Open again!

On October 30, 2020, restaurants, bars and cafes all over France had to close their doors to the public as part of another lockdown. At the time, nobody had any idea as to how long they would have to remain closed, but I don’t think that anyone expected the closure to last as long as it did! Finally, on May 19, 2021 – after six and a half months!! – restaurants, bars and cafes were allowed to serve customers once more. To begin with, diners are only allowed to be seated outside, with tables widely spaced, and the 9pm curfew still in place – but it’s a start!

When you think about how important a role food plays in French life and culture, you can imagine what a deprivation it has been not being able to go out for a meal. Even a glass of wine or a coffee on one of the terraces of the cafes was out of bounds!

I visited Cafe de la Paix in Saint-Chinian last Saturday evening to catch up with friends, and to enjoy a meal prepared by someone else!

The bar at Cafe de la Paix

Cafe de la Paix was taken over by David and Eve four years ago, and they’ve been working hard to improve the guest experience. The garden has had a complete makeover, the gravel being replaced with paving. There is new (comfortable) terrace furniture, and the place has had a general sprucing up inside and outside!!

The garden at Cafe de la Paix

The menu has also had a makeover – the focus is now on bistro cooking and appetising presentation!

Here now are photos of the dishes we enjoyed! 🙂 First off, a couple of delicious starters

Pissaladiere onion tart with smoked trout
Vegetable tart with shavings of Spanish ham

The main courses were equally delicious, and it was bliss to just sit there and have someone bring the food to the table!!

Filet of seabream on a bed of pasta with mussels
Rump steak with red wine sauce and potato gratin
Duck with olives

Our desserts arrived as it was slowly getting darker. The weather was perfect and I didn’t need to put on the jacket I had brought in case I got too cold! The desserts were a yummy ending to a lovely meal!!

Chocolate mousse, chocolate granola, and buckwheat ice cream
Strawberry eclair with strawberry sorbet
Cherry creme brulée

Because of the 9pm curfew, the restaurant had opened at 6.30pm to give diners ample time to enjoy a leisurely meal – it worked very well for us! If you have been to France in the past, you may remember that most restaurants don’t start to serve dinner before 7.30pm. I imagine that we’ll go back to this later starting time once the curfew gets abolished altogether later this summer.

As we head into summer, things are looking a lot more upbeat and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll continue that way.

Have you visited your favourite restaurant in France yet?

Unexpected pleasures

Last Friday, friends stopped by to say hello, and to ask whether I would like to join them for dinner at Cafe de la Paix in St Chinian that same evening.  I’m always up for going out to eat at a restaurant, and Cafe de la Paix had just had a bit of a makeover, so it was perfect timing!  The makeover appeared to have been concentrated mainly on the bar, which you walk through in order to get to the restaurant.  I thought that the dining room might have had a makeover too, but my friends assured me that the colour scheme had been in place for some time.  I had walked through the dining room to the garden at the back of the restaurant, when I visited the last few times, but I can’t have been paying any attention :).  Sorry Cafe de la Paix!

Severine, the waitress who had served our table on my previous visit, was on duty again.  The menu appeared to have changed little, but the presentation of the food had changed a great deal!!

Here are our starters:

After a brief wait, a bit of wine, and a lot of chatting and laughing, our main courses arrived:

More laughter, wine and chat followed the main courses, and our desserts arrived shortly after Severine had taken our order:

What a wonderful evening!!  To be repeated!

Cafe de la Paix is located on Grand Rue in St Chinian, and open daily except Sunday evening and Monday all day.  Make sure to book a table if you are planning to visit in the summer – the tables in the beautiful garden at the back of the restaurant are sought after!  Prices range from EUR 12.90 for the three course lunch menu, which includes a 1/4 litre of wine (not Sundays or holidays), to EUR 31.00 for a five course menu.  The prices for the menus in between those two are EUR 19.00 and EUR 23.00, both for three courses.