Found along the Old Birmingham Canal, The Mailbox has a whole host of fantastic restaurants just waiting for you to perch up with a glass of wino and enjoy dining al fresco. Of course, with so much to choose from, it’s equally as lovely to pick your favourite and dine inside. On the sunny Saturday evening we chose to visit the wharfside Cafe Rouge, it made total sense to enjoy a chilled class of Pinot Gris on the sun terrace.
A glass of white and a taster of mixed olives later, and our starters were out. We'd gone for Tempura Moules (£4.95) and Bresse Bleu (£7.50) to begin.
My crispy tempura mussels, which came with a smoked garlic and lemon aioli, were gorgeous crunchy bites perfect for seafood lovers like myself. They would probably be great to try if you aren't sure on the texture or look of mussels, since the light, deep fried element made them accessible without losing the delicious taste.
My dining companion went for a French classic - gooey baked cheese with fougasse fingers. This was a super generous (and moreish!) portion for a starter, which came nicely presented in a branded Cafe Rouge box. Bresse Bleu, which is a cow's milk cheese, is almost like Camembert but with a much stronger, blue cheese tang and a bloomy rind. For stinky cheese fans - this would be a massive hit!
For mains, we went for 7oz Fillet Steak Frites (£18.95), Demi Poulet (£11.95) with accompaniments of the Tomato and Red Onion Salad and Spinach (£2.95 each). The 35 day aged steak comes with a choix de sauces ranging from garlic butter snails to classic béarnaise, as well as garlic butter and of course French frites.
At the time, I was disappointed that they'd ran out of the lobster & dill butter I'd been dreaming of. The friendly waitress couldn't apologise enough and suggested I tried her favourite - mayonnaise infused with truffle. For the record, it turned out she had no idea that I was invited for a review and just turned out to be super lovely.
I ordered the steak medium rare and was thoroughly enjoyed the firm, grilled outer with tender and juicy meat within.
The half roast chicken marinated in thyme, garlic and black pepper with wild rocket and thyme jus, and served with another portion of skinny frites. Although I don't eat chicken, I'm told it was especially fragrant, with a soft texture and equally yummy crispy outer.
The sides were just the ticket for eating al fresco - fresh and colourful rainbows of light vegetables. I could've easily eaten the whole bowl of spinach, and loved the vibrant red tomatoes. The red onions aren't advised for a first date - so just make sure you pack the mints if you order this one!
For dessert, we went for Tarte Au Citron (£5.25) and Tarte Tatin (£5.95) - classic French puds all round! They didn't have a full size tarte tatin, but it actually worked out better to order a miniature version with an Americano (£4.50), a combination known as café gourmand.
My lemon tart, which came with ice cold crème fraîche, was the expected zesty flavour with a very thin and crispy base. No soggy bottoms here! The portion size was a little big for me (rare, I know) so I think I'd consider a mini one myself next time. The tarte tatin, a classic apple and sweet pastry tart, came with caramelised hazelnut crunch and equally tiny dollop of vanilla ice cream. It was the perfect bite for something sweet at the end of your meal.
In all, I really enjoyed my meal and if I were to return to Cafe Rouge, it would definitely be this one. The balcony setting and al fresco atmosphere enhanced the dining experience (obviously the sun was on our side) and the staff couldn't have been friendlier. Cheers! *clink*
Have you dined in any of the canal restaurants Bimingham? What's your local Cafe Rouge like?
Note: We dined as guests of Cafe Rouge. All opinions are honest and my own.