Saturday was one of those unplanned days. The weekend had arrived unannounced, after the distraction that a busy week at work creates. Unplanned carefree days don’t come very often, and when they do, they can go either way. They remind me of time spent in France where carefree days seemed to be the norm.
Some of the morning was spent in the garden but it was hardly work; more a case of getting reacquainted with it. I made my excuses and said ‘cheerio’ to the meadow of dandelion and drifted back inside. I wandered around the house, doing things at will. I achieved absolutely nothing but I felt good about it. I listened to BBC Radio 6, then Radiohead. A short trip in the car and it was the folk music of Jezz Hall that entertained me. One track reminded me of time spent in Ireland, with the words ‘Beat the Drum Slowly’. A check on the internet and I discovered that the song is not a rebel song but about the Great War and titled The Green Fields of France .
Subconsciously, France had already entered my mind on two occasions.
After listening to Notts County preserving their League One status, we decided to eat in town. No plan. Just an idea. We watched the Manchester City match with an ‘aperitif’. Three pints of pale ale to be more exact.
Now ready to eat, Lisa suggested French Living. We had not eaten there for a couple of years. 10 minutes later we were sat in the window of ‘the restaurant that speaks French since 1994’ looking out onto King Street.
We were about to enjoy possibly the best city centre meal we have had all year. What made it extra special was the atmosphere, which was as relaxed and carefree as our day had been. There were a few tables free at street level, although the the basement area was full, and the diners looked settled for the evening.
The menu was extensive but split into four sections; pre-theatre, menu de Saison, Menu Gastronomique and a la carte.
We chose the Menu de Saison. £21.90 for three courses. We chose well.
After a pastis, and my palate cleansed, I was ready to order in my finest Nottingham Franglais.
My first course was the Salade Fromagere Auvergnate. Diced unpasteurised cheeses (one blue), with walnut on a bed of mixed salad. A good portion served with French bread. The beauty about these salads is that they demand to be eaten slowly, allowing the flavours to be enjoyed.
My main course was memorable for two reasons, the food and the translated conversation about it.
The Onglet a l’Echalote is a French cut of beef steak with a shallot and veal stock sauce served with pommes sautees and vegetable garnish. The menu offered the steak to be cooked blue, rare or medium. Now I usually have my steak rare to medium, but something told me that the chef was confident that this should be eaten with just the meat sealed.
Onglet a l’echalote s’il vous plait.
Oui, et le boeuf?
The chef was right to be confident. The steak was very tender and served with the ‘onion gravy’ over it. It had that home-cooked dinner feel about it. The ‘garnish’ was in fact a good portion of fresh seasonal vegetables. When I complimented the proprietor Stephane about the meal, he corrected me. The ‘onion’ was in fact shallot. Most readers will recognise shallots. They’re those onions shaped like rugby balls!
For dessert, I chose the Tarte Myrtilles Amande. A blueberry and almond tart served with Amaretto creme Anglaise. Now I had visions of this being the French equivalent of Derbyshire’s finest export, Bakewell Tart, but I decided to keep this thought to myself. The tart was served cold and was clearly freshly made. From the pastry base right through to the covering of blueberries, it had clearly been made with pride.
Et Voila! There we have it. An enjoyable day rounded off with some quality French cuisine in Nottingham.
France is a beautiful country that has everything. Not only that, it produces, broadly speaking, the finest food and wine in the world. French cuisine permeates how we eat our food.
Nottingham has a number of French restaurants. Most of them have names like ‘Le Mistral’ or ‘Petis Paris’. Nottingham’s Michelin starred restaurant ‘Sat Bains’ used to be called ‘Hotel des Clos’.
French Living has, as part of its ethos an pledge to ‘share our knowledge of French culture, language and lifestyle with all our customers.
There is an irony that despite it being 100% authentically French, it has its name in English!
I will leave you with a link to a wonderful photograph of King Street Nottingham. The restaurant is not in view, but you will understand why I chose it. The photographer is named Lamar Francois!
You can’t get more French that that!