On a sunny day it would be the ideal spot. The new French Rendez-Vous Cafe is the old Pumphouse Cafe, sitting next to the Pumphouse theatre, with a wonderful outlook on Takapuna's Lake Pupuke and its resident ducks and swans. It's raining today but the verandah is covered so we sit outside anyway, the view is too good to be ignored.
Ordering takes place at the counter and there are no printed menus so we have to go inside and scan the three large wall-mounted blackboards. Ordering like this makes me feel under pressure but we take our time and read through the breakfast, crepe (sweet and savoury), croque monsieur, salad and pasta menus. The boys show off by ordering in French ... the waitress kindly humours their rusty accents. She is also happy for us to start a tab and doesn't require a credit card as security.
My coffee-snob companions deem their Allpress coffees to be of excellent quality. My soy flat white is strong, creamy and bitter in the way a good flat white should be.
All the cafe's croque-monsieur variations are oven-baked with bechemal sauce and cheese. Mark goes for the "Paris" – ham and cheese – while I choose the salmon and spinach version. Both are served with either salad or fries; both of us opt for the more sinful option.
It's a while between ordering and being served but we're all happy when the food does arrive. Mark says the ham is good quality and he loves the thick layer of cheese and bechemal sauce. I find the thick smoked salmon a bit too rich combined with the oozing cheese and the buttery, finely chopped spinach filling. Salad instead of fries would have helped balance things out.
Boyfriend is delighted with his crepe Montagnarde, stuffed as it is with crispy bacon, potatoes, mushrooms, chicken, chorizo and cheese in a flavoursome creamy white wine sauce, and with a perfectly fried egg sitting on top.
We share a pear and almond tart and a lemon meringue tart to finish. Both have crumbly, buttery shortcrust pastry with delicate, sweet fillings and are light and lovely.
We see a table of diners lingering over a bottle of French red wine and the idea appeals, as does returning on a Friday or Saturday for dinner. Later I tell a friend about Rendez-vous. She has dined there already and while she likes it, she suggests some small touches like candles, tablecloths or fresh flowers would add elegant French ambience. I agree; the boys think the food speaks for itself. Vive la difference.
French Rendez-Vous Cafe
WHERE: Killarney Park, Takapuna, Auckland, ph 094870009.
WHEN: Tuesday to Thursday, 9.30am-4.30pm; Friday, 9.30am-8pm; Saturday, 9am-8pm; Sunday, 9am-4.30pm.
WHAT'S TO EAT: French fare, including crepes, croques monsieur and specials.
HOW MUCH: $68.50 for three mains, four coffees and two cakes.
WHAT DO WE THINK: Tres bien.
- Sunday Star Times