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Montcléra - Beating New Life into a Village's Heart

So what do you do next if you’ve already a busy life with an existing successful business to run?

The answer, it seems, isn’t to put your feet up with a relaxing glass of wine or freshly brewed tea! It is, of course, to wonder about the possibilities offered by a derelict property in your village, the village of Montcléra in the Lot.  

This old building being a redundant restaurant which was in turn keeping its own watchful and increasingly shabby- eye on the glorious châteaux that it had overlooked for generations.   What was the history of this building?  Could life be breathed back into its crumbling yet inviting walls?

For most of us the thoughts would get only this far.  We’d cast our mind over it and then move on to a second glass or a refill from the pot.  Not so for Rosie Paddon, Rosie had had a dream!

Fuelled by a vision of ‘what could be’ and describing herself a ‘glutton for punishment’ Rosie has tip-toed through the financial mine-field, negotiated with virtually every department  known to man or certainly the French Authorities. She’d filled-in forms, completed dossiers, been sent to the wrong office, spoken to endless ‘wrong-people’, realised that different administrative offices cannot or will not speak to each other and suspected  that there was some sort of black-art at play making everything as complicated as possible.  

During the difficult search for answers on how to remain legal and get things ‘just-right’, all was not lost.  Maybe, irritatingly, the Fire Department didn’t know where to source the appropriate fire-extinguishers but on the plus side someone else had miraculously found some old photographs of the restaurant its original owners and so at least the history of the place had started to unfurl.  It seems that this project is happier to give up its past than it is to conform to the present.

The restaurant first opened as Café de la Terasse in 1938 when Marcelle Thouron came back to the village to support herself after her husband had died from complications from serving in WW1. The reins were taken over by her daughter Laurette Astorg, and run by the same family until 1985.

Café de la Terasse

In 1989 it became Le Grignotiere, the village restaurant run by Martine & Michel Fusilier until it finally shut its door in 1996.

Café de la Terasse staff

On the photograph above you can see the original team standing behind the bar, much of which remains today.  From left to right, Marcel Cayrel, partner of Marcelle.  Marcelle Touron, grandmother of the last owner, Jean Claude Astorg, Laurent Astorg (Jean Claude’s father), Laurette Astorg (Jean Claude’s mother) and  Anyéle, the chef for years.  Anyéle can also be seen on the wedding photo of Laurent and Laurette, taken outside the Château.  She is standing at the end of a row of guests still wearing her pinny.  Lastly there’s Antionette Cayre, who worked in the kitchen and Sidone Astorg, Laurent’s mother. 

Given that this edition of this magazine has wedding element, we make no apology for slipping in this lovely wedding picture.  A real glimpse into weddings of the past.  A number of early photographs have now been unearthed and they are to be displayed in the restaurant, truly completing the journey for this old building.

Wedding photo

Le Restaurant de Montcléra is expected to be open, in its new form, from the 1st June this year, after nearly 20 years of the property standing empty the picturesque village with its 700 year old chateau is going to have a new beating heart.  

The restaurant will form the base of Rosie’s catering service, as she already provides a bespoke service for people planning events in France (www.partyinfrance.co.uk).  However, the new restaurant which will have retained as many of the original features as possible is going to offer a menu de jour, with wine for 14€ from Monday to Saturday and evening meals at a weekend as well as monthly themed nights.  Coffee and cake will be available in the mornings and all will be served with cheer and a great welcome.  

The building also encompasses a large workshop space which has already been booked by a couple of different theatre groups this summer.  One of which is will be running a course in ‘clowning’; so with chambre d’hôtes accommodation upstairs and room for further expansion in the courtyard it seems that this is going to become a more lively village centre in the future.

So the pressure is on, not least for Rosie’s builder husband who must complete the works, Rosie must overcome obstacles provided by the , Bâtiments de France, the Prefecture, the disabled access inspectorate, the inspector for health and safety and of course the planners.  Remember each body isn’t quite sure what is required from Rosie, but somehow she has keep this adventure on course.  There’ll only be one sure way to find out just how she gets on – visit Montcléra after the start of June!  

As the building develops – so will the website so you will be able to check details on www.restaurantmontclera.com.  The telephone number for the restaurant will be 05 65 23 38 27

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Le Château de Montcléra is in the private ownership of Tsan and Bernadette Dupuy.  Each August this lovely example of Renaissance architecture, classified as a Historic Monument, is home to a programme of musical artists.  You can discover more at http://rlmontclera.fr/

 

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