Dear Cafe Rouge
I’m sure you will agree that the festive season leading up to Christmas day is a time for family, friends, fun and feasting – something I imagine you hope to host in your national chain of French cuisine restaurants.
Having had a large majority of my family live in the South West of France for the last 29 years – and thus spending the large majority of my childhood holidays there – I am very partial to the French style of eating and its focus on rich, decadent flavours. Hearty bean cassoulet, warming onion soup and wine drenched mushroom bourguignon are some of my favourites; all washed down with a glass of classic Bordeaux.
It may surprise then, if I admit that I haven’t actually visited your restaurant before. In fact, I haven’t even contemplated it. Why? Well, that’s because I am a vegan.
Yes, I am one of those odd ball hippies you may not imagine has any real interest in good food. After all, I would rather give up a juicy mouth watering steak, or melt in your mouth Camembert in favour of a bland tofu and vegetable stir fry, or uninspiring tomato and avocado salad. Right?
Well, actually no. You couldn’t be more wrong. If you remove the meat, fish, eggs and dairy from a menu what you’re actually left with is pretty much everything else. Lentils, beans, vegetables, herbs, spices, fruit….these ingredients can create some pretty amazing stuff if you are a real lover of creating good food. And whilst you may scoff at Tofu or other fermented bean products, Asian cuisine proves time and time again these ingredients can form the canvas for some stunning works of food art.
What has all this got to do with you, I hear you ask? Well Cafe Scrouge (as I would now like to call you) I was excited and intrigued to visit one of your London branches last night for the first Christmas meal with my new work team. I had high hopes for what rich, tasty French cuisine you could pull out of the bag for a humble vegan like me.
I called over a week in advance, explained my requirements to the manager, and came armed with a number of pre-existing items on the menu (such as your Risotto Vert) which could be veganised if only cream, butter and cheese were not added during cooking. I understood a booking of 26 was daunting to churn out, but I had faith that cooking one vegan dish with some small tweaks wouldn’t be too much hassle. Right? Wrong again.
Despite many of your competitors, such as Zizzi, Las Iguanas and Wagamammas being ahead of the increasing demand for vegan and gluten free options (with extensive menus ready and waiting) it seems you are not so organised. Not only is your menu lacking in vegan friendly dishes, even calling ahead and giving your manager guidance was not enough to ensure I could enjoy the inspiring cuisine I imagine you pride yourself on.
The result? Whilst my colleagues feasted on roast turkey, steak frites and cheesy vegetable tarts, I was left with…wait for it….salad and chips! Oh Cafe Scrouge you out did yourself there, you really did! But it’s OK, I am a vegan after all with no real interest in tasty food, so an upscaled side salad (undressed of course) and fried potato is a lovely festive feast to enjoy with friends.
In your defence, I was offered not one, but two, bowls of sorbet for dessert. A nice touch on your part, and refreshing way to cleanse the palate.
I may not be in a hurry to visit you again anytime soon, but if you do feel inclined to branch out and add a few vegan friendly options please do get in touch; I’ve got a little experience of eating vegan French food and could give you a few menu tips 😉
A Lazy Girl Goes hungry..