochrome photos of glamorous women on the walls. The Highgate branch in north London has some intense yellow lighting in the main dining section, and nooks and crannies with lighting that's a bit more natural if yellow isn't your thing. I love Highgate Village's vibe, it's like nowhere else in London, and you can meander around the famous cemetery (where Karl Marx is buried) after brunching. My all time favourite Cafe Rouge branch is in Edinburgh, in the New Town area. Looking out at cobbled streets and Georgian buildings as French music and decor surrounds me makes me feel like I'm in Paris. I'm weird like that.
Cafe Rouge kindly invited me to try out their summer edition brunch menu, which will be served until the end of September every weekend until midday on Saturday, and 1pm Sunday (and also every weekday too). There's lots of French pastries of course, and some brunch favourites – avo toast and eggs Benny, you know it!
As a vegetarian I loved how much choice there is for me, and everything sounds amazing. After a hot chocolate for me, coffee for my friend, I had the Rouge Vegetarian (veggie brunch) and my mate had Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon. It's so amazing that for every coffee ordered, Cafe Rouge donates 5p to the NSPCC.
I loved my veggie plate, small but satisfying amounts of breakfast goodness, including some dreamy avocado. Next up we both had pancakes – sweet for me, and a bacon-maple savoury hybrid for my friend (below). I loved the walnutty taste and salted caramel sauce mine came with (top picture). The pancakes were very light and fluffy, I could seriously have eaten more.
The menu is great because you can have add-ons for a small extra charge – fruit salad with your french toast, poached egg with your avocado toast, and so on. They also have some cocktails – Mimosa and Bloody Mary, and mocktails too. The French Garden Fizz with elderflower and mint sounded really nice, but they had run out when we were there, must be a goodun. My goodness, this is great stuff: an affordable and delicious brunch menu with a Parisian theme. Even though French cuisine is not known for being especially vegetarian-friendly, Cafe Rouge definitely is, and I want to go back and try the lunch and dinner menus too. I'd happily just eat their amazing pancakes though, anytime.