Relais de Venise is a restaurant which doesn’t take bookings. It’s menu is limited to a salad start and main of steak and chips – the only thing to choose is how you want the meat cooked – rare, medium or well done: none of that fancy ‘medium rare’. There is no choice of fillet, rib or sirloin – you just get steak. Tables are nipped in and covered in white paper cloths. It opens at 6.30pm and people line up outside ready for the off. If you’re not one of the first to enter, you’ll have to queue round the block. So what’s its appeal?
Quite simply the food is brilliant. I have never had salad leaves which taste so delicious – they’re coated in a mustard dressing with a few added walnuts for crunch. There’s no tomato or cucumber, it is simply dressed leaves served with French bread (no butter).
Waitresses, in old-fashioned black and white uniforms, jot down steak orders on the paper tablecloth. 2/3 of the sliced steak is brought to you with a mountain of thin, crisp, golden chips. Half way through, the rest of your steak is served and your chip mountain replenished. A sauce is automatically served and slathers the steak: it’s reasonably thin in consistency, smooth and sludge-green in colour. It’s a secret recipe and the taste is hard to describe but it is fantastic. It is said to contain ‘various herbs, spices and condiments’.
If you’ve any room left for pudding, then this is where the choice comes, as long as you read French. We couldn’t and so smart phones were produced to look up things like Le Sevigne. Our choices were Crème brulee, L’ananas frais au kirsh, La glacé au chocolat, and Le profiteroles au chocolat. The profiteroles appeared to be the most disappointing as they were filled with ice-cream rather than crème.
The wine list is short and ranges from a reasonable £17.95 to not so reasonable £55.
The starter and main is £24 and puddings are extra and priced around £6.
So, if I’ve not managed to put you off and you’re not a vegetarian, I’d highly recommend a visit. There are branches in: Marylebone Lane W1, Canary Wharf E14 and the City EC2. www.relaisdevenise.com