A RESTAURANT chain has launched its national rebrand with the reopening of a branch in Sussex.

Cafe Rouge began its era as Rouge on Wednesday night as it hosted its official launch at the newly refurbished Haywards Heath site.

The brand is part of the Big Table Group, which operates more than 150 restaurants throughout the UK and Ireland including Las Iguanas and Bella Italia.

The revamped Rouge in The Broadway has had a complete makeover, changing both the exterior and interior design, as well as an updated menu and fresh training for staff.

The Argus: Exterior of Rouge in Haywards HeathExterior of Rouge in Haywards Heath

The Argus was invited to the VIP launch evening to get a taste of the new brand with a three-course meal.

Haywards Heath Mayor Howard Mundin was also in attendance and cut the ribbon at the door.

As someone who has been to the Haywards Heath Cafe Rouge about three times a year for as long as I can remember, I was well-equipped to assess how much has changed.

The new exterior is the first sign of the transformation, with an LED sign sporting the new name and a huge Christmas tree on the terrace.

There is new outdoor seating, lighting and heating, and the full length French doors that were formerly painted red to match the interior are now a cool grey.

Dotted around the front patio are potted plants and umbrellas, giving a very Parisienne feel.

The Argus: Interior of restaurantInterior of restaurant

Inside it is barely recognisable, now painted cream and deep blue with new furniture and framed prints on the walls.

The bar to the left of the entryway remains the same and we were greeted with champagne cocktails of various flavours, already giving a hint of the standard to come.

I was met by the chief operating officer of Cafe Rouge and Las Iguanas Steve Worrall, who was involved in the decision to make Haywards Heath the first to undergo the renovation.

The Argus: Steve Worrall (Chief Operating Officer of Cafe Rouge and Las Iguanas) (left), Javier Llopis (General Manager) (centre) and Mayor of Haywards Heath Howard Mundin (right)Steve Worrall (Chief Operating Officer of Cafe Rouge and Las Iguanas) (left), Javier Llopis (General Manager) (centre) and Mayor of Haywards Heath Howard Mundin (right)

He said it was due to the venue having a "built-in customer base" and being already popular with residents.

He said the name change and revamp added a "slice of modern Paris" and a bid to move away from the misconception that it is solely a breakfast restaurant.

We began our meal with a portion of fougasse, a hand-shaped cheesy bread, served with garlic butter, which is an old favourite that has been brought back to the menu.

I had, perhaps foolishly, opted to drive so was forced to try the mocktail selection, I chose a Ceder Collins which is elderflower cordial, lime juice, rosemary bitters, soda and tasted similar to a gin and tonic with its juniper flavours. Very refreshing.

The Argus: Ceder Collins mocktail and French Kiss cocktailCeder Collins mocktail and French Kiss cocktail

My guest chose the French Kiss cocktail made of cassis, Pastis and soda - she was very impressed with the aniseed taste.

For starters we chose baked Camembert and the calamari to share, both absolutely delicious.

The Camembert was very mature and traditionally French, served with bread and an assortment of carrot, cucumber and celery.

The calamari, it was a great combination of crunch and not too much salt, paired with a lemon and garlic mayonnaise.

The Argus: CALAMARI lightly dusted squid with a lemon and garlic mayonnaise and baked Normandy Isigny Camembert with French baguette, crudités and onion marmaladeCALAMARI lightly dusted squid with a lemon and garlic mayonnaise and baked Normandy Isigny Camembert with French baguette, crudités and onion marmalade

For the main course we both opted for beef and shared a side of creamed spinach. My guest enjoyed the beef Bourguignon - slow cooked beef in red wine sauce with bacon lardons, pearl onions, carrots and chestnut mushrooms, and served with herb mash potato.

I chose the 7oz fillet steak with peppercorn sauce and a portion of fries, the succulent medium rare meat was topped with a balsamic roasted shallot and was the perfect size.

The Argus: Steak and fries, creamed spinach, Beef BourguignonSteak and fries, creamed spinach, Beef Bourguignon

In a bid to truly get a taste for the menu we were tempted into trying one of the desserts and chose the chocolate mousse with a Biscoff centre and crumb.

It was the perfect way to finish the meal, topped with a Biscoff biscuit in the centre and lots of sauce, the mousse was light and fluffy.

The Argus: Chocolate mousse with Biscoff centre and crumbChocolate mousse with Biscoff centre and crumb

I then coerced my guest into trying the Espresso Martini, an old favourite of mine and one of Rouge's "dessert cocktails" - she was impressed with the balance of liquor and coffee flavours.

Overall the meal was of a very high standard and the atmosphere of the restaurant completely different - it now feels far more like a classy evening restaurant.

I will definitely be returning with family and friends so they can see what Rouge has to offer.

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