Traditional Sunday lunch

The sky is a perfect china blue and the breeze warm on our backs as we wander through the village. I don’t know how many times we’ve walked up this road, but today is still special, although the reason is unspoken. Today is a day to celebrate us.


Ahead is the big house, its white paint in glorious contrast to the deep green of the cedar tree in front of it. The sunlight glitters and gleams off the cars parked in the field and the terrace is crammed with people in bright summer clothes. It’s a hotel now, you see, a hotel with a very fine restaurant.


But inside is an ageless calm. Windows and doors are open to let the breeze meander through, and we sit in red leather chairs to sip champagne while we ponder the menu. We chose the same dishes. Our fingers touch as we pore over the wine list. Something French, definitely, something mineral rather than oaked; northern Burgundy, or southern Loire? We go for the latter, a 2004 Sancerre. Crisp and light – suitable for Sunday lunch.


We are shown into the dining room, to our table in front of the marble fireplace. The floor to ceiling sash windows are flung open, and a pink rose lolls its pretty head just outside, but its scent is covered by the delectable smells drifting from the kitchen.


Tian of crab, with sweet fennel and couscous. The bitterness of a nut of tapenade cuts through the fennel like a knife; the shredded flesh of the crab has a delicacy all of its own. Then cod, only just cooked through, so the fish is not quite opaque and flakes easily beneath our forks. And underneath the treasures of an early summer garden; asparagus, broad beans, braised lettuce and peas.


We take our coffee on the terrace, the scents of lavender and clipped yew surrounding us. It’s mid afternoon, and the sun beats down onto the worn flagstones, the history of the house rising up from the past, in the overstuffed, slightly drunken, aftermath of a good Sunday lunch. Birdsong mingles with the muted sounds of clattering dishes; the view across the garden to the fields is calm and still.


Eventually we walk home, hand in hand. Normally, we would have gone to bed, but I have my period so instead we work in the garden.

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