We decided to trust the advice written in the little guest book we found in the house we had rented that summer, and headed to a restaurant serving a three-course lunch (complete with a bottle of wine!) for only twelve euros. A bargain! What kind of meal that would be, though, was anyone’s guess, but for that price, I definitely wasn’t expecting too much. I was, however, extremely curious.
From the outside, the place looked deserted. The weather was beautiful, yet not a single table outside was occupied. An obvious sign of trouble, I thought. But we were brave, and agreeing to give it a fair chance, took a seat at one of the lonely outdoor tables.
After ten minutes of waiting, I decided to send Hans inside to see if there was any life to the place.
There was life, and there was food. But only inside. We were escorted to the back of the restaurant by a Piaf-looking gal with a raspy voice, red lipstick (on the teeth more than on the lips) and dishevelled hair. I braced myself as I followed her, passing the bar full of sweaty men sitting in a cloud of cigarette smoke. The wine was already waiting on the table, open and in a bottle with no label. The only thing I knew was that it was red.
We sat down, poured ourselves a glass and contemplated what was going on around us. There was an older couple to our right who was finishing some sort of salad, slurping their water (the wine was untouched) and not really saying much to each other.
The tables in front of us on the other hand, were occupied by chatty groups of men (slightly better looking than the ones at the bar), greedily carving into their meat with their own Opinel knives. It was fun to sit there and try to figure out what they were talking about. And hey, the wine wasn’t even that bad!
I noticed the large, French windows shaded by thin, yellowed curtains. There were other waitresses walking around, and the homely atmosphere combined with their nonchalance suddenly made me feel as though I was sitting at my auntie’s house. The more wine I drank, the stronger that feeling became. To me they were no longer ‘waitresses’ but ‘aunties’. I so wanted to stand up and hug them. And boy, was that wine good.
Half a bottle later, the messy-haired waitress came back to announce that the plat du jour was côtes de porc-frites and informed us that unfortunately, the starter was finished. It was a bit of a disappointment, but at that point I was just happy there was actually going to be any eating.
By the time the garlic-smothered chops came out, the wine was almost finished. Happily we tucked in, not minding at all that for the rest of the day, our breath would keep us from saying a single word to anyone (except each other).
Halfway through the meal, I remember looking at Hans and asking him what he thought about the meat. He didn’t say much and instead poured me the last glass, which came with a complimentary dead fly. That didn’t seem to bother me though. Seriously, has anyone ever died from a little extra protein? And doesn’t wine and garlic prevent gastric upset?
When we left the restaurant, it was a little after two o’ clock in the afternoon.
I really can’t remember much about the rest of the day except that my head was spinning and that every pore in my body was wreaking of garlic. Only later did Hans and I confess to each other that we were glad we were spared a serious bout of food poisoning. And to think that a year later we would return to that same place…