07 July 2014

A travel day and a different restaurant experience

It's a travel day for our friends Peter and Jill. I'll be taking them to the train station across the river in Noyers-sur-Cher in a few minutes. They'll be in London by mid-afternoon. We've had a good visit despite the rainy, cool weather.

It rained pretty hard from 7:00 a.m. until about 5:00 p.m. yesterday. We spent the day inside, making only a short trip to a restaurant over in Pouillé (five miles from our house) to have lunch. It's a restaurant that occupies an old wine cellar or cave — pronounced [kahv] — meaning a network of tunnels and alcoves carved into a limestone hillside by people quarrying the stone in past centuries. It's called Le Bousquet and has been in business, I understand, for 40 years now.

We're not talking about a gourmet food experience. It's really the polar opposite of a place like the Agnès Sorel restaurant in Genillé, where the atmosphere is calm and dignified. It was a case of quality vs. quantity of food. At Le Bousquet, we were in a room where every table was full and people were good-natured, relaxed, and boisterous. As we started started our meal, two musicians — an accordionist and a guitarist — starting playing to entertain the crowd.

The musicians approached each table and asked people what song they would like to hear. They obviously knew all the French classics — Piaf, Montand, Aznavour, and so on. When they came to our table, I looked at them and said: "We are a group of four Americans, so..." They had that panicked look on their faces that indicated they wondered if we would suggest a song that they actually knew how to play.

Peter and I had joked about maybe asking them to play a Janis Joplin song like "Another Little Piece of My Heart." But we didn't. I asked them to play the pre-war French standard called "Parlez-Moi d'Amour". A woman about my age at a neighboring table was watching and listening to our exchange with the musicians, and when I named the song she smiled and winked at me!

The music was so loud — they played six or eight songs in all before moving on to another part of the restaurant — that we could hardly talk to each other at all. But it was fun. The food was real "down-home" French fare. First, they brought us a pot of rillettes (potted pork), a dish of country-style pâté, and crock of cornichons (pickled gherkins). It was all-you-can-eat time.

The main courses we could choose from were entrecôte-frites (steak and fries), a chicken breast in cream sauce with fries or rice, and a salmon fillet with either fries, rice, or green beans. The fries weren't very good, and the steak, while tasty, was kind of gristly. The next course was a very nice cheese board with a dozen cow's-milk and goat's-milk cheeses. The waitress just left the board on the table and we had 10 minutes or so to serve ourselves whatever cheeses we wanted. There was also a bowl of green salad in vinaigrette to go with the cheese.

Dessert was a couple of scoops of ice cream or a cup of coffee. There were plenty of other desserts, but if you ordered those you had to pay for them separately from the set price of the meal — 20 euros. Wine was separate too, of course — we had a local rosé. I didn't take my camera. It's too dark in a cave to take pictures without a flash.

We arrived at the restaurant in a hard rain, and we left in a hard rain two hours later. We spent the afternoon watching the men's final at Wimbledon on TV. Now it's time to go to the train station, for a 7:15 departure. It's not raining... yet.


  1. There's no 'of course' about the wine being separate. It's not infrequently included in restaurants like this. Usually in that case it will be red, and already on the table. Sounds like an interesting experience and fun for Sunday lunch.

  2. That's true, Susan, but I can't think of a restaurant here in the Saint-Aignan area where wine is included in the price of the menu. In Paris, at the restaurant (Le Grand Bistrot) on the Place de Breteuil near where CHM lives, the 44 euro menu includes a half bottle of wine per person. It's usually a Loire Valley wine, and the last few times I've been there it's been a wine from Mareuil made by Jean-Christophe Mandard, who has his tasting and sales room down in the center of the village on the Route d'Orbigny.

    By the way, the rosé we ordered is a Pineau d'Aunis made by François Leclair in Pouillé. It's excellent. His winery is on the main road between Pouillé and Angé, very close to the Le Bousquet restaurant.

  3. Susan, thinking about it, I think I remember that the Grill des Nouettes over in Noyers-sur-Cher, near the cemetery, includes (or used to include) 25 cl of wine with its lunch menu. It's been a while since I had a meal there, but it's a good restaurant. It's worth trying.

  4. just reading that there r major delays in the chunnel due to an accident or breakdown

  5. Melinda, thanks for that. We haven't heard from P & J since I dropped them at the local SNCF station early this morning. I hope they squeezed through, but probably not, judging by what I've just read about the situation.

  6. It was nice day except it was raining cats and dogs.

  7. I was going to mention the Eurostar delay, too, but I think you've already read more about it than I-- I just saw a headline, and saw that it had something to do with a power outage, and that many travelers were evacuated. Yikes!!

  8. There seem to be quite a few troglodyte restaurants in your area. (We've only tried Auberge La Cave Martin in Vouvray.)
    I just enjoyed a quick walk-through of Le Bousquet thanks to the interactive "Visite Virtuelle" on their website. Thanks for the link and review.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?