Aupres du Clocher, Pommard.

June 2015.

This little restaurant is the class act in the tiny Burgundy wine town of Pommard. It’s mentioned in the Michelin guide in Michelinesque generalities. It was recommended by friends who live in the town. It’s closed two days in the middle of the week, but we managed to get ourselves in the Friday before we left.

The room is on the second floor and is quite pretty and understated in decor and table settings, all off-white and pretentious-quality accoutrements. When we walked in, we were shown to a little table in a back corner and when I demurred and requested the one by the window the response was dismissive: c’est reserve. We sat down to review the menu and wine list.

There are several fixed-price dinners but they are without choices and didn’t include our favourites on the à la cart side. The wine list is of the impressive length usually found in restaurants located in famous wine-production towns, three pages of Pommard reds and lots of other Burgundy in every category back to the early 2000s.

We decided to share a starter, and each have a main, but again the server sneered and behaved as if this was somehow an unexpected offense against usual and acceptable procedure. The 15-table room filled up quickly and was completely subscribed by the time we left at 830.

Oeufs meurette is an old burgundy favourite of mine, but it came strangely with the egg white whipped around the yolk, and accompanied by a rasher of bacon and some snails. The sauce with its soft onions was fine, but I found teasing my way through the whipped egg white distracting from the comfort-food pleasure I usually find in the wine, stock, and poached egg.

Robin had langoustines and I went for sweetbread with a veal chop. The langoustines were the high point, packed with shellfish flavour and accompanied with perfectly-cooked vegetables. My ris de veau etc. needed salt but I couldn’t attract server’s attention with my back to the room without standing up in my seat and waving at him. There were beet slices around the plate which had been incubated in something I guess fennel-like that for me didn’t work with the usually earthy vegetables. The veal was nicely-cooked but needed salt, and the sweetbread also properly cooked but not crispy and frankly a bit lacking in flavour.

Once we got his attention we consulted with the server about the wine and had a 2007 Pommard Rougiens from our old friend M. de Pomerol atDomaine Lejeune (the old man I discovered this week now retired with cancer, having turned his operation over to his son-in-law. Unfortunately the two white wines I bought from him as samples were quite bad). This wine was fragrant in the style of the older producer, although later it was insubstantial in the mouth.

After finishing, there were very long waits before anyone asked us if we wanted anything else, and then subsequently to get the bill. It’s silly, but we watched carefully and diners at other tables who had arrived after us were taken care of earlier. We felt like foreigners: Germans, Poles, Arabs, or even worse North Americans. What had I done wrong? Spoken English? Blown my nose in the napkin? As we were leaving the otherwise verging-on-rude server told us the chef wanted to speak to us, and Jean-Christophe Moutet came out of the kitchen and asked us if everything was okay. I was a bit torn, but he was so sincere and solicitous (plus I wasn’t sure I could render my real opinion in French) that I didn’t tell him what was on my mind.

It was this: the old-style French restaurant, much-beloved of Michelin, still exists but it is fading out of style. This chef seems, based on the kind of restaurant he runs, to want to get a star, and eventually become a famous destination. But Mr. Moutet, it profiteth little to gain your rosettes, and lose the respect of your clients. I’m reminded of our experience years ago when we were still pursuing the Michelin Vatican, at Troisgros. They made us feel wonderful! Here, we were treated like people who at best don’t know how to behave and at worst are offensives who had no right to be in the place. Which is a pretentious local operation out-of-date, over-wrought in its visual presentation, and not-spectacular in its flavour, full of a supercilious arrogant attitude.

€200 equals $270.

Food 7.4, service 3.0, ambience 8.2, value 5.5. Avoid this place unless you’re French, a regular, or are in the mood to participate in an ostentatious charade. You can be treated nicely and eat a better dinner for half the price elsewhere nearby.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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