Have you ever wanted to have lunch alongside a bunch of French farmers? Rub shoulders at the buffet with some ruddy-faced tractor drivers? The restaurant Chez Marie Thé, in the small village of Ploerdut, Southern Brittany, is just the place to do it. It’s a fascinating eye opener into just how seriously the French take their lunch breaks – every day, without fail, the local farmers come to eat their ‘menu ouvrier’ here, where for just 11 Euros you get a fantastic starter, main, dessert and UNLIMITED WINE FROM A NOZZLE. What more could you possibly want?
There’s always that tension on holidays abroad to find an ‘authentic’ place to eat like a local, but not wanting to blunder like an idiot into hostile territory where you stick out like a sore thumb. Well, don’t worry about that, because no sooner are you through the door of the bar Chez Marie Thé, you are greeted with mega-warmth by the staff and ushered to a table. Walking into the dining room is like coming into an old auntie’s living room where the decor looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 60’s. This is French Old School – peach and raspberry tablecloths, corny knick knacks, dreadful paintings on the wall. The food speaks for itself – hearty, good flavours and all home made. We ate here twice and the entire restaurant was largely packed out with ruddy-faced blokes (and a few lady farmers too) plus kids, all enjoying three courses and wine. This is a totally normal state of affairs. This is France after all, where I also learned that all kids going to nursery all get three courses for lunch as well. It’s like a different planet!
Anyway, this is the restaurant. I nearly walked past since it looks like any old bog standard ‘bar du coin’ (excuse the weird colours, I wasn’t concentrating):
Inside the door, behold the WONDERFUL retro-ness of the decor! Especially the diddy little stools on the right:
And now, the dining area – vast expanses of raspberry coloured linen with lime green touches – naff as hell but who cares when the food is going to be good, right?
First stop: LE VIN. Witness the nozzle taps! All very quaffable, in all three colours:
Ok, so the buffet looks a bit scary in a school dinners sort of way, but I kid you not, it was all excellent. You’d find all the traditional French buffet items – from mushrooms a la greque and crudités, to homemade rustic paté and sliced cold meats. We got stuck in, it was all great:
You get a choice of two main courses – here you see a very serviceable cutlet of pork with frites. Totally delicious:
A bit on the bland side, stuffed cabbage in tomato sauce. Reminded me of French nursery food (I am half French, there are some buried food memories in there somewhere!):
The dessert cabinet, which includes cheese as well as all manner of tooth-rotting sweet puds:
Look at these bad boys! (clockwise, from top) Banana custard, brownie in vanilla cream, ile flottante:
Ruddy cheeked farmers eating their menu prix fixe:
Aw – someone’s brought their poodle and he’s got his own bit of carpet to relax on!
As well as animals, children are welcome too:
And now for a surprising fact courtesy of our wonderful landlady Bev Fearis, who rented us an amazing cottage (think French Fantasy Rustic Gite) nearby at the splendid Gites Guebuernez – she told me that the decor in the bar and restaurant is actually BRAND NEW. They had a ‘makeover’ last year and opted for a colour and furniture scheme from the 1960s all over again! It didn’t look that much different beforehand, she told me. BLESS THEM. I love it. Who cares that it’s not really retro?
Restaurant Chez Marie Thé
Tel: 02 97 39 43 82
I love your posts for their ability to transport me away from my corner of London. The ile flottante is particularly spectacular, it’s such an enormous wobbly wodge! And the curtains, hung as if in thin air. All wonderful.
Thanks so much Clare! The ile flottante was something I will never forget, least of all the fact that farmers had this on their lunchbreaks!
My favourite bit is the poodle, on its own carpet.
I know! Bless that little dawg.