From cock-up to “cocorico”

We had concert tickets. Well, actually, we didn’t have them but had to stop in the city center to pick them up at a restaurant called Chez Maurice where someone had left them with the Maître de. I didn’t know that, though, so when I was getting ready, I calculated travel time. No more. 

When we got to Toulouse, how surprised was I when Hubby told me to hop out and run through the narrow streets to get to the restaurant? Of course, the place was in the middle of a cobble-stoned pedestrian area, I was wearing high heels (new shoes! Ouch!) and it was raining. 

I said a few rude things under my breath as I hobbled like a drunk giraffe from car to carvery to collect my envelope. 

Back in the car, we quickly established that we didn’t quite know where we were going. They were playing Berlioz at the Halle aux Grains, a major concert hall in Toulouse, but one neither of us had ever been to. 

  
Obviously, parking was impossible (even illegal parking – they put metal boulders everywhere!). Inevitably, we were late

We weren’t the only ones, so about 20 of us docilely stood in the foyer, surrounded by about that many staff and watching the orchestra do its thing on two flat-screen tellies hung from a wall. After about ten minutes, however, we were told rather abruptly that since the hall was packed and they would not ask people to get up for us to shuffle past, we would be refused access. 

Cheap as I am, I was just glad we hadn’t paid a fortune for those seats… Sorry, philosophical as I am, I took it all in my stride. 

We walked back out and started across the square when a warm light caught our attention. We pushed open the door and were transported to a France of times gone by. Welcome to the Café Authié, Toulouse’s oldest working establishment. 

  

A burble of warm air, music and conversation, the hiss from a coffee machine and the cling of glassware swallowed us up and we made our way to one of the tiny zinc tables around the central bar. No room to swing a cat. We sat and looked around at the incredible decor: old movie posters, prize-cow plaques, lamps and tin signs and luminous Cinzano ads from the early 20th century…

A hand-written menu on the wall informed us of the tapas or brasserie food available. We thought. “Before we start, I have to tell you we don’t have squid and no tortilla.” Ok. We ordered salmon tartare and cockles and razor fish, followed by calf sweetmeat. 

Nope. Sorry. The waitress came back after a couple of minutes, “Sorry. We’re out of sweemeat. And andouillette.” Not to worry. What red wine would you recommend? “We have a Pic Saint Loup. Or Spanish.” Hm. A bit vague… We have a glass of each. The mystery Spanish wine is nice. 

The initial disappointment is cancelled out as the shellfish arrives. Perfect seasoning. Nice, fire smoke taste. Except half the cockles were empty. Where did they go?

  

The salmon and Granny Smith tartare was tasty if chunky, but the hand-cut chips made up for its shortcomings. The streak tartare Hubby got was decent. 

  

Where they win, it’s in atmosphere. In Café Authié, the warmth is embracing. You feel like you’re in on some secret. You rub shoulders. You eavesdrop on conversations. You smile as you sip your glass of unidentified red from a cheap “ballon” glass.

On the wall, a signed, framed photograph boasts that Oscar winner Marion Cotillard stopped by in February 2015. After all, Café Authié is an institution in Toulouse. It’s definitely like a time capsule of a romanticized France when men had handlebar moustaches and women wore nylons with seamsup the back. Vive la France! … Or as the French say “Cocorico!”

  

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