Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Short Break, Long Lunch; A Sunday Ritual with True Gallic Flavour

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Short Break, Long Lunch; A Sunday Ritual with True Gallic Flavour

Article excerpt


ON a blustery Sunday morning we strode around the ancient ramparts of Montreuil-sur-Mer, a small town near the coast of northern Picardy. Montreuil was founded in the Seventh century, and its medieval streets are crammed with small half-timbered houses.

But what we were really doing on this three-kilometre circuit was getting in shape - for the impending feast later in the day.

Sunday lunch in France is a unique event; part family gathering, part culinary treat, part theatre. From midday to late afternoon the nation's eating establishments are crammed with smartly dressed locals, even in and around the Britpopular Channel ports. Sunday lunch is when the French reclaim their territory - which makes it the perfect time to mingle.

We'd arrived the previous night by car at the village of Le Wast, 20 minutes from Calais.

The village - a cluster of stone houses around a pretty village green - was dark, but at the Hostellerie du Chteau des Tourelles the windows sparkled like jewels. Inside a log fire was blazing.

The chteau dates from 1784 and was opened as a hotel and restaurant 20 years ago by the Feutry family. Serge Feutry does the cooking, his wife Michelle looks after front-ofhouse and daughter Marie runs the hotel. In the old section of the house the stairs and floorboards creaked reassuringly; rooms were goodsized, beds were soft. In the pastel-hued dining room we got a first taste of Serge's cooking.

Eggs and asparagus on a bed of mushrooms followed by a succulent pintadeau (guinea fowl).

We sipped cognac in the old leather armchairs in the lounge, then drifted off into a deep sleep enveloped by the utter stillness of the French countryside.

Le Wast sits in the peculiar Bermuda triangle of the northern Pas de Calais.

Tourist traffic rushes down the A16 and A26 autoroutes to Paris and Champagne, respectively, but the hinterland behind the coast is largely ignored.

The following day we drove south across golden fields through a succession of heartstoppingly pretty villages, with not a souvenir shop or a menu touristique in sight.

THE area is summed up by Montreuil-sur-Mer. …

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