With its mix of junk shops, international grocers and array of independent bistros and brasseries, Camden Road is one of Tunbridge Wells’ most bohemian streets, and Rendez-Vous has long been considered one of its most popular eateries. The restaurant has been serving up typically French cuisine for the last seven years, and it’s fair to say that as soon as you step inside you do feel as if you have been transported into a bijou bistro across the Channel.
The cosy interior provides the perfect intimate setting for a romantic meal or quiet family dinner, but this ‘little’ brasserie is actually quite deceptive as it is set over three floors and can seat up to 50 diners. One thing – thankfully – it does lack which many other Gallic restaurants tend to ladle on with aplomb is any sense of pretension!
With the head chef, John Boreham, having been trained at the affluent gentleman’s club Boodle’s on St James’ Street in London, and a friendly front-of-house staff led by restaurateur Mark Harper and wife Lydie, Rendez-Vous certainly has a phenomenal team at its helm.
This is especially evident when it comes to the food – which, it has to be said, is some of the best in town – and Mr Boreham is certainly not afraid to adapt classic French recipes to ensure he is making the most of local ingredients.
Under starters orders
With an extensive dinner menu, offers during lunchtime, and a specials board that boasts some truly eclectic and exciting dishes, the trouble with Rendez-Vous is having to narrow down your choices!
When it comes to the starters, there are some great French classics, including French onion soup [£5.50] and a traditional charcuterie platter [£7.50], but there are also a few Mediterranean inspired dishes too, such as lamb and mint croquettes with tzatziki dip and salad [£6.50] which I chose. I found it an exceptionally tasty and refreshing appetiser that was also light enough not to spoil my main.
My dinner guest couldn’t resist the four-cheese soufflé [£6.50] which she declared was not only deliciously light – as a soufflé should be – but the tomato and parmesan sauce accompanying it had just enough sharpness to cut through all those strong cheese flavours.
The main event
The most notable thing about the menu at Rendez-Vous is its reasonable prices. An 8oz rib-eye steak [£18.50] is incredibly well-priced for Tunbridge Wells. A large number of good value fish dishes litter the menu too, including pan-fried trout [£17], seared sea bass fillets [£12.95] and of course traditional ‘moules frites’ [£12.95].
The slow-braised ox cheek [£18] with mustard seed mash and red cabbage ordered by my guest was a perfect winter warmer and the succulence of the meat suggested that it had been slow-cooked to perfection.
Although I was tempted by another slow-roasted dish, pork belly [£13.95], I decided instead to go for the guinea fowl [£13.95]. This was served with mash and a traditional French velouté sauce. The dish was faultless, filling and expertly cooked but meant that pudding would probably be a struggle to fit in!
For wine lovers, there’s a good selection of decent French offerings, all of which are reasonably priced. We opted for a carafe of the house red and found it well-bodied and an ideal partner for both our main meat dishes while the restaurant’s white Colombard is ideal if you’re in a seafood mood.
If you can squeeze in a dessert, there’s a good selection on offer, but my advice would be to opt for a Café Gourmand [£7.95], which is a cup of espresso accompanied by a small sampling of five of the restaurant’s best puddings. It makes for a perfect sharing platter.
After a visit to Rendez-Vous you’ll easily see why this restaurant is so popular. Not only is the food absolutely delicious, wonderfully cooked and definitively French, it is also great value, especially as this brasserie does not scrimp when it comes to portion sizes.
If you have never visited Rendez-Vous, it is a must for anybody that likes good food but be warned that once you do, you may find staying away proves very difficult!