CALORIES? I’ve had a few. And then again, hardly too few to mention!
Eating out in restaurants at least once a week has got me piling on the pounds and I confess to contributing a stone or so to the extra weight Sheffield is carrying.
With the average man needing 2,500 calories a day (and a woman 2,000) I can, if I’m not careful, easily blow the lot in one meal.
Food and Drink always counts the pennies but this time the Editor has told me to count the calories as part of The Star’s fight on flab.
That’s easier said than done.
How many restaurant menus come with a calorie count?
Of course, you can use your noddle: a helping of foie gras (supposing you can find somewhere brave enough to sell it), a fatty ham hock or a juicy steak with all the trimmings is obviously going to be more than a Caesar salad.
And if you know you are going out for a meal at night you can lay off the lard during the day.
But we all need a little help for there are times, I’m sure you know, when we all bite off more than we can chew.
Café Rouge helpfully lists a number of dishes on its menu under 600 calories.
And if you ferret through its website it reveals the number of calories in most of its dishes.
How can it do this when other places don’t? After all, if a chef adds a little more oil or butter, a little extra sauce or gives you a slightly bigger portion it’s going to send those calories spiralling up.
It can do it because Café Rouge is happy to admit much of the menu is portion controlled and cooked in advance in a central kitchen.
So with the help of its online calorie guide we’re at the Café Rouge in St Paul’s Place to plan each charted course (you may have guessed Frank Sinatra’s My Way is going through my head)!
Now if I were doing this for normal I’d probably kick off with the house terrine (504 calories), continue with my all-time favourite, confit de canard, with French beans, dauphinoise potatoes and a Gruyere cheese sauce (1,228 calories) and probably finish up with tarte au citron (558 calories).
But this would take my calorie count to a shocking 2,290 , and we’ve not even included breakfast or tea (we’re going for lunch).
We walk into town, about a mile.
That will account for 100 calories, the health websites tell us. “Well on the way to that 187 calorie crème brulee I’m planning to have,” says my wife.
Café Rouge is almost full for lunch. It has plenty of atmosphere, with big mirrors, lots of French pictures, a comfy plush red banquette against the back wall and enough lampshades and chandeliers to stock a lighting showroom.
There is no calorie count on the menu against individual dishes (items such as bouillabaisse and beef salad are among the eight simply signalled as under 600 calories) so we consult our PDF print out. The restaurant has free wi-fi so you could always look it up on your laptop.
It’s no frites please, we’re slimming, so I primly order garlic prawns (a very modest 236 calories for £6.25), followed by grilled chicken with bulgar wheat, coming in at 405 calories and £12.50.
I’ve been a bit sniffy at Café Rouge’s heat and eat menu in the past but I can’t deny my five butterflied prawns swimming in garlic and chilli butter, with two slices of baguette to mop up the juices, is just the job.
Olga, our friendly Polish waitress, who seems to have learned the calorie count by heart, can’t believe it’s so low.
The cornfed chicken is very tasty, in two pieces, with roast marinated pepper and grilled courgette plus a minty crème fraiche but a little bit too pricy.
Meanwhile my wife has a decent goats cheese salad (305 calories and £4.95) followed by a very creditable, gutsy aubergine gratin (470 calories and £9.95).
I point out I’m ahead by 134 calories so far.
She points out she’s sipping lemon pressé while I’ve got wine (we reckon a 175ml glass of white is 116 calories).
She finishes with that crème brulee, which despite her suspecting it must be low on cream doesn’t taste that way, taking her to a total of 962 calories, or 49pc of her daily recommended intake.
I’m a bit naughty with poached pear, ice cream, waffle, chocolate sauce and grated white chocolate (£5.95), but still one of the lightest sweets at 342 calories. That’s what it says on the website and I’m sticking to it.
It takes my calories to 983, or 39pc of my daily intake.
I’m smug and a little surprised that I don’t feel hungry. As Ole Blue Eyes says, I’ve had my fill.
And standards are obviously high in the central kitchen.
If I can keep this up the final curtain may be further away than I think.
Café Rouge say the low calorie dishes are popular (they had three more specials we didn’t notice).
We paid £42.60 for food and £13.30 for drinks, including coffee.
The Dawes Verdict
St Paul’s Place, Sheffield S1 2JL.
Tel: 0114 275 3815.
Open Mon-Sat 9am-11pm, Sun 10am-10.30pm. Credit cards. Vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. Children’s menu. Disabled access and toilets. Street parking.