When you cross the river at Sancerre or Pouilly-sur-Loire, you are officially in the Burgundy region. Pouilly is in the département called la Nièvre, which has Nevers [nuh-VEHR] as its main city. We were just going to drive through, because our destination was the Yonne département, whose main city is Auxerre [oh-SEHR].
Houses along the road as we arrived at Pouilly-sur-Loire
We had planned to have lunch in Pouilly. I had picked out a restaurant by looking at French TripAdvisor reviews. It was called Chez Mémère, which means something like "granny's place" — mémère is baby-talk. We crossed the bridge over the Loire and turned left up the town's main street.
This street narrowed radically as we drove into the village center.
It turned out that the main street through the town (pop. 1,710) was very narrow and surprisingly busy. There were cars parked on one side of the street, which meant there wasn't enough room for two cars to pass each other. One had to wait. I think it was just the lunch-hour rush, since it was ten past noon.
Walt had just read through the menu when I snapped this shot.
We easily found a place to park, told Callie to guard the car, and walked back to the restaurant. There was a chalkboard outside on the sidewalk advertising a 14-euro menu that looked excellent, with three courses (starter, main dish, and dessert). Fourteen euros is about $18 U.S. these days. Wine and coffee would add a lot to the final check, so lunch would have cost close to $60 for the two of us.
Chez Mémère's front door seen from inside the restaurant
We pushed open the door and found ourselves in a room crowded with 15 or 20 tables, of which two were already occupied, each by a group of four. Those people all turned and looked at us with curiosity, and I nodded and murmured Bonjour. There was a second room on the side, which had maybe as many tables and was empty. The hostess of the restaurant came out to greet us. I asked for a table for two.
A winery across the street
« Vous avez réservé ? » No, I said. I don't know why I hadn't. It had been hard to imagine that a restaurant in a small town like Pouilly would be all booked up on a Tuesday at lunchtime. Well, we were turned away. No room at the inn. I wonder if all the tables were really reserved, or if it was the kind of restaurant that really cooks fresh food and makes only enough for customers who have reserved in advance.
A doorway near the booked-up Chez Mémère restaurant
And why did they put a signboard out on the sidewalk advertising their menu if they knew that they wouldn't be taking any walk-in customers? The woman — was she Mémère? — was nice enough to point us toward another restaurant, which she described as being « à l'autre bout du pays » — at the other end of the village. We moved on. It's funny how people in the French countryside use the word pays (which means "country") to describe a village.
pretty views. but the hostess was rude; perhaps she didn't like the way y'all were dressed? things like that are infuriating!ReplyDelete
LOL, Anne Marie, I hope we didn't look that scruffy. One review on TripAdvisor, which I just looked at again, says:Delete
il faut toujours réserver "chez Mémère" mais on n'est jamais déçu
Several other comments mentioned the necessity of making a reservation. I don't know why I didn't notice those comments before the trip. My bad.
They cook local food for local people!!ReplyDelete
Very bad to advertise wares outside like that for reservations only.
I love the window tho'... what lovely stained glass.
And I like the insect house outside the winery... nice touch!
Though I can't remember now what it was, there was one main course Chez Mémère that I really wanted to try. Tant pis!Delete
Was it tripes au vin blanc?Delete
No, it wasn't tripe, but I still can't remember what it was. Sounded delicious, though. I'll probably never know what I missed.Delete
For what it's worth, I wouldn't have booked either. You never know what might happen on the journey, and having a deadline like a restaurant booking isn't worth it. I think her turning you away means they have a crowd of regulars who turn up at 12h30. During the season she probably opens up both rooms at lunch and dinner and has wait staff. Out of season I expect one room is set up for lunch, the other for dinner and she manages the whole front of house thing. I suspect it's this front of house restriction (lack of staff) that dictates whether she's prepared to take people off the street or not.ReplyDelete
I'll listen out for people using pays in the way you describe. I've not noticed it before, but now you've brought it to my attention I bet I hear it everywhere.
Susan, good points all. One comment on TripAdvisor says Chez Mémère is only open for lunch -- no dinner service. I wonder if the woman wasn't expecting a large group, maybe a busload of Toussait tourists. Anyway, it didn't matter all that much.Delete
I just checked the dictionary for pays = town or village and found this:Delete
Vieilli ou régional. Village ou petite ville. «Un petit pays de douze ou quinze feux» (- Magister, cit. 1). Il habite un pays perdu, un petit pays au fin fond de l'Auvergne. - Bled, patelin, trou. Ils habitent le même pays, ils sont du même pays
Peut aussi désigner une personne: "C'est un pays ou une payse à moi." C'est-à-dire venant du même village ou de la même localité. Je n'ai pas cherché, mais je pense que paysan se réfère aux habitants d'un même pays.Delete
It's always the wine that does in the cost of an otherwise cheap meal. Your remark about having fresh food being ready is interesting and I have never considered that. Perhaps that says something about our restaurants.ReplyDelete
So that's what happened. Too bad. Was the other restaurant any good or did you fast that day?ReplyDelete
That is a shame. I would have been really frustrated -- I really look forward to my meals, and especially so when I've got a specific place I've been looking forward to. As chm asks, what did you think of think of the restaurant à l'autre bout du pays?ReplyDelete
More to come, Judy.Delete
off topic: Ken, seriously. what is going on over there? clown attacks?ReplyDelete
i'm sure you know that "pranksters" carrying guns, knives, and chainsaws would end badly here.... and this isnt the official Insane Clown Posse... so.... what on earth is going?
ps how weird about the lunch place - maybe they were having a town meeting?
OFG, I've heard about the weird clowns but I haven't focused on the details. I'll do that when I get a chance. Hope I don't run into any of them in Paris tomorrow. The restaurant experience in Pouilly will remain a mystery.Delete
I think that Tim summed it up well. This small town restaurant "cooks local food for local people". I have a hard time believing that the locals all call in to reserve for lunch every day. Your story reminds me of when I went into a bakery in a little mountain town in Corsica (double whammy of both small town and island mentalities). There were large wicker baskets behind the 'boulangère' containing at least 30 baguettes. When I asked for one, I was told that "unfortunately", they had no more bread. I'm conditioned now to take nothing personally and to simply walk away when I ask for something of a French person and their reply begins with the dreaded "Malheureusement,...".ReplyDelete
(Au moins, tu as profité du «moment éphémère passé Chez Mémère» pour prendre la photo du très, très beau vitrail.)
Dean, it is because they are reserved by phone call My baker do the same thing. La question est : pourquoi les exposer si on ne peut pas les vendre .. bizarre ... mais c'est comme ça au pays !Delete
Il m'est arrivé la même chose dans mon village. Je demande une baguette à la boulangerie. Il y en a plusieurs dans un panier que je peux voir, Il n'y en a plus, monsieur, me dit-on. Et celles-là ? je demande. Déjà vendues, me répond-on. Qu'est-ce qu'on peut dire ?Delete
So nice place and it seems so old..ReplyDelete