Last week I had to make a trip to Avalon Beach and while there I met up with my friend, Lou, for lunch. It had been quite a while since I’d been to Avalon and I was really looking forward to enjoying the cafe scene and catching up with Lou.
I was always a big fan of The Cook’s Larder that was a cafe/restaurant/cooking school/deli/catering school and so much more and was so saddened to see that it is no more. However, when one set of doors closes, new ones open and what was The Cook’s Larder is now the Rendezvous Cafe. The Rendezvous Cafe is owned by the same people who own Avalon Brasserie and friends of mine who live in the area tell me the food at the Brasserie is outstanding so Lou and I were keen to try their cafe that has only been open for a few weeks.
The cafe is in a section of Old Barrenjoey Road where the footpaths are really wide allowing for spacious outdoor seating and separation from the traffic.
I had an immediate problem upon entering Rendezvous Cafe and that is that the interior looked exactly the same, except striped bare. I think it’s very dangerous for any new cafe to not give itself an immediate new identity to avoid comparisons being made.
What you now feel when you walk into Rendezvous is a sense of emptiness. The place seems very, very bare. Previously the blackboards on the walls were covered in chalk telling you what’s available but now most of the blackboards are empty, there are perspex boxes at the counter that used to be filled with sweets but now they sit empty, there were pictures on the walls but they’ve gone and not been replaced with anything, there used to be things hanging from the ceiling like retro egg beaters but they’re gone and nothing’s replaced them and sadly, it seems gone too are the customers.
It’s like the former occupants stripped out everything except the tables and chairs and the new occupants haven’t replaced any of the items that gave the cafe so much character and soul.
We took a seat towards the back of the cafe where we had a clear view into the open kitchen that also has a large angled mirror so you can watch the chefs in action. Being a French cafe, they appropriately play French music, however, I’m not sure if we were seated directly under the speaker but we did find the music a bit loud for our conversation and the music is not Tina-Arena-French, but rather quite obscure French music.
A smiling waitress brought over some water and handed us the menu. One page of the menu is the all-day breakfast menu and we looked at the other tables and noticed everyone had ordered breakfast items that were around $16.50 each. On the other side was the lunch menu. There were four entrees and four mains. I’m not sure that people going out for lunch in a cafe are necessarily wanting an entree and would have thought entrees would be more appropriate in a restaurant.
As there were just four mains to choose from, we found the menu extremely limiting especially when we went to order the fillet of snapper only to be told it was unavailable. I also noticed that the mains were priced between $24.00 and $26.00 and I think this is more than what most people are prepared to pay when having lunch in a cafe. I asked if there were any specials and was told there was a BLT or a steak sandwich. I ordered the steak sandwich and Lou, having trouble deciding, ordered an entree of sweet corn fritters and another entree of Smoked Tasmanian Salmon.
My steak sandwich was okay. It said it came with a basil aioli but there was only a very small teaspoon of it to be found. The steak was nicely cooked and it was juicy which is definitely preferable to dry and I was impressed with the rather large steak knife. However I did think the fries were a tad dry and the look of them reminded me of what you might find in a fast food restaurant. I also thought the presentation of the fries could have been stepped up a little.
Lou found her sweet corn fritters to be nice but that’s all. She was glad she also ordered the smoked salmon as finding the corn fritters a little bland, she felt the salmon made the dish more interesting – except it wasn’t one dish, it was two mixed together.
We might have ordered dessert but we weren’t asked if we wanted any and by then we thought we might make more of the time I had left with a quick wander around the Avalon shops. If you haven’t been to Avalon it’s a great place to go for a day to do some shopping.
Overall, we were underwhelmed by our experience at Rendezvous and I’m sure this is because the previous cafe was so alive and buzzing and wonderful and now it seems like they’ve packed up and moved on and there’s nothing much remaining except an empty shell. This cafe will need to quickly overcome that feeling if it’s going to survive. Verdict: Teething issues.
Rendezvous Cafe: Shop 1, 21-23 Old Barrenjoey Road, Avalon NSW