Review by John McKenna
Planning a trip to France for summer 2016?
Dreaming of finding and unearthing La France profonde?
Here’s a tip: don’t bother.
Instead, if you are headed down to catch the ferry to France at Ringaskiddy, just detour into Cork city. Park the car on Union Quay, and push open the doors of L’Atitude 51.
Sit down at that old butcher’s block that doubles as a bar (bricolage is what the French call that style of mix ‘n’ match design.)
Take a look at the blackboard. How does petit salé aux lentilles, with morteau sausage sound? Bavette, perhaps? Tartiflette? Hmmm: a taste of la France profonde?
Take a look at the list of wines artfully written and described on the board: a glass of Chateau Ventenac, perhaps?
The lentilles arrive, and with the first taste they deliver that Anton Ego Moment: you are transported back to Bergerac in 1984, to Brittany in 1996, to those little cafés where your eyes and taste buds were first opened to what a dish of lentilles is all about: savoury soulfulness, underpinned by a tiny dice of carrot and shallot and a rich, sweet stock, the dish flecked with pieces of good ham, and coins of the morteau sausage.
That’s the thing: La France profonde is alive and well, and it’s on Union Quay in Cork. It’s called L’Atitude 51 and whilst we wish we knew how Beverley and Emma and their team do their thing, wish we knew how they summon the spirit of Piaf, Gauloises, and Pastis 51, we are happy just to bask in the comfort of great food and amazing wines that simply transport you to a France – La France profonde – that, in truth, nowadays scarcely exists any longer.
But it exists here.