Thank Friday it’s Lunchtime – Café le Verdun, Aix en Provence
Men don’t do shopping, so the LSH and Ash left me and the girls to our own devices in Aix and went off to play with cameras. That quickly palled and it was coming up to lunchtime so they decided to get a head start on the lunchtime rush – have I mentioned that the French take lunchtime very very seriously? Maybe once or twice? Anyway, just before twelve, they installed themselves on the terrace in front of the Café le Verdon, just beside the Palais de Justice (sounds WAY better than Courthouse), having been shown to a nice round table in a corner, underneath a parasol.
They were just starting to get acquainted with their beers when the Maître D’ appeared.
“Vous-êtes combien?” he demanded, how many are you?
“Cinq,” replied the LSH, five (his French is improving! Yay!)
“Vous ne pouvez pas rester ici, cette table est réservée,” announced the Maître D’, you can’t stay here, this table is reserved.
The LSH and Ash were unruffled by this, and readily moved to a different table, and a few minutes later, another group of five lunchers arrived and were shown to the round table in the corner.
Now, we don’t really have a problem with this BUT…
If the table was reserved, why did it not have one of those little plastic reserved thingies on it?
If the table was reserved, wouldn’t the Maître D’ have started the exchange with “Je suis désolée, cette table est reservée,” I’m terribly sorry, this table is reserved, rather than how many are you?
If a table was reserved for the five people who were subsequently seated there, why did it matter where they sat? Sure, it was a nice table, but not THAT special!
No, I think the Maître D’ decided that he didn’t like the look of the LSH and Ash (a shifty looking pair indeed) and wanted to move them somewhere more discreet. That’s my theory anyway. Either that, or he was one of those snooty French waiters we’ve all heard about.
It was just after this exchange that I rang the LSH to tell him all about the cute little café in a tiny little square where the rosé was chilling in the fountain.
“No,” he said “We’ve two beers in front of us, we’ll stay here.”
They should have moved… the omens were there… on the one hand, there was wine chilling in a fountain, on the other, there was a grumpy Maître D moving them for no apparent reason…
The girls & I joined them, we ordered drinks and perused the menu. Just the one course, we all agreed. There was a meal out planned that night, and besides, we had to consider the cross-legged doggies who were waiting at home.
We ordered, sat back and waited. I went and played with my new camera (tell you all about it in my next post) taking photos of the Place de Verdun :
a quaint archway beside the café :
and the Palais du Justice.
Then our food arrived. We ooh’ed and aah’ed as it was served – it all looked amazing. Mine was the most spectacular – Provençal vegetables, stuffed with ricotta and herbs. Wow.
I took a forkful from the stuffed courgette and raised it to my mouth, practically drooling in anticipation.
No cheesy goodness. No herby hit. Just a slight taste of courgette. Now, I know ricotta is bland, but normally you still get some sort of taste from it. This was just like eating white foam speckled with insipid green dots.
I took a slug of wine and tried again. Still nothing. Maybe I needed to cleanse my palate…? I took a long drink of water, followed by another slug of wine for good measure and tried again. Nope. Still just as tasteless. Maybe salt…? I laced it with salt and then added pepper for good measure. It helped, but not enough.
I finally resorted to dicing up the big sprig of basil and mashing it into the ricotta to try to add some flavour, but I have to say there was nothing cheesy about this dish.
The LSH had ordered a steak. It was a nice steak, cooked rare as he had asked, served with very tasty dauphinoise potatoes.
Ash had ordered marlin. It looked very pretty. Nearly as pretty as my veggies.
It was just like my veggies – tasteless. Ash said that the tastiest thing on the plate was the olive oil.
The ED had heard the waiter say that the Formule du Midi, the lunchtime special, was a steak done Tex Mex style. I’ll have that, she thought. The French don’t really do Tex Mex, but it sounds good anyway.
“Le plat du jour, sil vous plait,” she ordered. The plat du jour is the special main course of the day. It turned out to be quite different to the Formule du Midi.
The ED thought it was very nice, but not at all Tex or Mex… then we figured out she was eating Veal Stew – the plat du jour, not the same thing as the formule du midi at all. Confusing, but definitely user error rather than restaurant error. We’ll forgive them that one, too.
What was unforgiveable, though, was this.
“How are they,” we asked.
“Ok,” she said “But a bit tasteless too.”
Then she started to count the corpses that were left on her plate, by which I mean the mussels whose shells were closed because they were already dead when they went into the pot.
One is forgiveable. Two is questionable. But EIGHT? EIGHT??? Did the chef not check them as he plated up?
I wanted to complain – yes, me, Irish and wanting to complain. (The Irish NEVER EVER complain about their food. It’s a race thing. But sheesh, eight dead mussels could kill someone) The YD declined. In fact, she forbade me to complain. Humph. I will just have to be content with venting here instead.
So there we have it. One of my very few bad reviews. I’m beginning to think we shouldn’t eat in cities. Country restaurants have never disappointed me and, on many occasions, have surprised me.
Star Rating (out of 5) :
Service : ✮✮✮ Our waiter was lovely, it wasn’t his fault the Maître D was a gobshite. He saved this from being two stars.
Food : ✮ Two out of five dishes were ok but one of them was cold, so one star.
Value : ✮✮ Value was not too bad for city prices, but hey I’m used to country ways now
Ambiance : ✮✮✮✮ A very nice location in the Place de Verdun, too bad the food didn’t match