Tunbridge Wells is home to Rendez-Vous, a brasserie with French influences that marries local ingredients with a fresh approach to a classic cuisine.
Rendez-Vous is a restaurant with a style all of its own, created by Mark Harper and his small team of family and close friends. As a professional chef, Mark had opened a restaurant called Le Rendezvous with his French business partner, but decided it was time to branch out into his own project when the opportunity arose to buy his business partner’s other venue. Mark redeveloped the restaurant into Rendez-Vous, which he describes as a brasserie with French influences. He didn’t want to go down the same route of classic French cuisine, but as his wife Lydie is French there are some touches that echo those flavours and styles.
A big part of the menu comprises game, which is all from the countryside around Tunbridge Wells and is prepared from plucking to roasting at the restaurant. When it’s in season, Mark and his chef John have venison every other week, and are genuinely enthusiastic about having so much local produce to work with. “That’s the luxury of being on the Kent-Sussex border,” says Mark, “as everything we want, from fish to meat to veg, is here so we don’t have to travel far for our food.”
Many of the dishes are real favourites with the regular customers, and the most popular remain on the menu year round alongside an ever-evolving specials board, plus some inventions from Mark and John, that have even included a few wacky ice cream flavours by request! They love being able to invent things that keep everyone – from the staff to the diners – interested and coming back for more. Everything is homemade and the friendly faces on both sides give the bistro style environment a homely and welcoming feel. “We’re well supported by the locals,” Mark says, “and it’s really nice that even our two children can join us in the restaurant on Saturdays when Lydie and I are here together.”
Rendez-Vous is led by the best of Kent and Sussex produce, and driven by the commitment to a strong vision for the restaurant that Mark has cultivated in collaboration with his close-knit team. The joy for them stems from the freedom that owning and running a small, family business affords, and remaining a part of this individual set up is something they all look forward to continuing.