Lemons on our Tree

Lemons on our Tree

Welcome to spring in the Quercy where the last few days have been as warm and wonderful as May. My lemon trees have been hauled out of their winter quarters to waft their delicious scent over the sunlit terrace; they’re chock full of waxy blossom and in dire need of a few bees. The herb gardens have had an explosion of tender new growth too, creating another fragrant assault on the senses whenever one happens to brush past. Almond trees have shyly unfurled their pale pink petals and, most significant of all, the lizards who’ve spent the freezing winter months holed up in deep stone cracks have started to creep out and sun themselves on rocky outcrops. Summer is just a few degrees away.
The market traders were in high spirits last Friday, sunny markets draw tourists as well as locals and the produce was selling fast. I stuffed my basket full of new spring greens, handed over a paltry amount, then shimmied over the cobbles to buy a dozen eggs from the man-with-a-van. I missed him the previous week, so he tried to sell me a live hen by way of compensation. I declined gracefully and whipped round the corner to the flower stall before he considered donating it free of charge. On my way out I passed the Poulet Roti stall – what a glorious, tantalising aroma that is. I had to keep a tight rein on myself, I’d been promised a lunch out.
Puy L’Eveque, for those who’ve never seen it, is a delightful medieval village, perched on the banks of the river Lot. We were approaching it from the unassuming northern bank, but seen from the south, on the other side of the bridge, it really is the most entrancing sight, one quirky stone cottage after another tumbling in golden terraces down the hillside. It isn’t a place you’d visit for shopping, nor for its rather small weekly market, but for a healthy stroll – the hill is steep – followed by a well deserved lunch, it takes some beating. Crowning the peak there’s a well-known hotel, with a well-known restaurant attached. It’s a nice place for a special occasion and the views of the river are quite spectacular. But for an informal lunch there is a lesser-known alternative, a little bistro at the front of the hotel, serving the same sort of beautifully prepared dishes at much reduced prices. Our budget is usually €20 for two for a weekday lunch, and that will generally cover a main course and a coffee. We blew in last Friday to see if this tiny eatery could tick the required boxes and match the competition.
We were greeted with a smile and bowed to a table in the sun, prettily set with fresh flowers. The menus were dispensed, the menu du jour discussed and the many specials, chalked up on boards around the walls, pointed out. Then we were left to consider our options. There were quite a number, from a delicious-looking boeuf bourguignon, to spicy crevettes down to elegant patés and cheeses and some rather splendid desserts. I chose a feta slice in filo pastry, partly because I couldn’t manage a bourguignon at lunchtime – and believe me I would if I could – and partly because I’d indulged in this little repast before, and knew it would be divine. The beloved opted for crevettes beignets with a spicy sauce. Service here is relaxed, which is unusual at lunchtime in rural France. The crucial two hours between twelve and two are generally a blur of black and white, as waiters rush round resembling a herd of panicking zebra. They take their time here, and you have leisure to look around. Our lunch came, fortunately before the beloved had quite emptied the bread basket, and we sat back to admire the poetry on our plates. The protein part of both dishes was flanked by a trio of extremely beautiful salads and a smear of sauce. Nouvelle cuisine 21st century style. We ate it rather faster than we should have done – but we were pretty hungry by then – and both dishes were wonderful. If we had restrained ourselves and just had coffees, we would indeed have managed our €20 budget, but the dessert menu looked so irresistible… I ordered the best Panna Cotta I’ve ever eaten outside Italy and we shared it. Coffee and a chocolate followed and we agreed that the bistro had passed our test with honours. It isn’t a place you’d want to visit every day, but it’s inexpensive, simple and refined. You could entertain a friend there, knowing quite well that with the minimum of fuss, he or she would be wined, dined and thoroughly impressed.
Now that has to be a place worth getting to know doesn’t it?

© Amanda Lawrence 2009

Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis

Lunch in Puy L’Eveque from French Vie

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.