So I love France but I’ve just discovered there’s defo a new little town for me to visit — Bourges, with its very own Michelin-starred resto (well, for a few hours at least).
Press all over the world are reporting that a humble little workmen’s bistro in the heart of the country was accidentally given the culinary world’s highest award when it was mistaken for a posh eatery with the same name near Paris.
Alarm bells started to ring at the café when it was suddenly overwhelmed with phone calls from gourmet diners wanting to book tables after it was awarded a Michelin star — by mistake, it later turned out.
Reporters, TV crews and prospective customers were astounded when they turned up at the Bouche à Oreille, in the small town of Bourges, to find a cheap and cheerful eatery with red and white polka dot plastic tablecloths. Many patrons wear high-visibility vests, it is often packed at lunchtime and the atmosphere is lively, with customers ordering beers at the bar.
It serves its regular clientèle of local tradesmen plain — if undeniably wholesome — dishes such as homemade lasagne or beef bourguignon.
The Michelin Guide soon phoned up to apologise, explaining that it had confused the café with a more refined establishment of the same name near Paris.
It was perhaps an understandable mistake, as their addresses are remarkably similar: one is on a street named Route de la Chapelle, the other on Impasse de la Chapelle.
Not only did the error bring the café publicity it had never enjoyed before, it also got the staff invited to a genuine Michelin-standard dinner at the other Bouche à Oreille, 100 miles away in Boutervilliers, near Paris.
This arguably more tastefully decorated establishment has linen tablecloths and carpets, and offers dishes such as lobster flan or confit of beef with black truffle.
Véronique Jacquet, the café owner who works behind the bar, said: “Suddenly, we were rushed off our feet. Reporters were coming in and then my son phoned me from Paris, where he lives. He almost died laughing. I had regulars and friends phoning up and asking why I hadn’t told them we’d won a Michelin star.”
Mme Jacquet’s cook, Penelope Salmon, said she had never dreamed of winning a Michelin star, but added: “I put my heart into my cooking.”
“This place is worth not just one but two stars!” a satisfied customer told French TV.
The listing was changed on the Michelin website, but not until two days later. Aymeric Dreux, the chef of the pricier restaurant, also took the mistake with good humour. “I phoned Madame Jacquet in Bourges,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “We had a good laugh about it and I invited her to come to the restaurant to sample what we do. If I’m in her neck of the woods, I’ll pop in for lunch and a beer at her place.”
How they compare…
Bouche à Oreille, Bourges
Fixed-price lunch menu €12.50 including a starter, often charcuterie and salad, and a dish of the day such as beef bourguignon, homemade lasagna, steak and chips. One day last week, the cook, Mrs Salmon, came up with fillet of pollock with paprika, garnished with a couple of mussels and generous helpings of boiled potatoes and lettuce. If you don’t want the full menu, a dish of the day will cost no more than €10.
Bouche à Oreille, Boutervilliers
The Michelin-starred restaurant also offers a fixed-price lunch menu for €48 (£41) including a glass of champagne. The menu changes regularly.
Entrées – Lobster flan with fricassée of gambas — or Confit of beef with poached egg, mousseline of Jerusalem artichokes
Main course – Skate wing in herb crust, salsify – or Calf’s head with glazed winter vegetables Cheese plate
Desserts – Pear and chocolate crisp, tiramisu-style – or White chocolate and coconut ‘exotique’ with mango
A la carte:
Carpaccio of scallops in thin pastry with leeks and black truffle – €38 (£32)
Butternut squash velouté with foie gras – €32 (£27)
Scrambled eggs with black truffle – €38 (£32)
Brittany lobster and crab, with radishes and mint, accompanied by beetroot and cress – €36 (£31)
Brittany lobster with baby vegetables, sloe purée €52 (£44)
Confit of beef with poached egg, mousseline of Jerusalem artichokes – €44 (£38)
Skate wing in herb crust, winter vegetables, lobster bisque €50 (£43)
Roasted scallops – salsify with bacon and black truffle €50 (£43)
Calf’s kidneys in jus – €30 (£26)
Confit of beef and black truffle, mousseline of Jerusalem artichokes €44 (38)
Crêpes flambéed in Grand Marnier €12 (£10)
White chocolate and coconut ‘exotique’ with mango €14 (£12)
Pear and chocolate crisp, tiramisu-style – €14 (£12)