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  1. I had been warned that Jose's Au Bon Coin would be hard to find, but I still drove past it twice in broad daylight. Hidden amongst the Pratumnak building sites with their inevitable attendant shanty towns populated by Khmer, Burmese and the occasional Isaan labourers, there it was - a faded blue hand-painted sign that wouldn't have been out of place in a mediaeval Provençal village. You walk in through an oasis of tropical greenery until you get to the restaurant, housed in a beautifully restored old Thai building, much of the carpentry done by Jose himself. Opening the door you are greeted by the unmistakable nutty aroma of browned butter, quickly followed by Jose, imposing in both girth and character. An Auvergnat, born amongst the moonscape-like volcanic peaks of the Puy de Dome department in the French Massif Central. After the meal we jokingly mentioned that we had heard mixed views about the restaurant and its creator. With a Gallic shrug came the retort "if zey are not appy we take zem by ze trouzair, et ouf .... " The dining area is a work of art in itself. Fascinating paintings and artefacts adorn walls and fill display cabinets, floor to ceiling windows add to the spacious and airy feel. And how rare is it to find a restaurant where you could fit an extra table between yourself and neighbouring diners. The kind of place designed to make you relax. And relax we did, firstly over Jose's preferred tipple, a kir, then progressively as each dish arrived, over a litre of very drinkable French pinot noir, followed by Calvados, Cognac(s)... We both started with half a dozen snails. They could have been carefully arranged in shells, but Jose preferred the dish to speak for itself; a bowl of half a dozen chunky and delicious snails minus shells swimming in garlic butter. We had salads to follow; I chose the endive (chicory) salad, just because this is such a typical and simple 'grandma's' dish around France. It was superb. The shavings of blue cheese - possibly bleu d'Auvergne? - together with the walnut, added the perfect finishing touch. While my dining partner went for the rib-eye, I chose the lamb gigot, nicely pink leg of lamb, with sauteed potatoes, decorated with a sprig of rosemary. It was so good that I had demolished most of the plateful before remembering to take a photo. I blame it on the fast vanishing litre of pinot noir. Loved the wording on the menu for the apple pie - "20 minutes wait". Clearly, microwaved frozen desserts are a big 'Non Non' chez Jose. And it was well worth the delay. The unmistakable aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon arrived almost before the plate. Topped with a scoop of apple sorbet, with the bottle of Calvados left on the table, so I could pour it on myself. Can't remember the last time I saw that, if ever. The rest of the evening was increasingly hazy, as snifters of Calvados were followed by several balloons of Cognac. I vaguely remember trying a variety of espressos that were not so impressive. But that aside it was a truly great night's wining and dining, with excellent French cooking at reasonable prices. Only the excessive alcohol consumption greatly inflated the bill to well over 6000 baht for the two of us. But no regrets, and Au Bon Coin is top of my list for a return visit. Great fun, and apologies for anything else I may have forgotten through Cognac-induced amnesia... I think there a couple of tasty amuse-bouche nibbles at some point, but as for what they were...
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