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My Lunch with Madam Murat

A Little History

A restaurant in Pomarede in the Lot Department exemplifies what is good about rural life in South West France.

Five generations of the one family have operated Chez Jeanne restaurant since 1904. It is located in a tiny village but has built a steady clinetelle serving basic food done well. Local workers mix with tourists to share the delights of basic cooking done well served in simple but cherful suroundings.

Vinodiversity visits Madam Murat In July 2009 our French sojourn was coming to an end. While we had explored the Lot-et-Garonne region, and some of Gers, very well we had not explored the neighbouring department of Lot, further to the east. So we set off on a sultry stormy day for the 100km journey.

Mary Moody at Madam Murat

Australian author Mary Moody is equally well known as a garden broadcaster and author of the personal memoirs of an adventure in SW France. She has eulogised the quality of French village food in her book "Lunch with Madame Murat: Food of Love in a French Village." A documentary was also made about the restaurant and is available as a DVD.

You can buy the DVD about this excellent restaurant from this store.

Mary Moody's Latest Book The Long Table recounts her lifelong love affair with gardens, food and France.

See also this article about Wines in South West France
The restaurant, Chez Jeanne, is in the village of Pomerede, just north of the pretty riverine Port of Puy-l'Eveque. Easy to find on a map, not so easy in practice. The road signs here are not all that informative and when we finally approached a likely looking village there was a Route Barre sign across the road. We had to back up a a hundred metres to turn even our small car around and try another tack.

But we got there. They are digging the whole town up. The restaurant carpark was full of construction vehicles. It was one o'clock or 1300 in the local currency so the restaurant was half full of tip truck drivers, cobblestoners and backhoe operators, on about their fourth course. Ourselves and a party of eight angalais were the only non-French customers.

The meal

There didn't appear to be a menu. We were directed to sit at a table which was set for two. A flat soupbowl sat on top of two entree plates in each place flanked by a knife, fork and spoon. Across the top of each setting was a teaspoon.

An unlabelled bottle of red wine, a flask of water and a basket of bread quickly appeared. There was only one glass each. You could drink wine, or water or mix them as many of the locals do. The idea of separate glassware for water and wine has not penetrated here. The glasses are small so it's easy enough to alternate.

We are in the region of Cahors, known for its "Black wines" made from Malbec. The wine brooded in its glass, but you had the feeling that it would forgive you for diluting it with cold water...after all it was lunch time. A stainless steel tureen arrived. It contained a potage of roughly chopped new potatoes, carrots and broadbeans thickened with yesterday's rustic bread - serve yourself. A generous serving but you need to remind yourself that there is plenty more to follow.

The service is prompt and efficient. Our soup bowls and spoons are removed and the first entree plate is revealed. We are given a small cheese filled pastry, the local take on tiropita, and a simple salad of lettuce, grated carrots and halved boiled eggs. Simple until you taste the vinagrette.

Keep your knife and fork. The entree plate is removed and the main course arrived. Thick slices of slightly rare roast beef, cauliflower cheese and frites. Let the quality of the ingredients shine through.

A couple of generous chunks of cheese are next. They help to finish of the bread and maybe another glass of wine.

But wait, there's a choice of dessert. Creme caramel, chocalate mousse and a cuople of other favourites. Coffee if you can manage it.

The verdict

A simple meal served without fuss. The food was basic and the servings generous. The wine was the well matched to the everyday fare in the French countryside.

The ambiance was in keeping. Around the walls were some photos of the restaurant over the years. The service was efficient and friendly. All this for just 13 euros.

The luck of the draw

We had turned up without a booking. Next week Madam Murat's Chez Jeanne will be closed for a break. By the time it reopens we will be back in Australia. The restaurant is open only for lunch. It is worth the trip.

But there are many restaurants throughout rural France just like this. Not all of them are the subject of a book and a televison program. Maybe they should be.

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