Saturday, May 28, 2011

Will Slum For Food ...

Purely out of a spirit of inquiry and a dedicated desire to please - and, let it be admitted, a poorly concealed urge to boast about the weather we're having - I have been selflessly testing some of the small bar/resto joints around Chambéry.

At, may I add, great personal expense and inconvenience, not that I expect to be rewarded for my efforts, oh no, I'm not that sort at all..

It's a personal, ongoing project which may or may not be of interest to you, but to date my list, in descending order of preference, goes as follows:

L'Arbre à Bières, rue Roche
  • friendly, quick, and a lot cheaper than it ought to be, given the quality of the food (a liking for flammenkuche would be good, but not necessary. And the plat du jour always looks interesting, and is invariably copious.). Have books, and chess sets, should that be to your taste. And the salade landaise is definitely more than just edible. On the downside, far too easy to sit outside in the sun nursing a pichet of rosé. Suspect students frequent it in the evenings. Have not investigated the state of the toilets.
Le Modesto, rue St Réal
  • a good place, in a busy, narrow street, to sit and drink and watch people pass: the food's simple but good, and once again the service is quick. And as befits what is principally a wine bar, there's a good selection of plonk, but I'd recommend going with the nicely chilled house blanc de Gascogne in this weather. Oddly enough, more people seem to head north along the street than head south: this cannot be sustainable in the long term.
Out of Chambéry - at Montmelian, in fact, there's La Fine Fourchette, Grande Rue
  • It's about two metres wide so do not go there expecting to be able to swing a cat: not if you expect the cat to emerge relatively unscathed anyway. Friendly and efficient, looks what people sort of expect a Frog family restaurant to be, and the food is indeed good (with one exception, a pork curry which was, if not a complete catastrophe, certainly not up to the usual standards). The terrine maison as an entrée is excellent. A la carte there's something involving foie gras which I shall have to try one of these days: stick to the formule and you'll escape at 14€ per personne, plus a bit more for a pichet of wine.
Cardinal's, Place Metropole
  • the ambiance and the décor are great: definitely Irish pub style, with overstuffed, cracked leather banquettes and elderly polished wood tables. Luckily the waiters are more youthful. And they are definitely the only ones in Chambéry to do fish and chips. Noisy in the evenings, and will show rugby on the big screen at the drop of a hat. Big plus is the free WiFi access: I have the access code, if ever you need it to settle an argument or something. The names of all their cocktails involve sex, somehow. It still just pisses me off that you can't sit out on the terrace in front of the cathedral and get a drink after 11am on a Saturday anymore.
Relais des Ducs, avenue du Comte Vert
  • Bit more up-market than the above, and slower, but the food's not half bad, if tending a bit towards the traditional. Still, a good place for a meal and a beer at midday. The pigeons waddling around are fat, but I've not yet seen them on the menu. Doubtless just as well, they're probably toxic.
Le Refuge, Place de l'Hôtel de Ville
  • Do not expect food, just nibbles with your drinks - personally I go off and snag a bowl or two from the bar. Do it with sufficient aplomb and no-one will even think to question your right to do so. If you can hold out long enough, you might manage to catch the eye of one of the waiters: if you do ever manage the trick, I would personally suggest you nail it to the table so it doesn't get away. The service is glacial, the owner Pierre is execrable (and his taste in neckwear is, if possible, even fouler), but it's an excellent place to hang out on a Saturday morning after a hard trip round the market. And for some reason the waitresses are all rather hot.
If anyone out there is willing to pay me to continue my research (I assure you that I am waiting on a grant at the moment, but just need a little something to tide me over until it comes through) donations can be made via the usual channels. And if not, I swear to god I will personally kill this sack full of adorable fluffy little kittens, and their blood will be on your hands. Think about that, people.

Whatever, it's not even June yet and they've just brought in the first load of hay from the paddock behind us. Had I slipped the guy some money, perhaps he could have occupied himself of our little patch as well ... mind you, he might have made a bit of a mess getting the combine harvester in there. Maybe this weekend ... but then I'm off to Paris on Sunday for a couple of days, which won't help matters.

After much reflection (which for some strange reason seems to always take place out on the terrace, usually with a glass and a cigar to hand, don't know why that should be) I have  come to the conclusion that what I really need to do is stop mucking about with chicken breast and use a magret de canard.

With the fat sliced through to the flesh and then seared until just nicely pink inside, then sliced and reformed with slices of a strong chèvre and caramelised figs, drizzled with honey and mustard and grilled it should be bliss. I'll let you know. Or alternatively, you could try it, and let me know. Whichever.

But tonight, as I'm waiting for the thunderheads to roll down from the Bauges I rather think I'll just bake a few potatoes and mix up some mustardy vinaigrette to go in them - or sour cream and chives, don't know - and get a salad ready, then fry up some hampe. Nothing like a nice bloody bit of steak to end the day.

Then tomorrow I've some some sardine fillets, which should go down a treat on the barbecue. Seems a bit of a waste to spend an hour getting it fired up and glowing (yes, sometimes I can see the point to a gas barbecue, what the hell, I'm just a reactionary luddite) for all of five minutes grilling: suppose I could do some vegetables as well. Thinly sliced potatoes, spread out on tinfoil and wrapped up after being liberally anointed with salt and thyme and olive oil, anyone? Sorry, I forgot - you're not really into barbecues at the moment, are you?

Later ... well, the thunderstorm did roll in, which rather put the kibosh on the barbecue idea. Turned the sardines into pissaladière instead - perhaps not one of my more inspired ideas. It was edible, but they're plucky little bastards. Whatever, right now the sky is clearing and another beautiful day is promised for tomorrow - here's hoping.

A bright sunny day, shopping basket bulging with apricots and nectarines and tomatoes that finally taste like something and a big bunch of fragrant mint, a chardonnay with friends at Le Modesto - sounds pretty much like heaven to me.

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