THE website of a new fusion restaurant, which melds Far Eastern flavours for a modern Oriental experience, said that it couldn’t fit us in; a speciality seafood restaurant, where we could expect “freshly shucked oysters”, didn’t pick up the phone for a whole day; a newly restored hotel with an elegant fine dining menu had an ansaphone message saying it was closed until January 20.

With the modern newcomers unable to accommodate us, we turned to the traditional: Rustique, which has been offering classic French cuisine in the centre of Richmond since 2009.

The Northern Echo: The entrance to Chantry Wynd and the Rustique restaurant

It is in Chantry Yard off Finkle Street. In fact, the yard has been roofed over so you feel you are dining outside in an echoey backstreet ruelle in Paris where the Eiffel Tower looms between two buildings at its end. Fortunately, as this was a North Yorkshire evening in January, we were heated by an old fashioned metal radiator which gave us a pleasant continental temperature.

The Northern Echo: The view of the Eiffel Tower from our table in the ruelle in Richmond

The menu is quintessentially French: garlic, onions, wine and cheese. There were mussels everywhere and even, at lunchtime, a demi douzaine of escargot. Unlike a fusion Far Eastern restaurant, you don’t need to meld traditional French flavours with your near neighbours in Belgium, the Netherlands or Germany to create something new and exciting to win over the modern British palate.

The Northern Echo: Camembert with olives, cornichons and balsamic glaze

From the six starters on the menu, plus a ham hock special on a blackboard, I chose a quintessentially French camembert (above) served with French bread plus pots of olives, cornichons and a balsamic glaze (£6.50). The camembert was a little disconcertingly whiffy when it arrived, but I found that the bread dipped in the glaze – that’s balsamic vinegar that’s been reduced into a syrup – and then ladled with molten cheese was fabulous. The sweet-sharpness of the vinegar cut through top end cheesiness to create a lovely creamy taste, although I wasn’t sure what the other pickley things added to the dish.

The Northern Echo: Petra's "plump and juicy" tiger prawns

Petra, my wife, started with crevettes a l’ail et au piment (£6.95) (above)– tiger prawns in garlic, chilli and tomato. “They are just like me, plump and juicy,” she said. I was probably supposed to protest that this couldn’t possibly be the case but a) I was too busy with the camembert and b) she was correct in that the prawns were beautifully full and juicy. She felt the chilli was a bit too much; I could hardly taste it, but we agreed it was still a very good start.

For her main course, she had tried to order the one vegetarian and vegan dish on the menu – baked aubergine stuffed with ratatouille (£11.95). However, they had run out of aubergine, but, in a classic French tactic where nothing is quite as straightforward as you’d expect, the extremely personable waitress suddenly produced a raft of options from other menus that weren’t available but could be: there was a stuffed pepper or a ratatouille crepe from lunchtime or a pan-fried sea bass from the menu du jour.

The Northern Echo: The pan-fried sea bass on a bed of greens

She chose the sea bass (£15.95) (above) and was not disappointed. The thin fish was perfectly cooked, and it came on a bed of asparagus and green beans, with a sprinkling of capers that added a sharpness and a touch of tarragon in the sauce.

The Northern Echo: My pork fillet wrapped in bacon with black pudding the middle

For my main course, I’d chosen filet de porc a la moutarde (£15.95) (above), which were round pieces of pork wrapped in bacon with black pudding in the centre. The porky tastes of the filet and the bacon worked well with the strong sweetness of the red cabbage and red onion accompaniment and the surprising fruitiness of the mustard sauce, although the delicate black pudding in the middle was rather overpowered.

Both of our dishes came with plenty of Lyonnaise potatoes, sliced and cooked with onions and wine.

There were four desserts on the menu, including Pudding au Caramel which was a Franglais attempt to take sticky toffee pudding over the channel.

The Northern Echo: Two goey French cheeses on the cheeseboard

I chose the crème brulee (£5.50) while Petra opted for a two cheese cheeseboard (£6.95) (above). Both her cheeses – Pie d’Angloys and Chaourice – were French and goey and wanted to run off the board. They were great, one salty and sharp and the other creamy, and such a difference from a usual cheeseboard of cheddar, Brie and blue.

The Northern Echo: An unadorned creme brulee

My brulee summed up the meal. It came unadorned without any fancy flavoured shortbread, but had a hard tarmacked top of caramelised sugar with cold custard underneath. You’d expect more la-di-dah touches around the edges in a modern Parisian restaurant but this was how I imagine crème brulee has been served for centuries in more rustic French settings: honest, tasty and rather comforting in its authenticity where genuine food hasn’t been shucked about with in a bid to make it stand out from the crowd.

With two large glasses of French red, our bill for two came to £73.

Chantry Wynd, Finkle Street, Richmond DL10 4QB
Tel: 01748-821565

Food quality: 7
Ambience: 8
Service: 8
Value for money: 7