A croissant at Café Rouge

Burnt Croissant

I judge my morning by the quality of light filtering in through my window.  Despite being tucked away in the deepest, darkest corner of the basement, the sliver of a window in my room does get a few rays of light.  These ray come exclusively in the morning and whether or not they will continue to filter in during the winter remains a mystery.  Yet for now, they appear every now and then, tickling the wall as I wake up.  When I see that delicate slant, especially if it begins to grow in size and intensity, I know it’s going to be a good day.  I saw it last Monday morning and Tuesday as well.

The morning I went to Café Rouge, however, the rectangle of light was replaced by the pitter patter of rain.  I tried not to be disappointed.  The only thing that could coerce me out of my warm, snuggly bed was the promise of my favorite pastry.  Luckily, Saturday is croissant day.

I bundled up, because that seemed like the appropriate response to a wet Saturday.   After taking two steps outside, the chill bit through my hat and I realized I would not be walking to the one far from my house.  Instead, I raced to the one nearby, trying to get inside before I resembled a bucket of rain more than a girl.

I wasn’t expecting it to feel nice inside.  In fact, my decision to go to the British chain restaurant was more a joke than anything else.  While reading about heterotopias and the Palace of the Living Arts, I became obsessed with the idea that a themed restaurant could be a “practically manifested utopia,” to quote Michel Foucault.  The initiation rights are the ordering, perhaps pronouncing croque monseiur with your distinctive twang, and the decor introduces a mindset and hierarchy that is separate from the world that exists outside the doors.  Café Rouge is definitely one of the cheesiest theme restaurants you could choose.

Cafe Rouge

Yet, when I walked in I could tell I picked the perfect spot for a Saturday morning breakfast.  It was mostly empty with low lighting and an ineffable coziness.  I chose a seat in the far corner, next to a large window.  Mere moments after sitting down, I was given a menu.  As if I needed time to decide.

By now we all know that the food served at these mega-restaurants is essentially what you’d find in the microwave-meal aisle at your favorite grocery store, with a few more teaspoons of salt and fat thrown in for good measure.  Unfortunately, this means that the quality is not far off the mark for the Bristol croissant scene.  Even Boston Tea Party and Chandos Deli — two of the better croissants — are shipped in chilled and reheated in store.

I think the waitress may have left the toaster oven on a tad too long for this one.  While I enjoy a dark, caramel-tinged pastry more than the next person, this croissant verged on burnt.  Ripping off an end caused an unseemly number of pastry shards to fly around.  The interior hinted at the doughy texture common in England, but it looked dried, with its own dash of caramelization.  It was a croissant with a killer tan.

Of course this is the west country, where drizzly days are a surer bet than sunny ones.  While I enjoyed my bronzed croissant, it was overdone.  Yes, it was buttery, but burnt flavor dominated.  Dipping it into the milky cappuccino was a relief when it was too much.  Still, I enjoyed it and would return to Cafe Rouge on the next drizzly morning, though maybe I’d order the baguette instead.

On second thought, no.

What’s your favorite way to spend a drizzly morning?


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