As is our wont when in France, we spent an evening at the village restaurant. The food is always first class, Florence being a very good cook, but the service from Nicolas can be, shall I say? a bit hit or miss. I had wondered a bit how we would be received as our son and his partner, together with their three children, had walked out in disgust just a couple of weeks before we were there. The French can be inclined to bite off their noses to spite their faces so I was just a tad wary. (I heard of one instance when a local garage was unable to locate a suitable car for a long-standing regular customer. He found what he wanted at a garage 20 miles away and the reaction of his usual garagiste was, "You can take it back there for servicing. I won't touch it as I didn't sell it.") As it happened, I needn't have bothered; Nicholas was all smiles.
Apart from the rather lackadaisical service, my main gripe is that the menu has remained unchanged for almost 11 years - except for the price - and although outside the restaurant there is a notice proclaiming fixed menus and a la carte, there is no carte. But we don't go there every week, only about every other month or so, so it is no great problem. Actually, my biggest problem is deciding what to eat for my starter. I do enjoy escargots (of which they serve a dozen) and although it is not actually on the menu, there is usually a goats' cheese salad as a special. The bacon and egg salad is also very good, as is the house speciality, salade presbytere, but that includes grapefruit with the smoked salmon and I am not permitted grapefruit on medicinal grounds. On cold winter evenings the fish soup is a good starter.
I always make a reservation as I have learned that if nobody has booked, it might prove difficult to track Nicolas down - and Florence will probably stay at home. So I book for 7.30, aiming to arrive about 7.45 in the hope that Nicolas has got there by then. He doesn't always manage it, but this time not only were we there almost on the dot of 7.30, but another couple was already seated and our host was in attendance.
From my usual seat at our usual table I have a view of part of the village square and at one point during the evening I glanced out and was astonished to see a police car drive through. We don't see police in the village; in the nearly eleven years that we have known the place, there has only been one crime that we are aware of. That was the theft of a trailer left unchained on the pavement overnight. (Ironically, it was owned by an Englishman who had bought a house in the village but left quite soon as he complained that nothing ever happens there and he couldn't get a decent pint.) That theft was talked about for weeks, possibly months. It was the most excitement there had been in the village since some old boy had a heart attack in the middle of Sunday mass.
I thought no more about the police presence that evening but I did think it rather unusual that the other couple in the restaurant (a young French couple from the nearby town who couldn't keep their hands off each other all evening) where given directions in the square by Nicolas and then drove away down a side lane leading past the sports field. All was explained a few minutes later when Nicolas returned to the restaurant and explained that the police were stopping all vehicles and breathalysing the drivers. My alcohol consumption during the whole evening would be no more than two glasses of wine, but I know that the legal limit in France is quite a bit lower than in England and I was accordingly a touch bothered. Even though we live only a quarter of a mile from the restaurant, that is too far for the Old Bat to walk and I had driven there. Nicolas and I discussed alternative routes home, the shortest being a drive of at least five miles!
The surprising thing was that, although the service had seemed to be no quicker than usual, we were ready to leave earlier than we had ever been - before 10 o'clock (which is when the street lights are switched off). But Nicolas had mislaid his new glasses and could not prepare our bill without them. So it was some time after 10 before we had searched the dining room, the bar and even the garden before spotting the offending specs behind a bottle of brandy. By then the police had given up and gone home, so we did as well.
This is the village restaurant: