October 2: Another Sunday lunch

Joel hasn’t been well this week – a cold that’s been going around and around. ‘Call in sick!’ I said this morning, but of course I was joking. There’s no calling in sick when it’s your own business. I went down about noon to see if he was ok, which was bit pointless, as even if he weren’t he would keep on going.

Homemade foie gras and fig jam

The new chef, Elie, is doing really well. He’s not as much of a character as Massimo, but he’s much faster, more imaginative and more efficient. He has more of a repertoire, too, and can come up with lovely things like his own pâté de foie gras. I was hoping to get a taste of that today, but I sat at the back in the quiet with my niece Manou and Sonny the dog, and things kept arriving on the table – two glasses of rosé, a Vietnamese spring roll, some beignets de crevettes… By the time I remembered the foie gras, I was stuffed. The weather has been warmer and more beautiful than it usually is at this time of year, apparently, so the restaurant is experiencing both the summer pattern of busy dinners AND the autumn pattern of busy lunches. Yesterday was one of the busiest days of the whole year – completely unexpected, and exhausting for everyone as they were a sous-chef down in the kitchen and one down on the floor. They managed, though Joel had to turn people away. People got a bit sniffy about that – most of the customers are local, and they think of it as THEIR restaurant. They also had a group of eight women on a hen night from Bolton near Manchester (booked in advance) who behaved themselves impeccably, despite Joel’s initial alarm. Apparently they spent the whole dinner speaking English with Joel, then asked him if he spoke English, to which he replied, No.

Yen pouring champagne

The terrasse, Sunday lunchtime

Once the weather is too cool to have the terrasse out in the evenings, the whole clearing-up process will be massively shortened. Putting the terrasse away is time-consuming and physical and it’s usually Joel who does it. All the chairs have to be stacked, the tables folded down, and the parasols unwired and taken down. Then they all have to be stored next door. Joel might not be spinning for now, but he’s doing abs and upper bodywork! The kitchen has usually been cleared, cleaned and deserted by 10.45, but puds and the bar stay on. If people are having a good time, they linger. I’ll never be the last table in a restaurant again after this experience. I’ll remember that the restaurateurs want to get home to their wives.

Tuna tartare - always very popular

I think both of us are hanging on till the weather changes and the restaurant slows down. We don’t want it to because the weather is so gorgeous now, and of course it brings in the money. But we do want it to because Joel needs to recharge himself, to sit back and think, and to sleep, sleep, sleep. I want my husband back! I’ve missed him, and no amount of wine, foie gras, cheerful banter with customers, sunshine and ringing tills can equal having his full attention.


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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