by Ian Blackshaw
I have been meaning to try ‘Le Baladin’ for quite some time, so on Saturday evening I took the plunge and went there for dinner. ‘Le Baladin’, is situated in Torcy, a small village in the Crequoise valley, near Crequy, and describes itself as an ‘Estaminet and Restaurant’ – in other words a Pub-Restaurant.
A view of the rustic and eclectic interior of ‘Le Baladin’
It certainly has a Pub atmosphere, with an extensive bar dominating the scene, and an eclectic array of artefacts and decorations on the walls and also on the ceiling, including an upside down table fully laid for a meal!
However, what it has in ambiance, it certainly lacks in other respects, as this review will, unfortunately, show!
First of all, there is no heating in the place, except a large fireplace. It was quite cold and several diners had to remind the sole barman and waiter to put more logs on the fire several times during the course of the evening.
I had to ask the waiter for butter at least three times before it came in the form of one small packet of President butter. Needless to say, I had to ask for another one – again, several times! The waiter only had to look after five tables and was not exactly rushed off his feet.
The wine list contained a rather non-descript assortment of wines, all at rather expensive prices. So, I settled for a pichet of red wine (10 €), also non-descript and about whose provenance I did not enquire; and, I would hasten to add, the pichet was supposed to be 50 cls, but was certainly not filled up to the top – only three quarters full!
Apart from the ‘A La Carte’ menu – again, the starters, mains and desserts were quite expensive – there was a 25€ set menu, comprising three courses. However, this was limited to a few items only.
I took half-a-dozen escargots to start with, followed by paupiette de veau, which turned out to be a kind of a rather small veal sausage – not the kind of hearty fare for which Estaminets are supposed to be famous! It came with a green salad and two reasonably-sized potato cakes, which, I have to say, were freshly made and quite delicious. They reminded me of Swiss rosti, which I particularly like.
The desserts were also limited. A choice between ice cream and apple tart, which I settled for. I asked for a boule of vanilla ice cream to accompany it. Again, the tart was warm and quite good, but a rather small portion, and the boule was quite small too.
The evening was accompanied by an electric guitarist, who, when he played and was not chatting to and having a glass of wine with a couple of the diners whom he obviously knew, played very well indeed and added to the atmosphere.
I asked for the bill, and, found to my horror, that I had been charged 1€ for the ice cream. I thought that this was rather grasping and the further thought did cross my mine that it was to pay for the extra packet of butter I had requested earlier!
To quote Michel Roux, the Michelin-starred celebrity chef: did I have a ‘magical moment experience’ at ‘Le Baladin’? In other words, was the dinner a memorable one? In fact, it was quite memorable, but for all the wrong reasons! And an experience, I am afraid to say, not to be repeated! Perhaps, my expectations were too high!