Bastille night, Belfast


It has long been the custom in our family to celebrate Bastille Day and this time for the 14 July we had booked an evening meal in Bastille Restaurant, Belfast
We arrived to the sound of jazz music rising from the basement entrance and were warmly welcomed into the restaurant, under the canopy of a huge French flag suspended from the ceiling.
We were escorted to our table and were soon enjoying a welcome glass of fizz having been invited to choose our meals from the extensive à la carte menu.
We ordered and, fizz in hand, sat back to enjoy the atmosphere. Diners were in party mood and the place had filled up well. There was plenty of lively conversation, punctuated by the voices of a group of French people on a short visit to Belfast.

It wasn’t long before our starters of quail salad, with provençal olives and quail egg; and foie gras arrived. Senses heightened with the aromas, tastes and sounds, Belfast soon melted into France. We continued with our main courses of seatrout and scallops; and monkfish with sweetbreads. Frites were pretty much de rigueur as was a bottle of Ropiteau L’Emage Merlot from the Pays d’Oc.
By this time, the restaurant was buzzing. A distinguished monsieur from the next table joined the jazz band to give a warmly received rendition of La Vie en Rose. It went down a treat.
Desserts arrived. These were a cheeseboard and some wonderful pruneaux à l’Armagnac. We ate these according to the French custom by sharing the cheeseboard to finish the wine and then moving on to the pruneaux.
And then there were two firsts. The bar manager sent across a couple of glasses of Pousse Rapière, frappé style. Although the drink, from Gascgogne and based on Armagnac is usually served as an apéritif cocktail, it worked perfectly at this stage of our meal. We decided to go for its fuller-bodied parent and two ballons of Armagnac duly arrived.
We had now fully engaged with the French people at the next table. From somewhere a laptop with speakers attached appeared. It turned out to contain a playlist of backing tracks and le monsieur was back on his feet entertaining us with more Piaf and a rendition of Trenet’s La Mer.
Then came the second first. He serenaded ma femme with a song that I had not heard before. Later he explained that it was Souvenez-vous by Pierre Bachelet. A sad song of a war-torn France and quite lovely. You can link to it here.
Time had moved on and we noticed staff taking down the canopy and carefully folding the flag. It was a gentle signal that it was time to go. And we did, taking with us some happy memories of a lovely Bastille evening in Belfast, France.

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