Recommended by The Rough Guide to England, Café René is a popular eating out venue in Gloucester city centre, offering great food, a friendly atmosphere and historic surroundings.
Freshly prepared cuisine drawing upon good quality ingredients is available seven days a week from 11am to around 9.30pm, with daily chef’s specials and the option to enjoy candlelit dining. Café René also hosts regular summer barbecues in its beer garden.
A lunch menu includes a range of sandwiches, salads and specials, while highlights from the varied evening menu include homemade steak and ale pie; Caribbean lamb curry with gungo pea rice; a trio of award-winning sausages; and homemade Desperate Dan burgers. Café René also boasts an extensive wine list, with real ales on tap.
Ska music, strong pints and some of the best food we’ve ever eaten in Gloucester made for an inimitable evening at Cafe Rene’s restaurant, on SoGlos.com’s lively mid-week visit.
On a warm evening, when the benches lining the cobbled entry to Cafe Rene are crowded with summer drinkers, don’t let the array of tattoos, piercings and lashings of black eyeliner put you off. While the Gloucester venue certainly attracts a diverse crowd, inside you will find a cosy atmosphere, a warm welcome and a crowd pleasing restaurant menu to make the surliest-looking punter smile.
Arriving at 7.30pm on a Wednesday evening, we admit we were apprehensive that such a popular pub could deliver a menu worthy of ‘restaurant’ standards. And while I could have forgone the dress-and-heals combo for a comfy pair of jeans, flicking through the extensive menu – littered with ambitious dishes – we realised that the confident chef shared none of our worries.
I plumped for the Parma ham starter, which turned out to be exceptionally generous slivers of delicate Italian meat, some left plain and others grilled to a satisfying crisp, covering a huge bowl of green leaves, with gratings of salty parmesan and a glug of olive oil making all making for a very promising start.
While opposite, a traditional bowl of whole scampi tails with a creamy garlic mayo was given a thumbs up, with crunchy golden breadcrumbs giving way to tasty and hot fishy morsels, not to mention a hearty salad adding plenty of vitamins to the dish.
For main course, we deliberated over a page of chargrilled choices, a la carte options, a veggie selection and bevy of burgers, and that was before we’d even found the daily specials languishing at the back of the menu. Choosing was a timely pursuit, but one made all the easier while sipping a pint of draft Red Stripe – for sheer novelty value.
The award-winning homemade ‘Desperate Dan’ burgers piqued my partner’s interest and big appetite – and he opted for a half-pound variety, which was a well-seasoned and juicy specimen of manly proportions in a soft white bap, accompanied by chunky chips, a fiery homemade salsa, and more helpings of salad.
The homemade chicken and mushroom pie sounded like a winner to me and arrived almost as big as my plate, topped with a mound of golden filo pastry which gave way to a blast of steam as my fork broke through the many layers. In my family we agree that a ‘pie’ comes in a pastry case, rather than simply topped with pastry. But nevertheless my few seconds of disappointment were quashed as soon as my first forkful was devoured.
What must have been a whole chicken’s worth of tender white meat was combined with handfuls of juicy button mushrooms, chopped herbs and lashings of gravy with a tiny hint of spice. Fresh, thoroughly tasty and impressive indeed, yet I could still only manage half of the gargantuan portion.
At 9pm sharp the live music started just a few feet away from the now filled restaurant, and while the cranked up decibels proved an initial shock to our system a glance around the room showed the other diners – who ranged in age from thirty-somethings to seventy-somethings – seemed perfectly prepared for the unique over dinner entertainment. In fact, it seemed some might have turned out on a Wednesday evening to hear lively ska band Swift Manouver while they dug into their dinners.
Admittedly bass guitars and booming vocals are not for everyone – with peace-and-quiet-loving diners recommended to visit on another night of the week – but, for us it was a novel and entertaining end to an enjoyable evening. And while the energetic covers of popular reggae tunes were pretty good, the desserts were even better.
Arriving as pretty as a picture on a grey slate with dainty swirls and sliced strawberries for decoration, my cheesecake was as far removed from a freezer variety as I could have hoped. Fresh, light and not to sweet, it was my favourite dish of the day.
The baked square of sticky toffee pudding opposite was equally well presented with a dainty jug of toffee sauce a pleasure to pour and scoff, although the dessert was missing the chunks of toffee described on the menu according to my partner.
Cafe Rene is a venue steeped in history in the most literal sense, with Roman foundations, a past as a 15th century monastic alehouse and tunnels used by Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. But while this might be enough to get The Time Team salivating, what impressed SoGlos.com is its modern day appeal.
While it seemed like Gloucester city centre was eerily quiet on our visit – save for a few squawking seagulls – both the restaurant and bar at Cafe Rene was buzzing. Thanks to laid back staff, a casual atmosphere and a cracking menu of well-priced fare, rather than just surviving in the current economy, it seems Cafe Rene is thriving – far surpassing all of our foodie expectations and flying the flag for the city’s diners… those with and without tattoos and piercings.
The average price for a three-course meal for two at Cafe Rene, excluding drinks, is around £40.
By Michelle Fyrne
Friday 15 April 2011
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