February 6: a new restaurant

At last this blog’s title – 50% of it, at least  – makes some sense again. Originally, the restaurant part of it referred to Joel’s business adventure with his sister Michele, which ended in, to understate, disagreement (financially draining, emotional and life-changing).  The novel part remains pretty stable (written, read, rewritten, reread, etc.). Now we’ve decided to embark on the financially draining, emotional and life-changing part of it all over again: we’ve bought our own restaurant!

For now, Villermont (that will be its new name and incarnation) is completely empty. We asked the previous owner to remove every single thing except the extractor hood, and even that, upon closer inspection, will probably have to go. We asked him to have the place professionally cleaned before he went, too, but he didn’t bother with that bit. That was the least of the frustrations he caused us during the buying process. Even our jovial little lawyer was reduced to shouting at him (very eloquently!) during the signing of the acte de vente, the final act of sale.  We were only just convinced at the last moment that the vendor owned the place and had the right to sell at all, such is his problem with the truth, paperwork, French bureaucracy, accounts, and his ex-wife. We’re told he speaks perfect Italian, and, as he has Egyptian roots, we thought he might speak Arabic. But his French is a bizarre mixture of words we’d never come across before, so communicating was a challenge, particularly for Joel. Fortunately Joel’s struck up a comradeship with the owner of the building in which the restaurant is located, based on a shared feeling of confused awe regarding the vendor’s incessant mangling of the truth. During the final signing, the vendor brought along a former customer who, we thought, was there to translate all the details that seemed to have been misconstrued before. The former customer speaks English. During the proceedings, Joel said to him, feel free to speak whatever language you want so everything is clear. The former customer turned to the vendor, grabbed his arm, and translated everything from French into… French.

Anyway, that’s all history. Now there are new characters in our lives: the architect, Mylene; a stream of cuisinistes, such as Salvatore, the kitchen supplier; the handsome (and effective) desinsectisation expert, who also happens to be an ex-world taekwondo champion; awning suppliers, insurers, Monsieur Buffet, our conseiller professionnel at the bank, not to mention the owners of the neighbouring restaurant. They are observing our comings and goings with interest. There’s not much to observe yet, of course. Gutting and refurbishing Villermont will take several months. Good. It will take me several months to work up sufficient strength in my fingers to carry plates like the experienced waitress I need to become.

It’s stressful more for Joel than for me, I have to admit. Even if my French were good enough to handle all the admin in setting up a new business, I’d pretend it wasn’t, so that I could avoid it. Joel’s good at that stuff, and I’m good at… um…. well… chatting? People are always telling me things. I had the privilege of interview­­­­­­ing, for a UK magazine, the director of makeup at Christian Dior the other day, and I got him to spill the beans on Karl Lagerfeld’s cat, Choupette. Choupette is a diva, apparently. I’ve always been a bit jealous of Choupette, on Ted’s behalf. I mean, why should that fluffball have his own clothing range, while Ted doesn’t? It’s nepurrtism. But nyah-nyah, Choupette; Ted has his own restaurant in the south of France now. Beat that!

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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 February 6: a new restaurant

  1. Deb Brenner says:

    Now I really, really have to get back to France just to eat at Restaurant Villermont! And visit with you, bien sur. (that’s close to all the French I remember)

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