And this is exactly what we should have done that day in March 2009 when we decided to forget about the ‘Quai 5-7’ restaurant in Dieppe and follow the barkeeper’s advice.
March 2009: The quay of Dieppe harbour lined with restaurants.
Notice the clear blue sky!
Notice the clear blue sky!
Following his recommendations, we walked into the nearby ‘Tout va Bien’. The place, although very large, was crowded and extremely busy. This was definitely a good sign, or so we thought. When we asked the waiter for a table for two, he desperately looked around. At that precise moment, a couple by the window got up and put on their coats. The waiter quickly guided us to the now empty table. He diligently removed the empty coffee cups and replaced them by new cutlery and glasses. Next he handed us each a menu card and bustled off to another table where people were calling for his attention.
Having seen some fresh Dover sole on the quay during our little exploratory walk earlier that day, my friend immediately decided to order his favourite dish ‘Sole Meunière’ (Miller’s wife style sole: sole lightly dusted with flour and fried in a lot of sizzling hot butter until golden brown).I had a tartar of beef (raw minced beef, flavoured with an egg yolk, capers, chopped onion and parsley, Worchester sauce, Tabasco, pepper and salt).
Whilst waiting for our order, we tried to catch glimpses of the content of the plates that were delivered to the other tables. All in all it looked very promising. And then came the sole! Instead of golden brown, it had a fade greyish-green colour. From the head – which is usually removed before frying the fish – a blank white eye stared into our faces. The side-fins had not been cut off and the dark top and white belly skin were still there, covered in a sticky and cloddy crust of hardly fried flour. When my friend removed the unappetizing skin and lifted the first fillet from the bone, he saw that the fish had not even been gutted! The only positive thing that could be said for it was that is was very fresh!
To make a long story short, my tartar was okay but not exceptional and we both left about 1/3 of our meal. We washed it down with a bottle of white Sauvignon wine and ordered a dessert, something we rarely do. We had a ‘trou Normand’, an apple sorbet drowned in a generous splash of Calvados. This somewhat made up for the lousy food.
Leaving the restaurant we walked back to our car which was parked near the ‘Quai 5-7’ restaurant. Just when we passed the door, three people came out and the delicious smell of freshly cooked mussels and French fries floated towards us. Inside we heard the happy clinging of glasses and cutlery.
The moral of this story? Always listen to your mother and stick to your first idea!