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Cafe Oriental/Le Rendez-Vous

September 19, 2010

You know something’s up when a cafe can’t even decide on its own name.

This place has been open for a few months now, at the end of Campo Lane near Hartshead Square. It was built into a space that has been empty for a while, but has been a number of previous bistros and cafes – none of which has done very well. Nevertheless, this area is piled high with offices, solicitors, and estate agents offices, so to be honest a good cafe in which to have a swift business lunch is probably a good idea.

Unfortunately that is not what this place is. Rendez-Vous is something of an enigma, and I’ll try to explain it to you. I think the best thing to imagine is Fawlty Towers… I’ll try and do a run down of the place by subject. Apologies for the dodgy phone pics.

Decor

The interior is a confusion of modern cafe tables and chairs and a few wooden formal setups with cutlery settings and table cloths. The kitchen is open, however, with a long glass display fridge, more like what is normally found in a casual coffee shop or cafe setting.

This is just the beginning.

The Theme

With the titles up front you’d expect either a French bistro, or a chinese/oriental style cuisine inside. This place actually offers neither of those, with the menu being made up almost entirely of middle Eastern and Mediterranean items, as well as a few dull British mainstays (omelettes, fries, burgers).

Menus

The biggest confusion for the new customer has to be the menus. Last time we went in, we counted them. There is a paper menu on every table, three permanent chalkboards, a lit-up specials board, and two plastic menu holders with sandwiches and toasties in standing on the counter, should you happen to spot them. They also have a number of items in the counter which are not on any of the menus. Oh, and there’s a drinks menu on the wall too…and a chalkboard outside advertising things that they don’t seem to serve once you get inside.

'Oriental Vegetable Baguette'

Then, the content of the menus. The paper menus and the chalk boards are almost, but not exactly the same, meaning that items can be missed if you’re not looking carefully enough. They’re categorised into things like ‘salads’, ‘sandwiches’, ‘ and ‘side dishes’, but in several cases the same items appear under more than one heading, or things appear under a heading that doesn’t make sense – for example ‘oriental vegetable cous cous’ appearing under the list of ‘skewers’.

There are some other things which really bugged me. The incessant use of the term ‘oriental’ isn’t just weirdly overused, it’s also entirely inaccurate. Initially interested as to what an oriental vegetable panini would taste like, I soon realised that they actually use the term where most places would use ‘Mediterranean’. So instead of a salad with grilled mediterranean vegetables, it is ‘oriental vegetables’. I don’t know what dictionary they’re using, but it’s confusing the hell out of me. Even more confusingly, other things are described as ‘Mediterranean’ there anyway, so really the mind boggles. Additionally, they make a really tasty in-house houmous. The problem? It’s written ‘Hammas’ on the menu. As a vegetarian I took a wild guess that it meant houmous, and I was right, which was a good gamble – but still a gamble.

Service

Oh good grief. I have a policy of being nice and friendly to workers in service, in part due to the fact that I was a waitress for several years. The fact is, however, that this place is nearly always half-empty and the service is still inexplicably slow. Two sandwiches and two drinks with some chips can usually a 60-90 minute job here, and though I’ve been several times, I’ve never once had an order not be repeated, questioned, or have had something forgotten. There are two managers/waiting staff and three chefs, so how it takes so long is absolutely beyond me. Even orders for a small or large coffee are usually wrong. I also had problems ordering the houmous, pronouncing it both in the English way, their way (hammas), and the third (hummus). The waiter didn’t know what I was talking about and seemed shocked to see it on the menu at all when I pointed it out, even though it has been there since they opened…as has he.

'Hammas'

The Food

So why am I having such a big old bitching session? Well, I’m not really. The reason I go back there is because their food is pretty good and very reasonably priced, and I really want to praise them for that. One of the ‘side dishes’ is a lovely spiced vegetable/tomato stew/soup, with cumin and coriander and some heat. I thought it was great, but was unfortunately unavailable on my last visit. The salads are also lovely, with fresh leaves and interesting ingredients such as fresh mozzarella. I’ve also had the ‘hammas’ several times, which is great and comes with some reasonable home made french stick garlic bread. There is an inconsistency in the place though – for example the amount of food you get on an item changes from day to day, and there’s clearly no set guides between the chefs on certain recipes which are completely different every time.

I can’t help but like this place, for all it’s oddities, and I think that they have the potential for a nice little cafe. Before that happens though, they really need to work out a few things – choose a name, make it more representative of the food served, ditch the seven menus and stick to one, categorise it, do some basic staff training…and Bob’s your uncle.

I hope you’ll try eating there because the food really is nice and the staff are lovely…just be prepared for a bit of ‘an experience’.

Rosie @ LoveSheffield

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Bishell permalink
    September 19, 2010 10:53 pm

    I think you have summed up our experiences there very well, and like you I’m fond of the place. Maybe that is because there is always somewhere to sit, or as you say it is cheap and food is pretty good. The downside for me is not the confusing menus or that you never quite get everything the way you ordered it, it is the fact that I’m always late back from lunch when I go here. It really is quite amazing how long it takes to get a coffee and a cheese toastie!

  2. September 19, 2010 11:31 pm

    Well exactly. They can’t put a cafe right in the middle of a ‘business’ district (in that it’s off the beaten path for shoppers and right next to a load of offices) and then be that slow. I saw something somewhere that said that you should be able to be in and out of a place like this within 30 minutes if it’s for workers. They’d get more business if they were quicker, and our poor CCD staff with their scheduled 30 minute lunchbreaks might get a look in too!

  3. September 20, 2010 7:31 am

    Haha this made me laugh!
    What a bizzare place

  4. September 22, 2010 3:15 pm

    Ahhh ‘Oriental’ just brings to mind Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism’, did you ever have to read that? I never use that term anymore.

    Still, the food looks pretty yummy!

    • September 23, 2010 10:46 am

      Yeah I have read it! At uni.

      People use it as a broad term in place of what American’s would say for ‘Asian’ (so China, Korea, Japan etc) because we use ‘Asian’ to mean South Asian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh). Silly really, right?

  5. December 2, 2010 3:42 am

    Good Afternoon

    Looking forward to your next post

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