Mary Randles had never worked in hospitality when she met her now-husband Philip Johnson. But from the moment she started working at Johnson’s E’cco Bistro, Randles was hooked.
After two years as front-of-house manager at the iconic CBD restaurant, she’s ready for her own venture. Set to open at the end of the month, Madame Rouge Bar & Bistro, will occupy the Fortitude Valley-space once home to Jamie Webb’s much-loved Gordita.
It’ll be a fresh adventure for Randles but also something of a new start for the troubled M&A development. Gordita was the last of five of the precinct’s original restaurant tenants driven out by design flaws that included the laneway acting like a wind tunnel.
Thankfully, Randles has designed the restaurant with this issue in mind. “It’s all enclosed,” she says. “It will be dark, dimly lit, and we’ll be playing loud 50s-style jazzy, bluesy, cabaret music, so it won’t affect us at all.”
At the time of writing, heavy red velvet curtains are being installed to complement the red carpet and large red leather booths. Tables will be topped with candles to add to the post-war feel.
The menu – compiled by Johnson in collaboration with head chef Matthew Short (previously at Olé Fuego) – features a range of French classics such as beef tartare, steak frites, confit duck, and a whole roasted chicken to share. Desserts are on the same track, including crème caramel and apple tart with calvados ice cream.
Drinks-wise, expect innovative cocktails from mixologist Alberto Manresso (formerly at Stokehouse) as well as a predominantly French-based wine-list.
The name Madame Rouge is a tribute to the red-haired owner of a restaurant in French town Saint-Brieuc, where Randles lived for 13 years. “She wasn’t great at people’s names and I didn’t speak French,” she says. “But she had fiery red hair and I started to call her Madame Rouge.”
The restaurant will open on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 5pm to midnight, and Sundays from noon to 5pm.
Madame Rouge will open at 11b/100 McLachlan Street