The ambience at Gold Mela is rather like a scene from Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are: the ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around. That's right, there is a veritable jungle in the ceiling and le garçon kept us amused by continually dodging a certain tendril until finally it got the better of him, whence he precariously threaded it up again. All over the walls is an electic collection of paintings, wine corks, garden implements, baubles and bric-a-brac from a bygone era, and more plants: which could have been off-putting, except that with our first sip of pastis, we truly felt like we were sitting in a little village in Provence. Le garçon was unobtrusively attentive. As the fiery aniseed liquid coarsed down my throat, he rushed back to our table and explained, rather endearingly (what is it about an English sentence tinged with French that turns my heart to candy floss with every word?) that many people prefer the glass topped up with water, which he kindly did for us. Ah! We toasted the coming year and deeply inhaled the balmy provincial air.
Sir had ordered the salmon, oven baked in lemon butter and adorned with a selection of perfectly roasted vegetables. He chose a French pinot gris, which we uninitiated hedonists pronounced a perfect wine match for the fish. I requested the Filet de Boeuf aux Champignons, a delicious eye fillet steak with a delicately creamy mushroom sauce, which came with the most amazing ratatouille I have ever tasted. It seems that Le Chef had chargrilled strips of courgettes and bound them in the tender thickness of tomatoes and sweet onions. (We made instant plans for its velvety replication at home!) The French Syrah was my wine of choice: which proved to be irresistibly curranty with a predictably oaky finish.
At the end of our main course, dessert was offered, at which point we looked at each other, simultaneously grinning and groaning; so the waitress left us contentedly sighing. But quelle surprise! a few minutes later La Propriétaire arrived with two complimentary glasses of limoncello! Yes, it turns out that Sir taught her son at school last year. The limoncello was light and intensely lemony, a perfect end to our dinner, we thought. Mais, non! It must've contained something magical, because suddenly we could fit in dessert! An espresso was poured over vanilla ice cream for me, and Sir had caramelised bananas flambé with rum: again pronounced très délicieux by us both. (Of course we have a habit of passing food to each other by fork and spoon across the table - don't you?)
There is a lovely line in one of my favourite movies, A Good Year. Uncle Henry is asked, "What is the secret to good comedy?" and his cheeky reply, interjected just before the question ends is, "Timing!", of which this restaurant is the master. The service is unfaultable, and the food excellent. Not that we're food critics, but if we were, this evening would receive five gold stars, make no mistake.