Lunch at the restaurant

To get to the restaurant from here I could walk for about 20 minutes or take the tram – two stops, about five minutes, one euro per trip. This morning, after about 700 words (not enough!), I took the tram to the gym near Place Garibaldi. I always stand on the right hand side on the way down so I can get a good look at the restaurant as we go by. The lunchtime rush starts at noon, and as I passed at about 12.15, the tables outside were filling up. It’s a warm, sunny day, so I figured all would be well. Bad weather makes a noticeable dent on the takings, but ‘bad’ weather here can mean feathery clouds or a light breeze. You can always tell the tourists because they wear shorts and spaghetti straps while the locals are still bundled up in leather jackets, as are their dogs.

Today's plats du jour

By 2.30 or so, the rush is over. Joel says most of the regulars have a plat du jour with a glass of wine and coffee, and there are plenty of them. It’s amazing how many regulars there are – people who come a couple of times in the week and on the weekend too. For now, everyone sits outside, except family. There’s usually someone: today it was my mother-in-law Denise. She’s been coming down for lunch pretty much every day since Joel started. Michele, my sister-in-law, says it’s because she’s so proud, which makes Joel’s eyes go misty! Sometimes my niece Manou is there, if she doesn’t have a work rendez-vous. Other times, it’s uncles, aunts, a cousin…


I shared a skate wing with Joel – buttery and lovely, lots of capers, served with potato. It’s terrifically relaxing (for me and Denise, in any case!) to sit and watch the spectacle outside. People come in and out to the loo, to pay, to ask something, for a coffee at the bar, to chat.. It’s always bonjourbonjourbonjourbonappetit…. Whoever said the French were rude couldn’t speak French. Michele seems knows almost everyone in the neighbourhood. She IS the restaurant. She’s always introducing someone. I’m still unsure of who to shake hands with and who to kiss, who to be familiar with and tu-toyer and who to be more formal with and vous-voyer. Joel says no one will care as I’m English, but his tactic is to kiss first and ask questions later.

Joel with Massimo, Tee and Mika

The waiters and the kitchen go home after three – they’ll be back in the evening – but after the rush there’s lots of banter, most of which goes right over my head at the moment. There’s lot of cigarette smoking, too. There’s a chef, Massimo, whose model-like Brazilian wife has just arrived with their 18-month-old daughter, the sous chef Alex, waiters Mika and sometimes Manuel, the barman Yen, the plongeuse Tee, Michele and Joel. There’s always endless coming and going, too – not just the customers (Joel refers to them as passengers – you can take the man out of the airport, but…) sales reps and delivery people, etc etc. Michele has a rapport with everyone.

Mika has counted out the tips on bar

I really like the terrace between lunch and dinner. People pass the time of day there, sitting in the sun nattering, drinking coffee or wine. Michele usually introduces me to someone, though I’m beginning to know people now. It’s perfectly natural for people to join each other and start yapping about… nothing much, really. It’s a Nicois speciality. This little pleasure really could become dangerous, though: I can stroll in behind the bar and help myself. Barristas of the world, watch out, I know how to make a mean espresso now. But somehow that rose wine is just so much more refreshing…

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About Suellen Grealy

In 2011, a series of coincidences led my husband Joel, our cat Ted and me away from London, where we lived quite happily for 30 years, to Nice, where Joel grew up. While he and his sister ran their restaurant, I wrote a novel. Family being family, Joel and his sister no longer work together. Writing being writing, the novel lingers on... Meanwhile, we've found ways of living a completely different life from the one we had in London, including running our own restaurant together, 7 Villermont. The only constants are our Ted, our now-battered Peugeot, and each other. Everything else is a complete surprise
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One Response to Lunch at the restaurant

  1. Ellen Sanchez Marenchin says:

    new post please 5/2012

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