Fred and I just returned from dinner at Cave de l'Os a Moelle. The concept is simple: a traditionally cooked pre-set French meal served family style at group tables. I’d read a few reviews and people, French and American alike, seemed to enjoy the food and atmosphere. The price was 20€ for four courses, all-you-can-eat.
On paper it looked good. There were just three problems: (1) I’m a germaphobe; (2) I’m not a huge fan of traditional French cuisine (I tend not to eat animals that have appeared in Disney movies, including but not limited to: Bambi, Thumper, and The Black Stallion); and (3) despite having the appearance of being social, I generally don’t like meeting new people.
In retrospect, I have no idea why I thought I'd enjoy this restaurant.
We arrived just after 8 p.m. The owner pointed out our table and told us that we’d be dining with two Spanish couples, all of whom spoke excellent French so not to worry. We made our way to the table and said our bonsoirs - ready to play the game. However, that was the most we said to them all night because they refused to acknowledge our existence and spoke in Spanish the entire time. We longed to join the picnic table of anglophones next door.
Our dinner companions used their forks to eat from the communal platters. Stabbing at tomatoes and double dipping their saliva-riddled utensils into the beet salad and other entrees. Fred and I used the serving spoons that were provided on a shelf just an arm-length away. We carefully avoided the contaminated areas and tried not to think about the food molestation that likely had been committed prior to our arrival.
Later the owner dropped off a giant pitcher of water for the table which they deemed their own personal well. They parked it on their side of the table, never once offering to share it with us. Filling their glasses, but stopping abruptly as the pitcher made its way towards mine. I wanted Fred to remind them that it was French water they were drinking, but he bought my silence by filling my glass with wine instead.
The only meat dishes on the menu were lapin (rabbit) and some sort of pâté – a nice and chunky one packed with hooves and whiskers. Fred ate both. I won't be able to kiss him for months.
This dining fiasco could have been averted had my husband told me that Cave de l'Os a Moelle translated to the name of a horror movie (“Cellar of Marrowbone”) before we ate there.
In all fairness to the restaurant and Fred, I did choose it. Plus, the food I did eat was fresh and good. And just as we were leaving a French mother and daughter joined our table. We chatted with them a bit and they were nice. They even knew not to eat directly from the serving plates. It’s the type of place where the experience can be dramatically different depending on one’s compatibility with the menu and dining companions. For example, had I had beef with just about any other group of people, I might be singing its praises. The name of the restaurant, however, would still make me shudder with fear.