Friday, 29 February 2008

Will You Marry Me?

...... or is bigamy not allowed in France?!
I have never laughed so much in a long time when I read this article - "Campaigner abandons cashless 'peace walk' from Britain to India". Priceless!
We went out for a meal last night at the Petite Abbaye in Lamalou les bains - and it was wonderful. It was to be a surprise for the girls but at the last minute LeeLee rang to say she had been invited to stay at Kevin's for dinner. So then there were three....

It is a little unpretentious place loved by locals so you need to book unless you always get there just as they open like us! Within 30 minutes they are usually turning people away. Their basic premise is that the table you sit at (or book ahead) is yours for the evening, and if you leave early, it is a bonus and they will slot a second sitting in if asked. But no chivvying to get a move on. Many an early evening we have watched them turn incredulous diners away even though tables were empty - because they were booked for later in the evening!

There are not separate starters and main courses - everything is just listed and you can choose what you like, for when you like.

And they welcome sharing - anything on the menu! We REALLY like that!!

Their salads are to die for and easily big enough for two. Up until this year you could have fed a family of four on one - but we were impressed to see a little more sophistication has crept in this year - but not too much!.

Their 'wheel of mussels', baked whole camembert (with prunes and bacon) and their super-duper pizzas are all cooked on a wood fire.

So first we shared two salads between the three of us:
1. Lettuce, goat's cheese baked in filo pastry parcels, toasted almonds and slivers of dried mountain ham. 2. Lettuce with sliced avocado, pineapple, crab and a warm crab/egg flan on top.Then Nic dived into a plate of open mussels with garlic, parsley and cheese, the metal serving plate of which she scraped within an inch of its life first with a load of bread and then a fork to dislodge the baked on cheese!
Richard and I went for their new idea - ham in madeira sauce. When we asked what the garniture was - we were told potatoes and green beans. OK, not particularly inspiring but OK. What the waiter did not mention was - potato in a pottery dish covered in a cheese sauce with grated cheese on top and then baked in the wood fire, with green beans rolled in melted garlic butter.....

The service was exemplary. The young man looking after us all was shaven-headed except for a crest of spiky hair, with studs and sticking out ears. He was charming and attentive, and had great fun chatting with Nic - asking her what marks she got in her English classes, etc. It surprisingly was a quiet night, he thought because the first 21 day 'cure' of the season finished this week - so changeover time.

As we were eating our salads, the chef kept discretely peering over the divider to check whether it was time to put Nic's mussels in the fire. It was funny - but even I did not have the guts to get the camera out!

The restaurant is very popular with the curistes. They might share a salad and the baked camembert between two - and with just a carafe of water on the table, eat an excellant meal for two for 16€ !

The restaurant never batted an eye when others came in last night and just shared a salad and water on their way home. The service was as friendly and attentive as ever - even though the total bill for two would have been 7€ only!

Places like this are few and far between.
Richard and the girls came to live out here about six months ahead of me (I had a LONG notice period!) and tried out the various Lamalou restaurants - and the girls graded them basically on their toilet facilities. Because, boy, does Lamalou have fancy toilets!

On their first visits, they would return from the toilets with eyes popping and gabbling about what they had found. Then we each in turn would have to go and inspect their latest discovery.

Now I am not a toilet fetishist by any means and do not make a habit of taking a camera with me when I go - but the one at the Petite Abbaye was one of their old favourites and I just had to share it with you all ......
Press the button on the side and the thin plastic cover that totally encases the toilet seat rotates round delivering a new length for every patron.
Strolling back leisurely to the car, we had to admire the Casino. Worth a visit just to see the 1920's architecture - and the room full of machines à sous (slot machines) where it is the law that refreshment must be offered free of charge continually.
Setting off from home, we decided to take Xena in the car as well. As I bundled her in, Smokey rushed across the road, between my legs and jumped straight in and settled on the back seat.

I know this is France but even they must draw the line at bringing a big fat tabby cat to a restaurant! Surely?!

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