Last Sunday I headed to Beziers – there was much to do there, but the weather was not promising! I had booked a table for brunch at Au Soleil, a small restaurant cum tearoom and fine grocery store, on Place de la Madeleine, in Beziers.
As I approached Beziers the skies brightened a little, and when I got to the restaurant I saw that a few diners were already seated outside and tucking into their food! 😀
The restaurant is very aptly named – if the sun is out then it will be on the terrace of the restaurant! Au Soleil had been recommended by a friend, who’d been there for lunch on a weekday. I’d stopped there for a cup of tea one afternoon, and found out about the brunch whilst there. The premise of the brunch is simple: there is a self-service buffet, and you can eat as much as you like – fairly unusual in France!
This is a variation on the American style brunch, with a French twist – more of a leisurely lunch than breakfast and lunch combined. To my mind it was all I could have wished for!
The buffet had a very good selection – I started with the cold beetroot and raspberry soup. It had a lovely zing to it, perfect for an appetizer!
I then tried some of the hams (smoked and dried) with some scrambled eggs:
The dried ham was so good that I had another slice, this time with some chorizo, pate de campagne and some lettuce:
Up next: rillettes de thon, a kind of tuna fish mousse, which was wonderfully creamy and delicious!
I followed that with a piece of the courgette and pepper tart, and I added some of the cauliflower tabouleh to my plate. Both were very yummy!
Then it was time for the “main course”: chicken cooked in a mild (but very flavoursome) curry sauce, served with rice:
By now you’re probably thinking that I was a bit of a piggy to have had so much food? Be reassured, the plates were small, and so were my helpings!! I really didn’t want to feel overly full at the end of the meal, and I wasn’t!
There were some lovely Saint-Nectaire and camembert cheeses, so I had to try them:
The “sweet” part of the buffet offered a light chocolate cake, American style pancakes, waffles, jams and spreads, including a well-known hazelnut and chocolate spread, fresh fruit, apple compote and curd cheese. Earlier I had overheard one of the patrons talking with a member of staff about the jams – they sounded delicious. So I decided to try a little of each of the jams on a pancake. I put a piece of chocolate cake on my plate too – for good measure! 😉
The apple compote was home-made, so, for the sake of research, I had to try that too – and very delicious it was!!
The brunch included a glass of wine, and there was tea, coffee, orange juice and apple juice on the buffet. The price was EUR 19.50 per person – not bad for a Sunday lunch. I photographed the menu boards for you:
Au Soleil is in a great location – Place de la Madeleine is dominated by the Madeleine church, a romanesque church with lots of history!! The square is also close to the market halls, and to the ‘main drag’ where the theatre is located.
The theatre was my next stop – I had received an invitation to the finals of the Concours National de Chant Lyrique, a national singing competition for classically trained voices.
I arrived in good time, but all the seats in the stalls were already taken. I was happy to have a seat in the front row of the second balcony – that way I also got a view of the judges, who were seated in the first balcony. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed, so all I can show you is this picture of the stage.
If you are curious about what the inside of the theatre in Beziers looks like, here’s a post I wrote last year. The competition started on time, and once our host had asked the audience members to turn off their mobile phones, he set out a few house rules. I already knew of the ban on photography, but he also requested that there would be no clapping or applause whatsoever! Apparently that’s the rule for competitions, so that the judges are not influenced by the audience members.
As this was the final of the competition, the number of contestants had already been drastically reduced. Four persons competed in the operetta category (down from 15), and 15 in the opera category (down from 69). The singers were all dressed beautifully, and they had obviously worked very hard to get to where they were. I found the first two ladies in the operetta category a little painful to listen to – they had big voices, but some of their high notes sounded rather shrill to me. The third candidate was much better than the previous two, and the fourth was the best of them all.
In the opera category I listened to another five performers. There was a lovely sounding tenor, who appeared to be very nervous. Then came two sopranos and another tenor, who were unremarkable. The last candidate I listened to was a 23-year-old soprano, who had a most beautiful voice. She really had something about her, a great stage presence, a good vocal range and a lovely tone – no shrill notes there! I didn’t get her name, and because of a prior engagement I couldn’t stay until the end of the competition, but I hope that the young lady made it into the top three. And perhaps I’ll be able to listen to her again somewhere, sometime?
P.S. Roberto Alagna, the well-known opera singer, is a past winner of the competition in Beziers!