This report on our lunch last Saturday at La Table du Marché in Old Bergerac is a tad late, for which I apologize. I intend to make up for my tardiness by ensuring that these comments are especially thorough, perceptive, and even witty. (If I fail, however, just remember that this blog is free.) So here goes.
Great food. I’ve written about La Table du Marché several times before, so I won’t belabour the point that this is a very good restaurant with a very clever chef. (If you enter “La Table du Marché” in the box at the top right of this blog, and then press Search, you’ll be shown all references to the restaurant that have been posted on Radio Free Daglan.) For Saturday’s lunch, my wife Jan and I decided to order à la carte and to have just a plat principal and a dessert — no entrée this time. We also decided to order the glass of wine that’s recommended for each dish, although we struck a note of independence by ordering two kirs (each) while pondering the choices. (And we didn’t guzzle them; our server was on her own, and everything seemed to take a long time.) Then came the amuse-bouche, offered by the chef/owner, Stéphane Cuzin, as a sample of his cooking skill. This time it was a small bowl of velvety soup — made of mushrooms and chestnuts and dusted with cocoa — that I told our server was la meilleure soupe du monde, “the best soup in the world.” Okay, I can’t honestly prove that it is, but certainly tasted magnificent. Unfortunately, even a great bowl of soup appears to be pretty much a bowl of soup, so you’ll just have to trust me that it tasted far better than it looks:
For my main course, I ordered what Chef playfully called Morue “Pré-Salé,” which he described as morue rôtie, with pieces of pomelos preserved with honey and Sherry, and then served with herring caviar (which I had never heard of, but which I loved). The “playful” part is that morue is French for salt cod, whereas cabillaud is the French word for fresh cod. “Pré-Salé” usually refers to salt meadows, where some French sheep are raised, which gives their meat a special taste; hence, you might see agneau de pré-salé on some menus. So was my serving of roast fish a piece of fresh cod that had never been salted? Or was it actual salt cod that had been soaked to remove the salt before being roasted? I’m really not sure, but it looked and tasted great; here’s a photo of my plate:
For my dessert, I ordered what would usually be called a café gourmand, which means a variety of sweets served along with the coffee. Here’s my plate, which included the most rum-soaked baba au rhum I’ve ever had. Quite a treat:
A slight slip-up. Not that we were in a hurry (having already dropped off some friends at the Bergerac airport, for their flight to England), but service was definitely on the slow side. And our young, attractive and reasonably eager server had a bit of a problem trying to fully understand Jan’s allergy to gluten; for example, after all our warnings about not serving anything made with farine de blé (wheat flour), our server made a point of putting the bread basket on Jan’s side of the table. (Side note: The bread was fresh out of the oven, so hot that it was difficult to pick up, and absolutely delicious.) The real slip-up occurred when our server presented Jan with her main course, which turned out to be beef that had been wrapped in phyllo pastry — a real no-no. Our server was embarrassed; Chef was embarrassed; and Jan’s plate disappeared. A few minutes later she was served a very large steak, hot off the grill and topped by a large piece of foie gras, so in the end, all was well. And then, to make up for the mistake, Chef gave us each a complimentary glass of Champagne to accompany our desserts. A nice touch.
A nice doggie. Every now and then we’re amazed to find that a dog has spent time with us in a French restaurant without making a sound or an appearance; usually they sleep under their owner’s table and only make themselves known as the owners leave the restaurant. But at La Table du Marché on Saturday, we were quite entertained by a dog that suddenly appeared and wandered quietly from table to table, enquiring gently whether a morsel might be available. Our server confirmed that this was indeed the dog de la maison (of the house) and told us that its name is Amélie. And here she is, taking a break:
Amélie was particularly attracted to a table of two English women, who generally did a pretty good job of ignoring her:
And here’s a close-up of Amélie, taken by Radio Free Daglan Chief Photographer Jan:
Finally, as we left the restaurant, Chef was outside with Amélie. First he apologized again to Jan for the mistake about serving her the phyllo pastry, and then he shook hands with me. When I pointed to Amélie and said très mignon for “very cute,” Chef replied quickly: Mieux que moi! “More than me!”