Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Relais du Moulin – 2

Our first memorable visit to ‘Le Relais du Moulin’ and the town of Saint-Aignan goes back to 2000. It was on a Monday. Sunday had been a blistering hot day, but overnight thunderstorms had literally washed the heat away. Rain had been pouring down all morning. This was clearly not a day to have lunch alfresco. It was well past 1:30 p.m. and we were still driving around looking for a suitable place to eat. We had stopped at some restaurants, but they were either empty – which is not a good sign, because good restaurants always attract large crowds – or closed. We were getting rather hungry and a little desperate by the time we arrived in Saint-Aignan.

Near the bridge over the Cher River we noticed ‘Le Relais du Moulin’. The parking lot was packed and several cars were parked by the side of the road. By the door stood the postman’s scooter. “Why is this important”, you’ll probably ask? Well, my friend has this theory that postmen, who evidently know the area very well, only eat and drink in the best places!

The windows of the restaurant were steamed, which was another sign that there were many patrons inside. All this was very reassuring, and we decided we’d give this place a try. When opening the door, we were greeted by a clatter of voices. People were obviously having a good time. The door led into a bar room containing three small round tables, two of which were taken. At the bar, several clients were chatting with the landlord, who was serving draft beer and tiny glasses of rosé wine.

To the left was a large dining room. All the tables were occupied and we feared that lunch hour was almost over and that we were too late. We asked the landlord whether it was still possible to have lunch. He gave us broad smile, and beamed “Mais bien sur!!!” And pointing at the only empty table near the bar, he said “Attendez là-bas. Il y aura bientôt une table qui va se libérer.” (Just wait there, a table will be available soon. ») With a sigh of relief we sat down and ordered two draft beers.

Hardly ten minutes later four ‘ouvriers’ left the restaurant and a buxom waitress showed us to their now empty table. She cleared the remainders of their meal, and disappeared into the backroom, which was obviously the kitchen.

We were waiting for her to return with the menu card and discussing whether we would have beer or wine with our meal, when all of a sudden she showed up with a half litre pitcher of red wine. She put it on the table in a very decisive manner. By doing so she automatically solved our beer/wine dilemma.

My friend was about to ask her for the menu card, when she put her clenched fists, knuckles down, on the table, leaned over to us and said: “Aujourd’hui, c’est une salade de tomates en entrée et un steak-frites comme plat.” (Today we’re serving a tomato salad for starters and a steak with French fries for main course.” And gone she was. We looked at each other completely flabbergasted. After a moment of stupefied silence, we burst out laughing. This woman was beyond believe!

Okay, I admit it. I'm cheating a little, as this wasn't the steak we had in June 2000 at the 'Relais du Moulin' as I didn't take any pictures of our meal there. But it is close enough.

The meal itself was delicious. The tomato salad was the best I’ve ever had, made from juicy, sweet tomatoes, covered in a light vinaigrette dressing. The sirloin steak was tender and the fries crispy. At the end of the meal our busty waitress returned and asked whether we would have cheese or desert. Not having a sweet tooth, we both took the cheese. She came back with a platter containing at least six different types of cheese. We asked if we could have some more wine. Image our surprise when she walked over to a nearby table that had recently been evacuated by a party of 5, and took the pitcher with what was left of their wine and firmly set it down in front of us. “That’s on the house”, she said.

Almost the same thing happened with the cheese platter, which was handed around by the clients, without help of the waitress. When you felt like an extra slice of goat cheese or camembert, you‘d just ask your neighbour to pass you the platter.


chm said...

Too bad the restaurant is no longer in business!

ladybird said...

chm: I totally agree with you, as the food was EXCELLENT. Martine

Ken Broadhurst said...

Walt wrote down the lunch we had at the Hôtel du Moulin on December 10, 2002: it was a salade Milano (pasta salad), rôti de porc avec haricots verts, fromage AND tarte aux pommes. Vin rouge. Café. It was very good, I remember, and kind of sealed the deal on Saint-Aignan for us. That afternoon we saw our house for the first time, and two days later we signed the compromis de vente. We were on our way.

ladybird said...

Sounds great. Rôti de porc and haricots verts - a great French classic and delicious when well prepared. Another coincidence??? :)) Martine