Well so far we are only at a rate of 50% positive, which means of course 50 % negative!
Each year after our stay in our mountain home, where we do not eat out very often, given the sameness of the local cuisine ( ham, cheese, potatoes in many disguises) we choose a hotel which is 6-8 hours drive, which has a good restaurant, preferably one with a Michelin Star, nearby. The first year we tried this, we ate in a Michelin star restaurant in Reims, the home of champagne. The restaurant was good, the hotel not so good! The following year in wanting to avoid Calais because of the migrant crisis there, we stopped on St. Omer. The town faded and sad, the hotel, basic but new and clean, And with secure parking. But the restaurant! Upon inspection on arrival, we were rather dismayed, but a surprise was in store, every table was taken, the linen, clean and crisp, the service perfect as was the food!
Last year we detoured to Colombey Les Deux Eglises, the spiritual home of Charles de Gaulle, a quaint, very touristy town, accommodation quaint but the restaurant a big disappointment. Although it holds a Michelin star, in my mind not warranted. The food, faddish ( serving a piece of steak on a huge beach pebble, impossible to eat) and the service decidedly not up to scratch, when himself left the table with napkin duly dumped, it was reassigned to a new duping ground ( in the middle of the table, whilst the next course was served, minus himself being at the table. Next, his red wine had a fly in it, which was removed, wine discarded but not replaced!!
So here we were again, it is August and despite it being the height of the holiday season, many of the good restaurants and hotels are closed, After all it is August and France shuts down for August! I finally settled on Le Touquet Paris Plage, about an hours drive from “Le Tunnel sous la Manche ” ( the channel tunnel to you and me) Perfect? No! The chosen restaurant was full, so plan b came into force. The restaurant that was recommended ( a bit of, You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours, springs to mind) was Les Cimaises, in Hotel Le Westminster, part of the Barrière group, An expensive hotel for a quick overnight stay! And on top of that just in case you abscond, they automatically add an extra €200 to the deposit Credit card!! Umm !!!
As it was a quick overnight stop, we did not see too much of Le Touquet, but it looks a really nice town, not at all Margate more like Padstow. That is being unfair to Margate, memories of a former life, but really nice tree-lined avenues and lovely looking thatched houses, must go back I have said to myself, but not to the Le Westminster. Apart from the price, the bar was so old-fashioned ( and empty), dark and gloomy, the restaurant unsatisfactory and the rooms? well the rooms, spacious enough, clean and bright, comfortable, but the bathroom, well, the shower one could kill oneself, in getting in and out of the bath, the hairdryer, on of those hot air tubes, attached high up on the wall, and the Bidet??? to use it, if you must, shove a table halfway around the room, to get to it!
So, onto our “Gourmet” dinner. The our amazement the restaurant was full ( lucky us we had reserved), and very noisy. Uncle Tom Cobley and all were there, along with screaming kids, and snotty nosed geriatrics ( not us you understand) but one of whom was in my direct vision, who used his napkin constantly to wipe his nose!!
We soon discovered why the restaurant was so popular, a Buffet, !! every Friday but maybe on other days as well, and even though I did not even look at the buffet, I knew at once, that there would be a few choice items and then the rest would be fillers, in the form of salads and starch. Sure enough, there was the constant flow of diners marching up and down to the buffet, returning with their plates laden sky-high, half of which would be then left on their plates!
So we ate a la carte, the menu was fine, not very imaginative but there were two things on it that I really wanted to try. The first, was something I had never eaten before, L’Os à Moelle Rôti, ( Roasted Marrow Bone) and the second something that I like,
Riz de Veau ( Veal Sweetbreads).
The roasted marrow bone was a revelation, tow large pieces of bone was perhaps a little too much, but was in fact very tasty. The Riz de veau on the other hand was decidedly odd, served with some rather dry macaroni ( I never eat macaroni) and some melted Mozarella, the Riz de veau alone were nice though, but forget about the other bits! We skipped dessert, decamped to the bar, which is when we discovered it to be really rather dull!
The final insult for our little jaunt in Le Touquet, was the morning Tea. Given the fact that they charge a Caution, in case we abscond, the morning tea cups, were paper!!However on my return to the UK, I visited my local Waitrose, only to find that they had Marrow Bones cut lengthwise! Whole foods often has Marrow bones, but cut across so to make Osso Buco.
Needlessly to say I just had to buy them and headed home to try for myself. Easy it is. According to Fergus Henderson, in his book The Complete Nose to Tail Victorians would serve Onion Soup and Bone Marrow Toast to sickly children, to make them grow big and strong.
All that is needed to make Marrow Bone toast, are the bones, and a baquette cut in half lengthwise, rubbed with some olive oil, toasted and sprinkled with some Fleur du Sel. Simply roast the bones, marrow side up in a fairly hot oven until the marrow is soft and brown. Serve with the toast and a spoon to scoop out the marrow. Yummy !!