has always had a fine reputation, but sit back on your laurels for a while, and that reputation can soon disappear.
When we first came to live in France in 1972 we were simply amazed by both the high standard and low cost of eating out. We used to leave restaurants wondering how on earth they could supply food and wine of such quality for so little money.
All this has changed and finding a half decent restaurant nowadays has become almost impossible.
I've shown the above photo previously (Lady Magnon, Kimbo, et moi). It was taken just after a sensational meal at one of this area's greatest hostelries. Unfortunately it no longer exists, but Chez PoPaul at Beaumont de Périgord was one of those places that 'foodies' dream of. It had such a reputation that people would fly into the local airport, from all quarters of Europe, just for the pleasure of eating there.
Oh that such a place still existed. It's not rocket science; all one needs is plenty of good well-cooked and well-presented food, attentive staff who know what they're doing and talking about, a pleasant environment, and a bill that doesn't require an excessive mortgage. Is that so bloody difficult?
Nothing at PoPaul was beyond the scope of an experienced home-cook with the wherewithal to purchase quality ingredients; it wasn't at all a pretentious cheffy place. It was the combination of dishes (I think there were 6 or 7 courses), the variety on offer, and the ambiance, that made eating there a truly memorable experience. Their self-service charcuterie/shellfish table was unbelievable.
Nowadays everything seems to be designed for 'labour saving'. Almost entire meals come in vacuum packed plastic bags, and are simply re-heated in hot-water-baths or microwaves. The addition of a sliced tomato and a few leaves of salad is as much as the 'chef' needs to contribute.
So who is to blame? Well firstly it's the fault of the French government. Those clever people at Santé et Sécurité
(elf-n-safety) banned restaurateurs from growing their own vegs, preserving their own charcuterie,
or even keeping their own livestock, so, obviously, the quality was going to decline. Secondly I blame the so-called French chefs; they're basically lazy. If there's a corner to be cut, they will find it and cut it.
Regardless of all this, the French continue to tell you that their national cuisine
is the best in the world; the only difference from 40 years ago is that it now comes complete with blinkers.
My reluctant advice: If you wish to eat well in a French restaurant, find one outside of France.
N.B. Having said all that, there is one restaurant nearby that we visit regularly. It serves good food with free wine, the whole place is run by women, and I'm on bisou
terms with the owner. I just wish there were more like it.