Sunday, 12 November 2017

Changes in our eating habits

Café du Centre
a traditional French café
As you all know we are creatures of habit and we eat out regularly in Cluny. One of favourites is Café du Centre and we were dismayed when we learned from a slip of paper on the door, that it was closing down. We asked what was going on, only to be told that due to a lack of agreement on the purchase price, the new owner (who had been in there for just over 4 years by the way) was obliged to sell the café back to the previous owner for the price he had paid. How the heck that works is beyond me, but it meant that one of our Saturday lunch venues was changing. Not good for the likes of us stick-in-the-muds.

Sure enough on the allotted day, the café shut down, we said our farewells to the staff all of whom had resigned and would not be working for the new owner even though most of them had worked for him before. So, due to a lack of staff, the café stayed stubbornly closed for several weeks. Finally at the beginning of June it re-opened.

We went along even though our loyalty to the previous owner made me feel rather guilty. The restaurant had a rather restricted menu on a scrappy paper booklet. The service was chaotic, but as all the staff were new and obviously many of them had never worked in a bar or restaurant before, so we forgave them and we assumed it was just teething troubles. I must say that the steak was excellent, so that made up for everything.


La Nation, huge terrace in the main street
(screen dump from Google Street View)
We have been going back periodically since the reopening and the chaotic staff and restricted menu are still the order of the day. The place is clearly less well liked than before and so you do not really need to book a table for market day, which was an absolute must under the old regime. Whether the restaurant will ever get back into its old swing, I do not know, but I hope so for both the owner’s sake and for ours.

While Café du Centre restaurant was closed we decided (very reluctantly on my part) to try La Nation again. There was something about the atmosphere of that place, that we really didn’t like, but things can change can’t they?

I have to admit it, we were very impressed. The service is slick and the food is excellent.

The vineyards of one of the best white wines in this area
(photo from dico-du-vin.com)
I have only one complaint and that is their rather pushy way of trying to get you to buy more than you want. For example, when I asked for a glass of white Mâcon, the response was “Viré-Clessé? It’s a very nice wine.” I know that Viré-Clessé is a very nice wine and that it is from the Mâconnais but you wouldn’t call it a Mâcon white for goodness sake. I am not a wine expert, but I sure know that Viré-Clessé ain’t cheap, so I said no very quickly and then I had to fumble with the menu to find the Mâcon I wanted which for future reference is Azé, but also I noted that the Viré-Clessé was quite rightly not classified as a Mâcon white and was nearly 5 Euros a glass. The other trick they pull is when you order coffee “do you want coffee gourmand?” is the response. Well if you don’t know what that is, it is a cup of coffee with some delicious small desserts surrounding it, very nice I have to admit if you want it, but if you just want a cup of coffee, as some tourists we saw obviously did, the extra on the bill could be a bit unwelcome.

All that said, La Nation is rightly packed for lunch every day and it is almost impossible to get a table on market day. Members of the staff are getting to know us now with the accompanying handshake and “how are you?” when you arrive and “see you soon” when you leave. So they have well and truly won us over.

We now have a serious problem every time we eat out in Cluny, where should we go? There are just so many good options these days.

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