Montpellier is a fine, fashionable city, with a bohemian-style student quarter. We parked easily near the Arc de Triomphe and immediately spotted a shady café on a side street which we headed for. Everywhere I have been, I have been able to get ‘decaffeine’ and the French have been very friendly.
Finding Our Way
We then consulted the street map and walked down Rue de Foch which seemed to lead to a park which we remembered from last year’s visit. A little further and it was all beginning to look familiar. We even found the art gallery, the Musee Fabre, where we had previously enjoyed seeing the impressionist painter, Signac’s work. At the moment they are showing Viallat, a contemporary artist which probably doesn’t appeal, but it didn’t matter anyway as the Fabre is closed on Mondays. So much for preparing for our visit!
The Moving Table
Later we found ourselves on the edge of the student quarter and spotted what looked like a lovely café for lunch. We were about to sit at a table when the waitress picked it up (yes, the table) and moved it across the pavement to the other side of the café. This left zero tables outside and being a lovely sunny day we didn’t particularly want to sit inside. Anyway, further wandering didn’t throw up anything worthwhile so we headed back and as we passed the same café for the second time a table had become free. Hoorah! We were even allowed to sit at it.
We then sat patiently for about half an hour telling ourselves that we were on holiday, time didn’t matter and we could do the ‘manyana’ thing if we had to. Eventually we were presented with two menus by the same waiter who seemed to be the only waiter and was very flustered by now. The menu was all in French but we worked out what we’d like and persevered in catching her attention so that we could order. At last she came over.
Now this is the good bit.
I chose a salad but that was ‘fini’. I chose something else. That was fini. I chose a third item, by this time having no idea what I was ordering. You’ve guessed it. Fini. I asked if they had any fromage (also on the menu) and she said: ‘yes, but I don’t think you’ll like it’ Bizarre!
So I asked her what they did have on the menu. Rien. Nothing it turned out. We had been sitting there wasting our time studying a menu on which the restaurant wasn’t able to deliver. Which begs the question: why did she give it to us? She explained that they did have roast beef left over from the day before and we could have that. More out of principal than anything else, I declined. The Grey would have been quite happy with le bouef, and was pretty hungry by now, but no! I couldn’t take any more of this waiter.
With the gallery closed and no sign of lunch this was not turning out to be the most successful of days. Anyway we wandered back up to the café where we had started and happily things began to go a lot better. We instantly got a table; menus appeared at once; there was a specials board and it all looked good. We ordered. The Grey had duck and I had what turned out to be pasta with sword fish and Noilly Prat (vermouth) sauce which was delicious! Washed down with a carafe of the local Rose and we were in good spirits.
One thing we noticed at this café was that on two of the tables the people who had been there for coffee (earlier that day) were still there for lunch. I’m convinced that the two elderly French women had spent the whole morning and half the afternoon there. How lovely!
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If you live in Westerham Kent you are lucky enough to have the authentic French dining experiences on your door-step. They even have grumpy waiters.
The food is excellent and I’ve eaten there a good number of times as I used to live in Westerham.
The Grey and I popped in for lunch the other day and had their shellfish salad (lots of yummy food) and a glass of wine for very little money – excellent value.
I remember this brasserie when it was half the size it is now (they bought the shop next door a few years ago) and they crammed in as many tables as they could. You might arrive hoping for a romantic dining experience and find yourself sitting just a few inches from the couple on the next table hoping for the same thing. It’s funny though, after a while (and a glass of wine or two) you forgot about it and had a great time anyway. Now, there’s plenty of space I think the tables have even got a little bigger.
The Rendezvous makes an appearance in my first novel, Unlikely Neighbours. In fact Westerham is in fact the fictitious ‘Hartfield’ in my mind as I write. The restaurant plays a much bigger role in my next novel to be published soon as it is home to the dashing Pierre. When The Grey first read the first draft of the novel he was convinced that Pierre was real and the owner of the Rendezvous so he booked a table and sure enough the owner dressed smartly in a suit was wandering around ensuring all was well. Trouble was, he had a beer gut and wasn’t what you’d call handsome so I think he finally believed me when I said he was made up!
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