I’ve simply GOT to tell you about the Restaurant Chez Marie Thé (pronounced Shay Marry Tay), bang in the middle of Ploerdut, opposite the ancient church, which was built in 1089. (the same year William the Conqueror was writing our family name (Ollerenshaw) in the Domesday book in Derbyshire so we could pay our taxes. Happy days.)
I was in France on my own working on the cottages when I was first introduced to the restaurant’s delights over 20 years ago by the digger driver who was tearing our property at Poulmarvezen to pieces. We were installing a complete new drainage system, and also laying a land drain around the property to get any groundwater away. Basically it looked like the Somme, on a bad day.
After 4 hours of standing in the freezing cold, waving my arms about, we retreated to the welcoming warmth of the said restaurant. France shuts down for 2 hours every day. To eat, forget the morning, and recharge the batteries for the assault on the afternoon. And it really works, the afternoon feels like a new day.
I had never been in a French restaurant, despite having been on holiday to France on many previous occasions during the late 70s, the 80s, and the early 90s. Don’t ask me why, but it was a mixture of fear, meanness, and having a brood of 4 in tow.
So it was nice to be introduced to eating a la francaise by a French chap (on digger), and an ex-pat (on tractor and trailer).
You help yourself to starters, a large selection of crudities and cooked meats. You need to be careful here, the inexperienced can help themselves to so much that they can’t eat anything that follows. The French would never do this, partly out of experience, but also out of respect for the owners of this family-run business. It’s really bad manners to send half a plateful of starters back.
I can’t honestly remember what I had for the main course (sometimes known as the course de resistance), but I know it was good. If you’ve paced yourself properly, you can have the cheese platter, and then go and help yourself to a desert (yes, in that order, in France). You can also help yourself to draught wine, (rose or red), both very palatable wine to have with your meal.
At the time, (1994), this cost about five quid, we were still on French Francs in those days, so it would have been about 50 FF. The French are completely comfortable with buying themselves a decent lunch, not for them a home-made cheese sandwich. It also needs saying that eating the main meal at lunchtime is much healthier than eating late in the day and having the food hanging around in your system all night.
These restaurants are known as “restaurants ouvriers” , workmen’s restaurants. They serve no-nonsense “proper” food, no processed rubbish, it’s always good value, generous, and delicious. These restaurants don’t survive otherwise. They always say you can judge a good one by the number of lorries and vans parked outside at noon.
Susan & I have been treating ourselves to a lunch at Chez Marie Thé, as and when we saw fit, for over 20 years now, the latest visit being today.
We helped ourselves to starters, (not too much!), a bit of vino, we both opted for the “Cuisse de canard”, (thigh of duck), (with chips. We have to fly the flag), we passed on the cheese, and Susan had (yet another) crème brulee. I really wish she’d experiment sometimes, but she’s happy. I had something chocolatey that will probably kill me. I have to admit that even after all our years in France we had never had cuisse de canard. Mais quel surprise! If you’ve ever had the chicken equivalent, this is an entirely different ballgame … nothing but one thigh bone and masses of really, (and I mean really) delicious dark meat. There is nothing left for the dog.
There is a very nice young lady called Roxanne who waits on, she always has a smile for you. She puts many another waitress to shame, coping as she does with 60-80 places effortlessly, you are never kept waiting; currently Anthony is the powerhouse in the kitchen.
And the bill? Less than 8 quid per head at today’s exchange rate. If you’re really borassic you can eat for less, (see the photo).
As Chez Marie Thé is a ouvrier restaurant they only serve lunch Monday-Friday. They can cater for functions as well, but I guess you won’t be throwing a wedding party during you holiday. There is a bar (drinks, coffee, tobacco), which is open during the day and evenings. They also sell lottery tickets. Speaking of which the local chiropractor won 5000 euros two years ago with a ticket bought there. If he’d had one more number correct he would have won 160,000,000 euros. I couldn’t have coped with that.
Anyway, WHILE YOU ARE STAYING IN ONE OF OUR HOLIDAY COTTAGES AT POULMARVEZEN, you can treat yourself to a lunch (or two) at the Restaurant Chez Marie Thé in Ploerdut. It’s only 3 kilometres from our cottages, so you could drive, cycle, or even walk.
The business has been in the family for over 50 years, the current owners Loic and Brigitte will welcome you, best to reserve a place, (phoning mid-late morning will clinch it), though they do get quite full most days. Tel. no. 02 97 39 43 82. Email address for Chez Marie Thé is email@example.com though I suspect they don’t have time to check emails during the morning. If your French isn’t up to a phone call you could always call in to fix a reservation.
Here’s a Google Streetview of the centre of Ploerdut. Unfortunately Chez Marie The was having a facelift at the time so the scaffolding doesn’t do anything for the atmosphere!!! (It’s gone now … the scaffolding, not the restaurant). Scan round to see the beautiful old church, you can then wander round the village square …