Lunch at Madame Murat’s was one of these occasions. We’d been asked to organise a Cave Art & Castles Tour for 4 Australian ladies who were celebrating a ‘Big Birthday’ together with a European Tour. The cave art was top of one person’s list, for another it was churches and historic villages. As we were planning the Tour, we received an email asking if we could include Cahors market and a visit to see Mary Moody’s house. Why not, we thought, and set about researching what would be new territory for us.Cahors market is an example of a French market at its best and being summer the stalls were a riot of colour with soft fruits and cut flowers, particularly huge golden sunflowers. And, of course, no French market would be complete without a wonderful selection of pates, cheeses and fresh, crusty bread – what to choose, the choice is bewildering, everything is so tempting.
Mary Moody is an Australian author and television presenter and to be honest, we’d not heard of her books until now. She spends several months a year in France (she owns a house in Pomarede) and has written several books about her experiences here. The first was ‘Au Revoir’ – the story of how she ran away to France to have time to herself and fell in love with the country. ‘Lunch at Madame Murat’s’ is part of this series and in it she describes both in pictures and words the restaurant Chez Jeanne that has been in the Murat family for 5 generations.
We had to try it!
What an experience. As you may know, mealtimes are important in France. Often you will see ‘HR’ in advertisements – Telephone xxxxxx (HR) – what does this mean? Hors Repas (hors = outside, repas = meal) – in other words, don’t interrupt my lunch! Many people in France still take the traditional 2 hour lunch break – offices and shops close, workmen down tools. Frequently they head to small restaurants for an ‘ouvrier’ – the term for a mid day meal. There they sit down to a 4 or 5 course meal and, of course, this being France, wine is served – typically a ¼ litre of red wine is included in the very modest price of around 12 euros! There may be a choice of menu, but at Madame Murat’s there are no menus! A chalkboard announces the ‘plat du jour’ (dish of the day), but otherwise you don’t know what the fare will be until your ‘serveuse’ (waitress) lets you in on the secret.
Soup is the norm for the first course, followed by charcuterie (terrines, pates and dried meats ) for which again France is famed – then the plat du jour, good hearty, sustaining food for the afternoon’s work ahead. On the day we visited succulent slices of melon, grown just up the hill were served with jambon paysage (country ham). The plat du jour was tete de veau (veal stuffed with herbs, rolled and roasted and our serveuse’s recommendation to have this dish of the day was good advice – it was delicious. What meal is complete without cheese? In France it is served before the dessert which gives a chance to savour the last of the very quaffable local wine with it before moving onto sweeter things. What a choice! Crème brule – delicious, smooth, creamy custard with a sweet, crunchy topping, apricot tart, a choice fresh fruits or superb local ice cream.
Thank goodness we did not have to go back to work after this delightful culinary experience! It was made even better for seeing Madame Murat herself pottering around in the background. Sylvie is the one who heads the family team now and we were proudly shown a signed copy of Mary Moody’s book – well thumbed and obviously much treasured.
Mary Moody is definitely right – this restaurant is a wonderful example of French life at its best – and long may it remain so.
Follow this link to find out about Caves & Castles Mary Moody Tour
Steve and Judie Burman live in the beautiful Vezere Valley in the Dordogne region of South-West France. Together they run Caves and Castles, specialising in prehistoric Cave Art and medieval Castles Tours. You can join a small group (up to 6) 4 night/5 day Tour based 2 nights each in the medieval towns of Sarlat and Montignac-sur-Vezere or book a custom Tour for a day or more.
Professional archaeologist, Steve loves to share his passion for the ‘Cradle of Humanity.’ World famous sites such as Lascaux, the ‘Sistine Chapel of Prehistory’ and Font de Gaume are close by. Coupled with gastronomic meals and superb wines, your Caves & Castles Tour is really special.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.