This was not a hotel but a restaurant and it was very popular in the early 1990s. This photo was taken in the early 1990’s with a film camera and now I have coppied the photo with my digital camera and so the quality is not 100%.
It was just up the road from the church and the market square and after the restaurant closed a sign above it appeared saying Café de l’Europe but when I went past it today I saw that there is now a large piece of plywood attached to the windows on the right hand side. It has been closed for many years and it is very sad because it was once a really buzzing place.
This photo was taken March 2014.
My first experience of this establishment was in 1990. We had visited Nowak Immobilier in search of a house to buy and had been driven around by Monsieur Nowak to view several properties. He was a nice guy but obviously took the view that time spent in the car -he had a big Volvo- was not earning him any money, so he made sure that this time was reduced to the minimum. I was terrified! Maybe it was a ploy to get you to buy – ‘OK I will take this one, yes its fine, I love it, and now please take me back to the office and we do not need to visit any more properties – yes its fine, yes I love it and please no more!!’
Eventually the more sedate Reids took over (a Scottish couple who worked at Nowak Immobilier) and we were less stressed. At lunchtime we were directed to the Cheval Blanc which later morphed into Le Cadran. In fact we never made it to the Cheval Blanc but we did make it to the Hotel de l’ Europe and this became our favourite.
I kept a diary at the time, and still do and today I looked up any references to the Hotel de l’Europe because whilst my memory is still quite good it is always better to get back to the original data. There was no mention of our first meal there but this is what we said in 1991.
‘As it was 7.15pm we decided to go and eat before going to the house – fairly mild evening. We inevitably headed for the Hotel de l’Europe where the menu choice was better than ever and still 48 francs. We all had jambon de montagne to start, John and I had mushrooms in mayonnaise, Alan had avocado stuffed with ham and mayonnaise and Caroline had terrine. For main course John had duck, Caroline and Alan had Coq au Vin and I had a fish called saint pierre in a provencal sauce, then cheese, followed by fruit for John and me, lemon mousse for Alan and Caroline, coffee, lots of wine and two glasses of Cognac and all for £22.00.’
This was the only reference I could find which actually detailed exactly what we ate, probably because we ate there so often that it became the norm and did not merit a special mention. What I do remember is that it was always busy both at lunch times and in the evenings. On market days it was absolutely packed and not just with Brits -there were loads of locals and a few Brits. We were favoured guests and sometimes there was no room but Madame would always drag a table and a few chairs from somewhere and make a space and squeeze us in.
The food was always good. It was rustic but you had the advantage that the terrine was presented in a huge pot and you could eat as much as you wanted before it was removed and placed on another table. The same applied to huge jars of cornichons or big bowls of chocolate mousse. The wine was house wine and in open top bottles but it was always replaced when the bottle was nearly finnished and the same with the bread. Madame was always shuffling round topping up this or moving the cheese board from one table to the next. She did sort of shuffle but it was fairly fast shuffling and you were never left waiting.
There were a lot of standards like escalope de dinde but there were also some specials. We remember the perch in a white parsley sauce – fantastic. You never really knew what was going to be on offer. It depended on what Monsieur could get. Sometimes you did get a clue. The toilets were outside across a bit of a courtyard and sometimes in this courtyard you might see two rabbits in a cage, in which case it was a good bet that lapin would be on the menu the next day. It did reassure you that all the ingredients were fresh.
Some time in about 1993 or 1994 the owners moved on and opened up in the Hotel de Commerce. It was never so good. The atmosphere was gone, the starters were presented as a buffet instead of being served and Madame seemed a bit tired. She was not happy if you asked to dine on the terrace next to the river -too far to walk!
This photo was again taken in March 2014, now the Commerce is a good restaurant and you are welcome to eat on the terrace with the view of the river. see our review from a visit we made in 2013. https://poitoucharentesinphotos.wordpress.com/restaurant-reviews/hotel-du-commerce-civray/
The venture at the Commerce only lasted a couple of years and then some time later the owners turned up at the café in Saint Romain but I only ate there once and that has also closed now. What a shame. The Europe was really the most lively eating place in Civray during the early 1990s and it is now boarded up and just a distant memory. Maybe someone reading this will know more about this restaurant. I would like to know when it first started. I do remember that Monsieur was a keen football fan and followed a local team – was it Bordeaux? Anyway when they were playing service was not quite 100% but we can forgive that.
Thank you to the Hotel de l’Europe and its owners and the good times we had there, and to their little daughter who was very shy but sometimes said bonjour and then scampered away. There was a son as well who sometimes helped with the serving when they were at the Commerce. Where are they now?