Several years ago I dreamed there was a secret Taverne on the property. The door was hidden to all but the initiate. If you were lucky enough to cross the threshold you entered a fire-lit place of laughter, flowing with wine and beer. It was an old fashioned kind of place, radiating human warmth.
Years on, in one of those strange twists in the plot line of real life, we find ourselves on the brink of opening just such a place, our own – “La Taverne du Belvedere.”
It has been a year of discovery, to understate the case, for a family of novices who knew nothing about the restaurant business. From the purchase last spring, through endless legalities, architectural plans, labyrinthine building codes, financial number crunching and significant demolition of the tattered and old –we’re almost there.
The challenges of the “before” were a bit daunting.
Our first priority was the construction of a large terrace to give guests extraordinary views of the Dordogne River, Valley and hills beyond. After clearing away cement and debris, the family team spent three days locking their knees at a 45-degree angle, to plant 200 flowering bushes to hold the hillside in place.
For months, lots of long days and heavy lifting. Manning saws, drills, paint and cement, a thousand decor ideas sprouted – like Carol’s multi-colored wood paneled wall, with a cozy corner nook for leather couch and table for board games. For the terrace, she painted and hand polished scores of rainbow-colored tables and chairs.
One of the jewels is the large central bar, built by John and the kids using the massive old wine-stained oak beams from the original winery.
The idea was to create a place where people will want to gather. Akin to the notion of the “Third Place” or the “Great Good Place” that sociologists talk about nostalgically. A place where locals can connect to their community and visitors discover this beautiful corner of France, all the while enjoying a glass of wine or a cold beer and delicious tapas dishes. We have a dream of people just dropping by for a “glass” and a chat, they way they used to do (still do?) in neighborhood pubs of old.
To balance the weariness of hard labour and administrative worries, we enjoyed myriad preparatory tastings. The tapas style servings are sourced exclusively from local or regional small-scale producers; the cheeses, saucissons, and patés are a real find. Julien handpicked craft beers on tap from Belgium and artisanal bottled beers from a nearby village. Genevieve spoiled us with evenings of elaborate Tastings to select wines from small, off-the-circuit wineries of other regions in France. The carte de vin will offer wines at reasonable prices that we would love to discover if we stepped outside of beloved Bordeaux.
And of course as the “house wine,” quite literally, we’ll be serving our own brew – La Tourbeille Red and Rosé.
So if you are around this summer, do drop in for a sip and a taste. We’re waiting with open arms and very colorful chairs.
PS Sometimes I think about that Taverne dream. Of all the things I dreamed of doing when I grew up, a taverne was not one of them. Oddly enough, Julien told me recently about his “when I grow up” dreams. Next to playing basketball for the NBA, there it was – a dream to run a neighborhood bar. Et voila.