Saturday, April 14, 2007

Regular with Pride

A nice thing about being a regular customer in France is that on the day you are officially recognised as such, you start having your hand shaken in welcome by the staff. No one says anything unusual like "We officially announce that you have joined the honourable rank of 'Establishment Regular' because we have seen your face on consecutive Fridays for the last 5 weeks", no, it's just a hand-shake in addition to the habitual 'bonjour'.

You are now, thus, reading the words of a Regular of Le Trinque Fougasse in Montpellier. Yesterday, I attained that heady rank by virtue of... being a regular there on Friday lunchtimes. I lunch with pals from work on Fridays, and we used to go to a wonderful little restaurant called the Bel Canto which served a lovely three-course lunch including 25cl of wine for 9.90€ each. It closed a few months ago, to our great chagrin, and we had to find somewhere else to offer our custom.

We tried a local pizza place, but first the wine was ghastly, then we decided that waiting 2 hours for a pizza (slight exaggeration) was not on, so we varied things with lunch in an organic caff, and the Latitude restaurant which is lovely in nice weather on the terrace but cramped otherwise.

Then we ventured further afield to what used to be called le Jogging (silly but memorable name) which is now the Trinque Fougasse. They do a lunch menu for 14.50€ not including wine, but you can buy a glass for less than 4€ having worked your way through all the ones on offer to taste... They function as a cave à vin too, with a nice sommelier who is knowlegable and tells you all about the different wines à déguster. (I seem to be strangely immune to picking up information on wine; it just goes in one ear and out the other, so I'm hoping that if I hear it often enough it'll stick by dint of sheer repetition. There seems to be no other way...) The Trinque Fougasse also organises events and has regular jazz evenings. It's a professional and lively place, so it is with pride that I am regarded as a Regular!

I even asked for, and got, a doggy bag to take home the delicious remains of my poulet pané au parmesan and potatoes yesterday! When I put the question, I was told they had never been asked this before so the waiter would have to check. He came back and said it would be okay, and he brought me a plastic dish with two compartments in which I put the food, then he took it away to cover it with cling film. Now, would he have done that had I not achieved Regular status?

It always pays to be a cheery, well-mannered customer. If you are boorish, inconsiderate and condescending, you are not likely to be appreciated, and if you need help, it's unlikely you will get it with good grace. This will probably make you even more condescending, thus perpetuating the vicious circle of gracelessness.

You will never be considered a Regular, either!


  1. Salut! should take note!!
    I had a lovely experience in Paris a couple of years ago at what is my favourite restaurant in the world. I've been going there for about 12 years, only once or (if I'm lucky) twice a year but the maitre 'd has come to recognize me. Anyway, it was my penultimate night in the city and I went to the restaurant (au Trou Gascon) and had a wonderful meal. And, of course, they don't think it at all odd if I'm there alone. So I figured, hang the cost, I'll come again tomorrow. I made my reservation before I left and when I went back the next evening, the maitre d' met me with a handshake, led me back to where I'd been sitting and (there were two tables of Americans to appreciate this) said in English, "We have your usual table, m'sieu." It was a priceless moment.

  2. I so agree, I'm also addicted to being recognised. Last night, on my sixth visit to a fairly new place, I actually got a bisou from the glam hostess. Lovely. Not the air-kiss type, either. And it wasn't even in France!

  3. Bill, my mother loves that place! She always eats there too when in Paris. What's more, as they live around the M25 they have easy access to Calais, and always eat in the same restaurant there, and are considered Regulars. It's nice to know fidelité is appreciated!

    Expat, where was it? I'll have to look you up!

  4. How amazing that au Trou Gascon a favourite of your mother's, too. It really is a small world. My favourite place in Toronto is a bistro owned by two Parisiens. I go about once a month and invariably either the aperitif or digestif (or both) is on the house for however many people I'm there with. One of the guys was just back in Paris and went to au Trou Gascon on my recommendation. He loved it, too. As did Colin Randall and Joelle when my wife and I took them there last year.

  5. > Expat, where was it? I'll have to look you up!

    Quite a trip you're planning, then. It was a Moroccan restaurant in San Diego, California. But I do have a closer geographic connection -- I have a maison secondaire not far from Lodeve, and I'm definitely making a note of your Montpellier favourites. I'll be there later, maybe september. Amitiés....


Comments are bienvenue.