Open over a year now and a firm favorite with many a Galwegian, Rouge is the hottest ticket in town at the moment, and understandably so. The '€15 for two courses' price tag alone would be enough to get people in the door, but the fact that the food is fantastic has something to do with it as well. A small menu is usually a promise of good things to come in my eyes, a few things done right is far better than a long list of potential disappointments and Rouge has the shortest and sweetest menu of them all. I went at the weekend with some old ex-Galway friends (who must now regret leaving!) and we had a very lovely evening there.
My very capable friend Joan had booked it a couple of weeks in advance on my recommendation, I can't be relied on to book anything and she is super organised, but had she not booked there was no way we would have gotten in. It's a very busy spot and, while you can be lucky, you do need to book ahead to be guaranteed a seat. Their simple but excellent offering is a selection of just three main dishes, steak, fish or vegetarian all very delicious, cooked perfectly and very few complaints.
After you have given your main course order, your starter platter arrives, a collection of bite-sized appetisers served on slates to share. We had a bowl of French onion soup, very under seasoned and over sweet, a result of the onions not being caramelized for long enough. A sublime quiche, some garlic mushrooms which divided the opinion of the group, too much garlic some said, no such thing as too much garlic I replied. A goat cheese and walnut brochette completed the platter, which helped to make the underwhelming onion soup much more delightful acting as a very delicious giant crouton. The starters platters change constantly.
Then onto the three main courses - steak, fish of the day or the vegetarian dish. The steak is the only constant here, it is striploin, cooked to your liking and served in slices on a heated metal platter. A companion sauce had to be decided for the two of us at the table who had ordered the steak. We tried the wild mushroom and the peppercorn sauces, both very nice. All the mains come with a well-made variety of sides, fries, gratin, dauphinois, steamed potatoes, Chef's potatoes or side salad. A ratatouille was especially good and everyone raved about the potato dauphinois which were elevated from the mundane with more than the usual suspicion of nutmeg.
The fish and vegetarian dish can change daily depending on the catch and whatever's in season. The fish was expertly and simply pan fried and, unusually, came in a red wine cream sauce. The vegetarian dish was a delicious vegetable bake topped with a strong French cheese. Desserts and excellent coffees are extra, choose from pear and almond tarte, creme caramel, profiteroles or a Poire Belle Helene, or go for the dessert sampler at €11.80 if you have someone to share with.
The service here is in the Gallic style too, staff are professional and efficient, not overly friendly and chatty - just the way I like it. Their very knowledgeable sommelier is on hand to recommend a tipple if your knowledge of French wines is less than encyclopedic - but the list is excellent. Not much under the €20 mark but what is there is stellar. My advice to anyone taken aback at the prices of the wines, or if you are on a budget, is to try a glass of their very palatable Sauvignon with your meal. At €15 for the set menu and €3.80 for the glass of wine - you'll still have enough for a bottle on the way home. Don't forget to leave a tip, mind!
The room and style of dining lends itself particularly well to groups with a few large family-style tables, all named after Parisian streets. A bustling, charming restaurant with stone walls, old 19th century posters and a grand piano, Rouge is entirely deserving of its popularity. Bon Appétit.
Le Petit Rouge, directly across the street from it's 'Maman' restaurant 'Rouge', has just opened, bringing yet another option to the West End's thriving 'Dining District'. This is a more than welcome addition, as currently there are few places for the 'thirsty and peckish' to go. This style and standard of wine, cheese and charcuterie is really only available upstairs at Sheridans Cheesemongers, since 'Sheridans on the Docks' was so cruelly taken from us before its time.
Intimate and rustic, Le Petit Rouge is a small but perfect wine bar with a strong personality. The long, narrow space here is pure theatre, carefully considered lighting highlighting areas of a room that just stops short of being a stage set, with balconied shuttered windows and vintage posters adorning the exposed brick walls around their centerpiece, a gleaming cherrywood bar.
The wine list carries a number of French labels best known for their traditional and organic approach to winemaking. There are some well chosen cheese and meat platters, small or large to share over a chilled bottle of white; or terrines and pates - perfect with a nice glass of red. Staff are prompt and informative and there are even a couple of small desserts for the sweet toothed.
|Le Petit Rouge is a little bit of la belle France, right here in Galway.|