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My wife seemed to be misled in thinking it was actually ‘Adopt a Puppy Day’. However, being the fluent French speaker in the family, I knew I was of course correct.
I popped out to find a pensioner, but after knocking on a several doors it soon became clear that no-one was at home anywhere. It is strange, but this often happens when I call on neighbours, they must be busy people.
Despondently, I returned home. Still insisting I should be looking for a puppy rather than a pensioner, my wife then mentioned our friend Colin was coming around at 11am. Knowing his other half was away, and that he was suitably qualified, I decided he would be our adopted pensioner for the day.
On arriving I gave him the good news. At first he didn’t understand me, as I had told him in French, but when I reverted to English he just looked at me with complete disdain. I then told him the day included lunch at La Perle, and within seconds he was asking where he need to sign the adoption day papers. “It is Adopt a Puppy Day” my wife again insisted. Colin, with his mind firmly on his stomach, concurred that he had read in this week’s edition of La Monde that it was indeed ‘Adopt a Pensioner Day.’
I booked lunch for three at La Perle, our chic Milford on Sea village Bistro & Restaurant. I think they liked the reservation being made in fluent Gallic, although I repeated my booking request in English when requested. One step into the door and I was immediately transported back to when we had emigrated to France, this little haven in Milford on Sea High Street would have been just as at home on La Planche in Deauville, Normandy. (La Planche is the ‘Boardwalk,’ not ‘Ironing board’ as a weird friend of ours once thought.)
A sweet French voice greeted us and led us to the table. Being a lunchtime you might expect the restaurant to not be that busy, but all of the tables we full, which reflected the excellent reputation that Leo and Emily have already created since opening in June last year.
Leo, the proprietor chef, is a genuine Frenchman, from Epernay in the Champagne region of France. His passion is to serve authentic and rustic French dishes, and his past experience in working in kitchens with One & Two Michelin Stars shines through in the quality of ingredients and presentation. When we chat, for some reason he always finds my Gallic accent and version of French amusing. I am not sure why, but who can explain how any Frenchman’s mind works.
We were soon enjoying the homemade bread and French butter, my wife had a glass of red wine, and myself and our ‘geriatric for the day’, were supping a cool pint of French Kronenbourg. Having translated some elements of the menu to my wife and guest, (they pretended they knew already) I decided it might be a friendly gesture to pop around the other diners to ask whether they had any translation issues I could resolve for them. My wife, second guessing my thought process, managed in one smooth simultaneous movement to stab my hand with a fork and start a conversation with Colin to cover up my muffled scream.
As I read the menu (with one hand), a selection of delights were jumping off the page. The ‘Prix Fixe Lunch’ seemed amazing value at £10 for one course including a glass of wine or beer. The choices of Moules mariniere & frites, Chicken chasseur & buttered mash, Mixed seafood pancake & salad, Beef Bourguignon & buttered mash, or lighter options like, Croque Monsieur, fries & salad or Omelette with choice of 3 ingredients, made this menu a definite for our next visit.
For the steak lovers, we read that La Perle has a ‘La Grillade du Jeudi’ available every Thursday. The Thursday grill provides the opportunity to have a ‘SteakFest’, as on that day, in addition to the normal menus, they serve a choice of Fillet, Sirloin or Rib eye steaks in 8oz or 10oz sizes (cut to order). Each steak can be accompanied with pomme pont neuf, French fries or buttered mash potatoes, plus a choice of Bearnaise, Peppercorn or Butter compound sauce. Another note for the diary!
However, as it was a special day for the adopted aged, we decided to go for the ‘A La Carte’ menu. Although the ‘Les entrées’ of, 'L'escargot' garlic & parsley snails, Moules mariniere, and Rabbit terrine with gherkins & salad had all looked tempting, we all chose the same starter, the ‘Soupe du jour’, which was ‘Mushroom and Tarragon’. We were all more than happy with our choice when we discovered the soup was delicious, displaying a true rustic feel in its chunky presentation and fresh flavour.
For main course my wife went for Beef Bourguignon & buttered mash, Colin and I went for the 6oz Steer fillet steak & frites, field mushrooms & grilled tomato. It took a while to make our choices as many other dishes like, 'Pintade roti' breast of guinea fowl and leg confit, pilaf rice & spring vegetables, Fillet of Gilt bream, saffron turned potatoes, basil ratatouille & parsley sauce, all looked worth a try. Most interesting was the Côte de porc façon grand mère', pork cutlet, wholegrain mustard mash & grand mère garnish. I suspect that the English people in the restaurant did not have my linguistic skills, and did not realise that ‘Grand mère' means ‘Grandmother’. Whilst I am sure Lionel’s grandmother is delicious, I did not fancy her for lunch.
My table partners were enthralled when I told them that ‘Bistro’ is actually ‘Bistrot’ in France, and that the ‘t’ was dropped in the UK to make the word more attractive. My wife reminded me that she had also been to France, and I thought the added comment; ‘unfortunately with you’ was a little cutting.
When Emily came to take our order for the ‘les desserts’, I was still deliberating between the Blanc manger aux amandes & poached fruit, the Tart tatin, honey & ice cream, and the Dark and white chocolate mousse with cappuccino Chantilly. Being charming, (and probably wishing she could clear our table as soon as possible,) she said’ leave it to me monsieur’. ‘Oooo, surprises, I like them’; I said.
The sweet duly arrived, and it was a great surprise - Emily had bought one of each. My table guests were each given a spoon, and to my dismay started to tuck in. How is it that; “No sweet for me thanks”, becomes “I’ll just try a bit" when the pudding arrives at the table?
I wished my fellow diners ‘Bon Appétit’ and heard mon cherie whisper to Colin, “I wish he was next door in Bon Appétit Creperie right now”.
All of the spoons were soon a blur as the sweets were demolished. The Tart tatin was a classic that any French patissier would have been proud to have created, and the Chocolate mousse was quite literally heaven in each spoonful from the dish.
We sat, full and truly satisfied, as I enjoyed a liqueur coffee. Leo then came around all of the tables for a casual chat. This is something he does at the end of every service, and the guests love to meet the master from the kitchen, and he must get great satisfaction to hear how people have enjoyed his food.
He then offered us all of glass of ‘Marc du Champagne’ (a Champagne liqueur.) Having fallen for this once before, we declined. Last time I accepted his offer, my legs didn’t stop wobbling for a week.
La Perle, 60 High Street, Milford on Sea, SO41 0QD | 01590 643557
Open Tuesday to Saturday for both lunch and dinner.
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