Yesterday afternoon I had a medical appointment in Toulouse and — afraid that we would be late and miss the last train back home to Daglan — my wife Jan and I had taken along an overnight bag. Good thing.
Sure enough, the doctor was running late and then, worst of all, our taxi was incredibly tardy. There was no way to catch our train, and so Jan and I quickly phoned for a reservation at the Hôtel des Beaux Arts (which we had enjoyed on a previous trip) and headed there to spend the night. A minor break: Our taxi driver accepted responsibility for being late, and didn’t charge us for the ride.
Generally irritated, with nerves jangled, we checked into our room, unpacked our few items, poured a comforting drink, and relaxed a bit. Then it was downstairs for dinner at the adjoining Brasserie Flo les Beaux Arts, where we had a meal that seemed about as French as one can get.
Let me set the scene. The brasserie is a charming place, located at street level around the corner from the entrance to the hotel. It overlooks the Garonne River, right at the Pont Neuf, an area teeming with cyclists and runners as well as cars, trucks and buses. Looking out the window to my right I could watch the Garonne flowing by as night fell. Looking to my left, I had an even more appealing sight — this:
Mere minutes after we sat down, we were served a complimentary glass of Champagne, because we had asked the front desk at the hotel to make our dinner reservation. A quick look at the menu, and our choices were made: entrée plus plat principal for Jan, and plat plus dessert for me. Jan’s starter was a poached egg surrounded by a rich sauce with mushrooms and lardons.
For our main courses, we chose identical dishes, and so we wound up with this wonderfully French scene in front of us:
Yes, healthy portions of beef tartare; large plates of really crispy and hot frites; and a lightly dressed salad of young lettuce and other leaves, not to mention a bottle of a very good Beaujolais, Georges Dubœuf Moulin à Vent 2007.
The beef was nicely seasoned, but Jan and I felt it lacked one key ingredient, so we ordered a glass (at 12.50 euros!) of Armagnac. Our waitress was taken aback when she saw us pour the Armagnac over our tartare and mix it in, and said she’d never seen that done. But the brandy really does improve the flavour, as well as moistening the beef. In any case, it was delicious and filling, and so I had room for only one dessert — this one:
It was a small cake with molten chocolate in the centre, sitting in a pool of vanilla-flavoured sauce and topped with ice cream. A very nice ending to a lovely meal.
Postscript: This morning we caught the 10:47 train from Toulouse, which was headed for Paris. But of course we got off in Gourdon, and then drove to Cénac to meet our friend Suzanne for lunch at Sawadee, the Thai restaurant. After all, one cannot live on French food alone, can one?