“Welcome to our little den.”

With a warm smile and outstretched arms, Mary Randles has stopped for a brief moment to greet guests to her new restaurant, Madame Rouge. The classically styled French bar and bistro is the first solo venture for Randles after two years running front-of-house operations at husband Philip Johnson’s iconic CBD restaurant, E’cco Bistro.

The venue takes over the space previously occupied by Jamie Webb’s much-loved Gordita, on the ground floor of the M&A development. While Gordita’s open design meant it was troubled by the notorious wind tunnel between Ann and McLachlan streets, Randles has crafted a space that deliberately shuts out the elements.

Much of the original layout – the central bar and booth seating – remains relatively intact. But heavy red-velvet curtains, a moody colour scheme and a wall of French poster art have transformed it into a much more intimate space. Candle-lit tables and vibrant ‘50s-style music give the venue a lively Parisian feel while blocking out the noise of passing traffic outside.

“Post-war 1950s has to be dark, mysterious and sexy. You can’t do that outside,” Randles says. “The wind-tunnel factor is a real issue, but not for our business model. The food and mood is all inside.”

In the kitchen, Matthew Short (formerly Olé Fuego) produces a range of classic French-inspired fare. The menu was a collaboration with Johnson, who says: “If French cuisine is done properly, it’s timeless.”

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Starters include a gratinated goats cheese soufflé, and boudin noir (black pudding) served with seared scallops and celeriac puree. Mains are even more classic, with dishes such as steak frites, slow-cooked duck leg served with du puy lentils, and poulet roti – whole chicken accompanied by fricassee mushrooms and jus gras. A handful of desserts such as creme caramel and profiteroles round out the menu.

Behind the bar, Alberto Manresso (formerly of Stokehouse) is in charge of a menu of wines, spirits and cocktails with a strong French influence. Randles says the menu will adapt to include more French classics and specials as she and her team become more confident in the space.

Madame Rouge
100 McLachlan Street, Fortitude Valley
07 3252 8881

Tue to Sat 5pm–midnight (kitchen closes 10.30pm)
Sun 12pm–5pm