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Meals and Wheels

LanguedocLiving, Apr 9

By AA Lil 

Mauve buds are popping out of desiccated fig tree branches. Grape hyacinths are probing the soil with green, polished fingertips. From deep under the duvet something stirs for the first time in months. A moist nose twitches, pokes out and sniffs the air. Fat, pink paws slowly crumple the duvet away and furry feet find the floor. AA Lil stands up on wobbling legs and throws open the shutters. It's been a long winter. As she turns her face upwards, spring sunshine runs like honey over her pale, waxen face. She has one thought.

"I'm starving."

Cramming bristly toes into a pair of kitten heels, she blows the dust from a well-used Chanel lipstick. With a final snort and a snuffle, she totters into the village looking for nourishment.

Chez Leon opened in Olonzac in October. From an old industrial building, they have created a stylishly designed restaurant and tapas bar. A giant mirror reflects the whole space. There is eclectic furniture - leather sofas, stools made from tractor seats, brocade chaises longues and a fabulous pair of Deco chairs on casters. So fabulous are they, in fact, I was thinking that if I went in one day when they were really busy, I could wheel myself out the door, inch by inch and be down the road before anyone noticed. I'll let you know how that goes.

Anyway, the walls and ceiling are adorned with various disused metal objects. With a few candles and a dimmer switch (pleeeease buy a dimmer switch), some low moody music, it would be a very cool place to sit and hug a cocktail or three.

I had kir à la mûre, which in fact felt like a cocktail as it was in a chunky glass with ice and a lot more mûre than wine. Tiny, salty black olives were brought to nibble on. We sat on a sofa for aperitifs and then moved to the rear of the room to our dinner table. Although there was a formule and à la carte menu, we thought we'd try some tapas and maybe have a main course after that. Well, it has been a long winter.

We ordered duck hearts, which were slightly bloody and oozing delicious juice.

Chicken livers were similarly unctuous with caramelised flecks.

Having had our fill of internal organs, we fancied cuisses de grenouille. Their little bottoms were dusted in curryish spices. Legs akimbo, they danced in Bollywood formation around a pile of dressed lettuce.

A plate of toasted chèvre, smothered in honey, was creamy and sweet.

Finally, crevettes - charred, spicy.

After that we backed out of the main course idea as we felt as full as a........well, you know. You will have realised by now that I'm far too much of a laydee to say what we were as full as. Yet, strangely not too full to accept the offer of a chocolate fondant. Not the most home-baked I've ever had, but after that monster Kir and a couple of carafes of white wine, it tasted fine.

We were presented with coffees, a complementary cognac and a bill for €58, which we felt was good value and we'd had a splendid, convivial evening. It's not haute cuisine, but it's tasty and it's fun. Next time we'll try the main courses. There's a courtyard that could be gorgeous on a balmy Summer night - a few candles, some festoon lights, bougainvillea, the waft of Jasmine, maybe a fire pit - oh, go on M. Chez Leon - make it lovely for us!

It's great to have a new place to try and some healthy competition and range of choices in the village. You could just call in for an aperitif and a plate of tapas or charcuterie at the bar. They've done a tasteful, well-thought out job on the interior and are offering something a bit different. M. Le Patron is cheerful, friendly and infectiously enthusiastic. There's also sometimes live music.

Sit in a chair on casters and give it a whirl.

Chez Leon
5 rue de l'égalité, 34210 Olonzac
04 68 75 56 06

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