La Ciboulette, Beaune.

June 2015.

This place has been around for a few decades, just inside the circular road, on a continuation of the secondary highway from Nuits St George etc. to the north. I’ve eaten here several times and always been pleased.

We turned up unreserved for lunch on a Saturday with the town buzzing with tourists and the Saturday central market. We waited for the 12 o’clock opening, and were given a very nice table in the second room beside an door open to the sunny sidewalk. Server was a charmingly over-inclusive female character who engaged us in conversation about the restaurant not being given its due by the Michelin guide, among other things. We were the first customers, but by the time we left just over an hour later the place was packed.

Small amuse-geules included a delicious saucisson sec. We had a couple of salads: the duck prosciutto special and my sliced very lightly smoked salmon. Both quite lovely and simple with vinaigrette and adequate meat.

The mains were a sea bass on a turnip disc and braised pork cheeks. The fish very tasty and grilled quite competently. The pork magnificently flavoured and tender, not a hint of the dryness that often afflicts slow-cooked meat. Quite nicely-boiled zucchini, carrots, and daikon companions. A completely unassuming and (as always it seems in professional French restaurants) perfectly-flavoured pork reduction. This had a sour turn to it which perked up the meat beautifully. Crème brûlée and sugared whipped egg white in creme Anglais for dessert.

For €58 we had a nice Meursault village from a producer I didn’t know, 2011. €119 total.

The staff here have been turning out unassuming delightfully competent straightahead French bistrot food for many years, and our experience has been consistent. No letdown today.

Food 8.5, service 8.6, ambience 8.1, value 7.5. Yes, I’m sure I’ll go back.

April 2018.

Even better. Having eaten in several less traditional restaurants here in France, it’s strangely comforting to sit with a clientele of an apparent average age of 50, quietly eating and conversing as though what they say only needs to be heard by the people at their table.

It’s the same elderly man and perhaps daughter or daughter-in-law serving, possibly a little bit brusque to begin with but eventually friendly. The interior design hasn’t changed at all and is still green on white and traditional.

I went for a couple of relatively expensive items on the menu: foie gras and sweetbread. We drank an obscure (to me) Puigny Montrachet premier cru that set us back about €70. It was an adequately-balanced French chardonnay with a slight evergreen tone, nothing to write home about.

There was a generous hockey puck of cold cru foie gras (about 5 x 1cm) served with a nice soft bread and some sour and sweet condiment. The sweetbread had been sousvided (I think. The server seemed reluctant to confirm this as if there was some mystery in the kitchen to which he was not party) and came in three half-golf-ball-sized pieces slightly crispy on the outside. Accompanying vegetables and the true reduction sauce were perfectly lovely.

I had a couple of sentimental moments on this visit to Burgundy. I’ve visited the region to taste and buy wine maybe ten times since our year in France, now just over a quarter-century ago. The staggering wine prices and my own advancing age gave me a premonition that this might be the last time I see this wonderful complicated place. In any case I’ve been to this little restaurant half-a-dozen times since 1992 and I’m never disappointed. The main server is getting elderly and I have no idea about the ownership or kitchen, but I hope Ciboulette doesn’t change or go away.

It’s an oasis of colloquial French cuisine and manners of the late 20th century, and a reminder to me of my own wonderful middle-age. I hope I get to enjoy it again.

Food 9.0, service 8.8, ambience 9.3, value 8.5, peace and quiet 9.6.

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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