Restaurant Review: Le Rendez-vous, Ware

A small French restaurant's reputation precedes it as food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne heads for Ware to find out more

WORD had reached me about Le Rendez-vous Restaurant long before I had the opportunity to go there, which is usually a good sign, unless the person tipping you off turns out to be the owner's cousin, or some such. In this instance, it was part of a conversation about how Ware, with its reputed 27 restaurants - although I haven't yet counted them - might be turning into the gastro-capital of Hertfordshire. While St Albans might have something to say about that, it was clearly time to take a look.Like Lussmans in Hertford, reviewed last month, Le Rendev-vous shelters behind an unprepossessing exterior, one of a line of ordinary shop fronts straggled along the high street, and the building is apparently 400 years old. But on a late April Thursday, we can't get in until 8.30pm, and even then we get a table in the back.Not that it matters. Le Rendez-vous is what might charitably be described as compact, managing 42 covers indoors until the weather improves enough to open up the terrace garden for al fresco dining, so wherever you are in the room you're part of the action. But it's cosy rather than crowded and friendly without being pushy. Exposed brickwork and beams add to the atmosphere.With most of the tables already occupied, there is an air of quiet comfort about the place. The background music is vintage Sinatra and the like, and while the restaurant is busy, there is a distinct lack of the sort of self-conscious rush lesser places put on.Much of this is down to the lady of the house, Lesley Thompson, who with her husband and chef Jorge, opened Le Rendez-vous in July 2001 and runs the front of house with cool efficiency. Seven years on and it's still crowded.

Seven years on and it's still crowded

And so to the menu. Le Rendez-vous bills itself as a French restaurant, which is interesting since Jorge is Mexican, but there is certainly a strong French influence and Jorge can point to previous experience at The Dorchester and The Ivy as proof he knows what he's doing. The nine starters and nine mains listed certainly contain several French dishes, but there is a choice and as it happens it's the grilled king scallops for milady and ravioli stuffed with lobster and wild mushroom (both �8.95) for me that get the vote. The scallops come wrapped in bacon and with a trendy white wine froth and the ravioli are rich and creamy. Both are delicious.To follow, I choose the hearty pan fried Dutch calves liver with crispy pancetta, bubble and squeak and Lyonnaise sauce (�15.95), which ticks all the right boxes on a drizzly night in Ware, while my companion gets the marginally better plate of roast breast of duck with rosti potato and orange glaze sauce (�14.50) with a wild rocket and parmesan salad (�3.95) on the side. Readers paying attention will note this brings the cost of this dish to �18.45 - just as well the food was good.Le Rendez-vous' website speaks of a warm welcome, and we certainly had that, and if you want to try the place without breaking the bank, a new summer promotion offers lunch at �10 and dinner at �15 for two courses, except Saturdays. There's also a Spanish night on Wednesdays. Definitely worth a try.USEFUL TO KNOWThe total cost of dinner for two was �75.25, including a bottle of wine at �18.95 and 10% tip, which is added automatically. This is an independent review, featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.

Le Rendez-vous Restaurant64 High StreetWare SG12 9DA01920

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