Michel Vasseur retired at the age of 62 in 1999 from his job as a renowned butcher in the town of Montreuil-sur-Mer in the department of Pas de Calais in the north of France. His family can be forgiven for thinking that a quiet life beckoned in the lovely village of Douriez in the Authie Valley, Pas de Calais, where Monsieur Vasseur’s wife was born and where they have made their home.
The family though was very wrong. Monsieur Vasseur’s age belies his youthful outlook on life and when he discovered that the village café in Douriez was being sold he was galvanised into action. He bought the café and set about restoring it to its former glory with its ancient and huge fireplace, beautiful wooden beams, old stone walls and tiles. The authenticity of the building didn’t stop there though, Monsieur Vasseur re-opened the café as a restaurant and the food that is served reflects the traditional rustic dishes of this part of France.
The Estaminet de l’Andouiller which translates as the Tavern of the Antler is in a beautiful 17th Century building, there are antiques and items of yesteryear which give it a cosy and traditional feel and the lovely hops hanging from the beams really make you feel you are in a traditional country home.
Chef Vasseur is an award winning producer of sausages and of course they are served on the menu – but not a menu like other restaurants. You won’t be presented with a paper list here – the dishes are all written out on slate which hangs from the beams surrounded by hops and if you need to see them close up, someone will bring a slate to your table!
What a menu it is too! Chef Vasseur’s gold medal winning sausages are very popular with the French who flock here and the many overseas visitors who come to enjoy a traditional French night out. The Chef’s motto is “everything on the pig is good” and he uses traditional methods of preparation in his kitchen and a secret recipe for the sausages in particular. You’ll also find duck, beef and rabbit – refined with endives and chicory, roasted pig trotters, steak cooked with the local Maroilles cheese.
On the first and third Friday of each month, the big fire in the restaurant is lit and a suckling pig cooked over the crackling wood. A musician plays accordion music and the staff balance flagons of wine and glasses of beer with wooden plates as they deftly weave in and out of the tables laughing and joking with the customers and making you feel as though you are a valued guest and a friend.
The Chef is in and out of the kitchen, shaking hands with customers, posing in front of the fireplace (he is a bit of a celebrity in these parts), answering questions about the food he is preparing – there is a homely, lively and utterly charming atmosphere.
L’Andouiller also has a bar and tabac and some customers simply come in for a beer or a glass of excellent wine and to soak up the ambience. The village of Douriez is itself very pretty, and the restaurant is in the centre, the river Authie which marks the Somme border with Picardy stretches peacefully close by and opposite the huge 16th Century church which dominates the town stands tall and proud.
See L’Estaminet de L’Andouiller website for opening times and contact details and to check when the special theme nights are (1st and third Friday of the month usually).