This is one of my favourite constructions in the whole world. Not just from an architectural point of view, but also because it is a truly wonderful eating-house.
We first partook of lunch here about twelve years ago, when we first visited Limoux and were thinking about buying a house. Ezra was about three and ate vegetable soup and bread with great enthusiasm, I have the picture of him somewhere, giant green checked napkin tucked into his t.shirt.
The same green napkins still grace the tables, complete with darned patches where time and washing have taken their toll.
When we had bought the house and discovered what we were in for, many a happy lunch hour was spent in here, thawing out and eating steaming meat and two veg (Mark was a meat eater then).
A year on, we had thrown caution well and truly to the wind, sun and all other weather, and had moved from our Birmingham house to our lopsided ancient Limoux town house. The Resto de la Gare, became the standard 'oh, we have nothing in . . . what about eating out?' in the days when we still felt a little 'on holiday'.
These days, eleven years or so on, eating out is reserved for real holidays, but at 11.50 a menu including three courses, wine and bread, the R de la Gare is an occasional treat that doesn't feel too reckless . . .
Today I went there with Ezra as he returned from Lycee on his half day off.
Now getting on for sixteen, I regarded him from across the green table cloth and remembered all those lunches when he was three, four, five and so on.
Nothing has changed within those four off-white walls: the paint is certainly off-white now, bordering on greying; the same vast poster of a spring garden still illuminates the back wall, the same chairs, tables, cloths and straggling weeping fig, looking for a way out. Francoise still single-handedly waits the tables, her husband, chef and washer-upper, the cat changes chair occasionally and the fire is lit between November and April.
We finished our delicious roast beef and potatoes and wandered home feeling benevolent and rather too-full. Francoise has talked of their 'retrait' from time to time; I'm sure they look forward to it, but selfishly, I hope it's not too in the near future — Limoux would lose it's finest eatery.