Monday, 18 February 2013

Crusty bread and a jug of wine


One of my favourite restaurants is hidden away in a hilltop village, with 350 inhabitants. And all along the street under the arcades flanked by a 14th century castle, and a 16th century covered market, there are mismatched and rickety tables and countless diners happy to spend a long afternoon in the dappled sunshine.

There’s no menu. On the table, they place a big pot of soup, usually a wholesome garbure, full of cabbage, meat, beans and goodness. The entrĂ©e is a platter of cold meats, salad, and hard-boiled eggs, or sliced tomato, Bayonne ham and melon in summer. A big basket of crusty bread, a jug of water, and a jug of table wine complete the first uninterrupted hour. 

The waiter eventually takes the order for our meat. It's served on a large platter, with garlic potatoes or chips or French beans or whatever vegetables are in season, and probably picked in their own garden. The region provides plenty of beef, veal, pork and, above all, duck. We don’t count calories around here, but they say that the particular combination of duck fat and red wine is the secret of the locals' longevity.

Dessert is ice cream or fruit. The fruit comes in a huge basket with a plate and a knife. Help yourself.

12€ for the 4-course set meal, including wine. Where is this paradise? In the picturesque village of Bassoues.

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