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cafe du commerce

March 23, 2007

shuttersJPG.JPG Great excitement: the Cafe du Commerce, which like everything else in the village, closes at 7.00pm - has new owners. They are going to open three evenings a week for dinner, which means (oh joy) that we won’t have to drive for half an hour to the nearest restaurant. Eager to show support, I book a table for 8pm on Friday.

Unfortunately, we are the only people in a room so brightly lit that I imagine that the nuclear reactor at Lussac is struggling to keep up with the energy output. It’s not exactly romantic. Speaking in hushed towns, The Man and I decide on the €16.50 menu and both order the salad Périgord as a starter. It arrives with a minimal of greenery - one maybe two lettuce leaves sodden with dressing - and a fatty deluge of animal bits. I am no faint-heart when it comes to animal innards but this is a little de trop. I leave the nicotine-coloured fatty bits piled up on the side of my plate.

My main course, is even more dispiriting. I had ordered cod, but when it arrives it is not the freshly-caught, flaking white fish I imagined. Instead, it is a dense little brick of grey flesh, recently pulled from the freezer, and covered in a thick slab of buttery sauce. Even the puddings - dry fruit crumble without cream or custard - are awful. It is difficult to consume so many calories for so little pleasure.

We speed-eat in order to get the experience over with. It is dark, raining and cold outside but fearing that one of us will go into cardiac arrest after such a fat-laden meal, I suggest that we go for a walk around the village.

‘Did you enjoy it?’ asks the owner as we leave.
‘Um yes, thanks,’ I say, hugely disappointed, as I had so been willing the restaurant to be a success. But somehow I fear, they are not going to be overrun in the evenings. Unfortunately, this experience is typical of many restaurants in the rural Charente and it becomes a circle of disaster: no customers means no fresh produce, which means those customers who do stray into a given restaurant, don't come back again having been served up something hastily salvaged from the freezer.

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