Tell us about your favourite restaurant
The NaBloPoMo prompts for May are about the many ways we nourish ourselves with a focus so far on how we do this with food. Taking it away from home the prompt asks about our favourite place to eat away from home, which restaurant is the most memorable and for what reasons. I have chosen to go back many years and remember one of the first restaurants that the MOTH and I frequented on a weekly basis.
In a former life before children, we looked forward to Friday nights to enjoy a meal at our favourite restaurant. It was a small French joint on the main street of the town in which we lived and owned by the chef responsible for all the food preparation as well as the cooking.
Andre, of Andre’s L/Escargot, was a package deal. He greeted his guests, helped with the meal selection and then left to cook our meals. Serving the freshly prepared food he entrusted to others but at some point in the evening he made a point of stopping by each table to ensure that everything was to your liking. Back in the 1970s when we discovered a little hole in the wall restaurant in our main street it was BYO wine and a night out cost us $20 for a meal. The MOTH (Man of the House) remembers the journey to the loo and having to navigate a way through the back kitchen where Andre, in a typical frenzy of hyperactivity, was juggling a thousand dishes simultaneously.
Our order was standard and we never deviated from the steak with heavy and creamy peppercorn sauce. Table settings were simple and Andre’s signature tablecloths red and white checks never changed. When he came to New Zealand in the 1970s he brought with him a love of fine food that had been nurtured in his home both in Provence and Paris.
It didn’t take long for Andre to establish a name for himself and his restaurant. Those of us drawn to his restaurant in the early days remained faithful as he transitioned from the original restaurant on the Hill in New Plymouth to more salubrious premises on Brougham Street, around the corner from the original Andre’s. With the move to new premises it underwent a name change to Andre’s L’Escargot. I ventured one deviation from the standard steak and pepper sauce and that was to try his escargots. They were delicious and plumptious with juiciness and smothered in garlic butter. However, now match for the steak cooked to melt-in-the-mouth perfection.
As with the original the new restaurant was generally packed out and the atmosphere jogged along with French music and decor with table settings still completed with the ubiquitous red and white gingham table clothes. Andre’s secret was his singular attention to detail which meant he raised the bar of other restaurants in the town. The standard, service and hospitality were consistently a 5/5 and although the prices had crept up we continued to enjoy our meals at Andre’s L’Escargot on a less regular basis.
Andre’s L’Escargot restaurant became one of provincial New Zealand’s stand out establishments, celebrating ‘fine dining’ with a certain French attitude. Sadly, in June 2013, Andre died. The restaurant closed and has been purchased by a property developer and the restaurant now serves Mexican food.
Reviews I have read recently tell me that while the culture and owner have changed, Andre would be proud to know that the tradition of fine dining and hospitality enjoyed at his restaurant on Brougham Street, New Plymouth, continues: now offering an excellent Mexican menu and beautiful new decor to the same high standard albeit a different flavour.
I wonder if I will get to try the Mexican when I visit again?