Bach is a small village on the Causse de Limogne, in the heart of truffle country. In common with many rural French villages, it’s a quiet place nowadays. But it does have a rather good restaurant, l’Auberge Lou Bourdié.
Presided over by la patronne Monique Valette, the auberge specialises in the local cuisine. Mme. Valette is homely, always cheerful, unflustered and smiling, and crowned with an extraordinary helmet of hair. [Update 2021: I understand Monique has now retired, but the restaurant and its traditions have been taken over.]
She and the restaurant featured in one of the Jamie Oliver TV series, “Jamie in the Pyrénées”. (Jamie, Bach is nowhere near the Pyrénées. I suppose Midi-Pyrénées doesn’t have quite the same ring.) But Mme. Valette has shrugged off fame like water off a duck’s back – appropriately, since duck is often on the menu. Nothing has changed. But you do have to book; more of that below.
The restaurant occupies a typical Quercy house in the centre of Bach. A long covered terrace is perfect for taking an apéro in the summer. Kir à la violette is a speciality.
In winter, you walk straight into the dining room. On one side, a fire roars in a huge fireplace. A bar occupies one corner, the shelves full of bottles of ancient apéritifs like Byrrh and Gentiane. The place is furnished with solid rustic furniture.
Mme. Valette’s reputation has spread, so all the tables are usually taken. Once, I phoned up to book a table for four. The elderly-sounding lady on the other end wasn’t Mme. Valette and had trouble finding the reservations book. She was also hard of hearing. We got there in the end, or so I thought.
It was snowing hard on the appointed day. We and our friends decided not to risk getting stuck up there. I phoned to cancel. This time, Mme. Valette answered.
“Was it you who ordered the truffle omelette?” she asked in that stentorian voice French rural folk use on the phone.
Since this dish has to be specially ordered in advance, I assured her it wasn’t me. But she couldn’t find my booking. Probably just as well: we might have turned up to find the place full. It turned out that on the day I booked, an elderly aunt had been drafted in to hold the fort while Mme. Valette was at a funeral. Be warned.
You eat well, and copiously, so it’s advisable to starve for a day or so beforehand. We lunched there yesterday with our walking group, starting with a delicious soup. I asked the waitress what was in it.
“Pumpkin, carrots and potatoes,” she replied. “And a little something added by the chef.” The latter ingredient was a secret.
Next up was a savoury flan with bacon and leeks. A beef stew followed, served with a potato gratin. The serving dishes are placed on the table and you help yourself. The meat was meltingly tender and flavoursome. It must have been slow-cooked for hours. And I could have eaten the whole dish of potato gratin. A slice of homemade apple tart followed, the pastry base spread with vanilla cream.
It was washed down with red (presumably a Cahors, the local wine) and rosé. Alas, I couldn’t have any. Readers who know me will be astonished to hear that I have set myself a challenge not to drink any alcohol between 24th November and 24th December. I made up for it by having seconds of food.
Lou Bourdié – what does it mean?
What does the name of the restaurant, “lou bourdié” mean? To start with, I found an Occitan adjective, “bourdi”, which means exhausted or dead-beat. The name might then mean, literally, “the exhausted one”. Presumably you come to the restaurant to be restored.
However, following an interesting question from a reader, I did some more research and found that “bourdie” (or a variant “bourdil“) means a farm or smallholding. It’s possible that the building in which the restaurant is situated was once a farmhouse. Although it’s in the centre of the village of Bach, it wasn’t uncommon for the farmhouses to be grouped in a hamlet or village, while the fields were around the perimeter of the village.
It could also be a reference to the fact that the type of cuisine is rustic and the products on which it is based are locally produced. Next time I go there I will ask Mme. Vallette what the exact meaning is.
The word “lou” is a variant of the Occitan “lo”, which is simply the definite article (the). So Lou Bourdie means the farm. I once thought Lou was a first name!
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