Madame Rouge offers a delicious trip to France without the jetlag. It feels as if you have stumbled upon one of Brisbane’s best kept dining secrets when you walk into this sultry, sophisticated space in Fortitude Valley. Candelabras top the simple wooden tables, flowing red drapes line the room and the far wall is adorned with framed prints by Toulouse Lautrec. Booths provide a cosy place to dine with someone special. Curved banquettes can accommodate larger groups with the addition of a couple of chairs.

Taking centre stage is a horseshoe-shaped bar, presided over by bartenders who know their craft. While it is a fine idea to come in for a meal – and you should – it is equally enjoyable to sit at the bar with a newly created Bijou or French 75 cocktail and a few small plates to share with friends. Madame Rouge features classic French dishes such as beef tartare, goat’s cheese soufflé, steak frites, and slow cooked duck leg with du puy lentils. Just like a traditional Parisian bistro, these are moderately priced. Think entrees between $9 and $25 and mains under $36, with most priced around the $32 mark. Desserts are $16 and cheese starts at $15 for one selection. The biggest bargain is the $59 three course special which is available every night of the week, with a choice of three dishes for entree, main and dessert.

Bar at Madame Rouge

Bar at Madame Rouge

Cocktails at Madame Rouge

Cocktails at Madame Rouge

Since Madame Rouge opened a little over six months ago, the menu has been tweaked based on feedback from the restaurant’s many loyal customers. Delicious, crusty bread rolls are now offered as a complimentary starter (if you want more – and you might – they can be yours for just $2) and the steak and frites section has been expanded to include a number of different cuts which the waiter introduces with information about which producer they have come from. If you would prefer something other than classic frites, try the pommes puree or gratin dauphinoise which have been added as an alternative as part of the new menu. Regular visitors will also notice the addition of a new outdoor seating area with towering toasty braziers to keep out the chill in winter.

On our last visit, we started with a couple of well-priced glasses of pinot blanc from Alsace, a goat’s cheese soufflé and boudin noir (black pudding) served with scallops and celeriac puree. This time we couldn’t bring ourselves to pass up the souffle in lieu of something different but we did opt to try the classic French onion soup for a change. Pace yourself, particularly if you have your heart set on dessert, as servings are generous. I struggled to finish my soup which is saying something as it was delicious.

Boudin noir with scallops and celeriac puree

Boudin noir with scallops and celeriac puree

Gratinated goat's cheese souffle

Gratinated goat’s cheese souffle

French onion soup

Slow cooked duck leg was the star when it came to mains, with lentils adding texture and structure to this classic French dish. Much to my husband’s delight, the new menu at Madame Rouge now offers potato gratin and eye fillet, both of which are his favourites. Steak frites is the only option on the $59 three course menu so if have your heart set on potato gratin (or creamy mashed potato), it is worth ordering a la carte.

Slow cooked duck leg with du puy lentils and kale

Slow cooked duck leg with du puy lentils and kale

Steak with gratin dauphinoise

Dessert special (the ice cream sandwich of my dreams)

We couldn’t go past the dessert special, a very grown up and sophisticated ice cream sandwich. I wish this was on the menu permanently as I would come back to Madame Rouge for this dish alone. If you are looking for a ‘date night’ restaurant, this is one of Brisbane’s best. Madame Rouge is s-e-x-y. Not in an obvious way but like a stylish Parisian woman who makes passers-by either want her or want to be her. Taking your partner here is guaranteed to add an irresistible touch of je nes sais quoi to your night out.

Disclosure: The writer dined as a guest of Madame Rouge. She is already planning a return visit to try the $59 three course menu with a group of friends.