Saturday, 24 January 2015

Shifting loyalties

La Tour d'Auvergne in better days
Ever since we visited the Wednesday cattle market in Saint-Christophe-en-BrionnaIs, we have had our lunch at “La Tour d’Auvergne”, a restaurant in the high street of this small sleepy town that only comes alive on market days. The food there was excellent and cheap, the service very friendly and efficient, we got to know the staff as well as the owner, in a word, it was always a pleasure to pop by whenever we went to the market.

Lys'toire du Charolais, ex La Tour d'Auvergne
Last year we were going to have lunch there as usual. The boss welcomed us in his own, warm way, and everything seemed to be as it should be. Ordering our standard meal went as usual as well, and in no time we were indulging in our steak and French fries. The only difference we noticed was that some of the waitresses were wearing a brand new apron with the rather cryptic words “Frédéric Navez” printed on it. Further we noticed no changes.

Restaurant du Midi, open during renovations
The next time we ate there, we paid the bill at the table where the patron was seated. We had a little chat with him, and before we left we were introduced to the new owner, Monsieur Frédéric Navez.
During our next visit Monsieur Navez sat at the table, staring helplessly at a computer screen, which was supposed to help him settle the bills. He obviously did not want to follow in the footsteps of the previous owner, who settled bills efficiently on a piece of paper, using long hand addition. He rather preferred to do it on the computer, cursing and swearing at the blinking machine, but nevertheless…
After this visit we returned two times to “La Tour d’Auvergne”, rechristened now as “Lys’toire du Charolais”. The quality of the meat had deteriorated so much in the course of a few months, that we decided to try our luck elsewhere next time.
All restaurants in Saint-Christophe serve a more or less identical number of set menus on market days; the price is also more or less the same. “Le mur d’Argent” we had tried once before, but we preferred the atmosphere and the ambiance (then) in “La Tour d’Auvergne”.

Restaurant-du Midi, market day set menus
“Restaurant du Midi”, a few buildings away from “La Tour”, was, although in the middle of a renovation, open for the public, so we could do some consumer research. The results were very positive; the portions were slightly smaller but still more than sufficient, the steaks were of considerable better quality than the last ones we had in “La Tour”, there was a cheese platter and a desert, the service was friendly and adequate, in a word, our loyalty had shifted from “La Tour” to “Restarant du Midi” after only one meal!
The link to the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle can be found here.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Discord in the expat community

One cannot leave the area for a short break, or things have irreversibly changed on return.

That happened to us when we came back in Cluny from a week in Provence, and wanted to buy some shopping for the coming days. The Intermarché? Well, that had gone with the wind. The façade was now decorated with a tarpaulin saying “Carrefour Market”. However, since we needed some fresh articles for the coming days we did not have much choice: Carrefour, here we come! Needless to say that the whole shop had been turned upside down by the new owners (where on earth can we find the eggs?), that trusted products like Intermarché’s own brand “Top Budget” had disappeared completely, that even shop assistants (fortunately the former Intermarché employees) could not find their way in the newly arranged aisles….

Out of the blue!
In short, what was supposed to be a 5 minutes shopping exercise for a few daily necessities turned out to be an endless hunt for a few bottles of fresh milk and other simple commodities.
The Intermarché had literally changed hands in a couple of days. They had been closed for one or two days, and after that it was all of a sudden a completely different shop. The main thing for us was to figure out which shop was going to replace the Intermarché. Carrefour, but also Carrefour market, had been considered in the past as being too expensive. Having said that, a number of (British) expats travelled the extra miles to Mâcon and paid more money without blinking an eye because the assortment of British goodies (think of the indispensable Marmite) was superior to that in other, local supermarkets.

Alternative 1
However, those who were not so gripped by the slogan “Buy British”, hence people like us, Carrefour had always been considered too far and too expensive. Honesty binds me to say that if Carrefour would have had Indonesian chilli paste, sweet soy sauce and beansprouts in the assortment, we possibly would have been very happy with the change as well.
Our price hunt in Cluny revealed that Netto and Atac were comparable pricewise and as with regards to supply with the old Intermarché; however, Netto lacked certain products such as pasteurised whole milk completely.

Alternative 2
Another supermarket with a good selection was Super U in Prissé, but that is considered too far away for the daily and/or weekly shopping.
And what happened to the Intermarché money off vouchers we still owned? Fortunately we could cash those in at an Intermarché we stumbled upon by accident in Mâcon. So fortunately we can say: “All is well, that end well”!

One bridge too far...
The link to the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle can be found here.