Located in the centre of the small village of Bertric- Burée, Aux Petits Oignons prides itself on its traditional cuisine and friendly atmosphere. It offers a range of dishes from a simple a la carte menu to a selection of fixed menus. After being instructed by our French teacher to write a review of a local restaurant for our homework it was here that we chose.
The waitress and owner chef were certainly friendly – both had big smiles and took time to speak to the customers. The chef frequently came out of the kitchen to check diners were happy and to get to know his clientele.
Sadly that is about as good as it got. Had our French language skills been better, we would have told him that we were less than impressed with the food. With a vegetarian in our midst, we recognise that we are a minority and will struggle to find restaurants in France that cater well for both of our needs (the French don’t do vegetarianism). However, Aux Petits Oignons took this to a new level.
For starters, there was the choice of fish soup or meat and fish buffet. For main courses, the choice was beef, duck, veal or fish. There was just one vegetarian option – a less than imaginative mushroom omelette with salad. Nor was the restaurant was willing to adapt their menus for us – a request to add French fries to the omelette was met with a resounding “no”.
While I don’t eat meat, I do eat fish, so I was happy to order the fish soup for starters – and I was delighted when it arrived: a huge terrine containing enough soup to feed six people. There was way too much for one person to handle, but it was so delicious I gave it my best shot, managing three dishes topped with croutons and cheese (and I wonder why I can’t lose weight!). The flavour of the soup was well balanced and the texture thick and creamy. At some point I am going to try and make this at home – probably when Dennis is away so that I don’t have to put him with him moaning about dead things in the kitchen.
My main course was “la paupiette de sole en cassolette” – a fillet of sole presented in a bowl of stock with side accompaniments of blanched carrots, leek sauce and a few roast potatoes. After enjoying the soup so much, I had high expectations for my main course but sadly these were not met – mainly down to the fact that the cassolette had been over salted, making it rather unpleasant to eat. Someone pass the water!
However, it was poor old Dennis who got the worst deal. With no vegetarian starter available, he had to sit and watch me while I tucked into my soup. And when his omelette arrived, it was somewhat second-rate: the mushrooms were wet and soggy, and the salad (which comprised of lettuce and lettuce alone) had been drowned in a tasteless dressing.
The food wasn’t our only disappointment. Just as catering for different needs is clearly not a priority for Aux Petits Oignons, neither it appears is creating ambience. With bright lights, a gaudy bright orange colour scheme and childish décor (one side of the room was proudly displaying a framed poster from the Pixar animation, Ratatouille), the setting felt more appropriate for an office or children’s centre than a weekend dining experience for adults. We left, 51 Euros out of pocket, feeling like we had wasted our evening.
But perhaps it is us that have our priorities wrong. The other guests looked like they were enjoying themselves. One table looked delighted when a huge plate of fruit de mer arrived, while a couple sat opposite happily tucked into four courses, clearing all of their plates, right down to the last crumb. At least someone enjoyed their meal.