Late last month, we were invited along to one of my favourite cafes, Boulangerie Victor Hugo, for their special French evening to celebrate the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau! The event took on a new meaning following the awful terrorist attacks in Paris, which happened just a few days before the evening. It was a fantastic chance to show our solidarity with our French brothers and sisters by doing what they do best – sharing good times and enjoying great food and drink!
Tickets were £5 and included a gorgeous plate of French nibbles and a glass of wine! The celebration was a huge success, and so I spoke to the manager, Pauline Picquette, about the night, which attracted over 250 people! (Please humour my journalistic feature-writing habits here…)
“An amazing evening!” she told me. “It was our first evening event. People were really excited, everybody arrived at 7.00pm when we opened the door! We even had to, unfortunately, refuse some people!”
Pauline (above, right), told me that the event was also put on in order to celebrate the new era of Victor Hugo. “Since July, we changed owners and management. All the team have worked really hard to make this lovely place more comfortable and recreate the atmosphere we can find in a café in France. We celebrated the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau and the opening of our French Wine Bar! We wanted to thank our amazing team who work with smile and a lot of energy every day. Also, the artists who are here every day and help us to develop the cultural and art soul of the bakery : local painters and musicians. After the terrible attacks in Paris, we decided to go ahead with this French party planed two months ago to represent proudly our French identity, culture and values.”
“Since the new management, we changed …. our way to think and work,” Pauline told me “Work in Victor Hugo means to be part of a family who love French culture. We tried to make this lovely place more comfortable: new store layout, organization and team. And we start to communicate with our customers more, and organize events! We have now an active social media presence ( Facebook, Twitter and Instagram ) to stay close to our loyal customers.” (Visit BVH on FB: https://www.facebook.com/bvh.southampton)
“Recently, at the bar, we have a excellent selection of wine from France ! Our chef will start to prepare some tapas and cheese and charcuterie plates to accompany our selection. Like in France after work, you can come here to relax and eat a light meal with a glass of wine. And soon, we will have table service, later closing and new dishes… surprise!”
One obvious and exciting visual change is the new mezzanine floor! “We can now seat 40 people upstairs! The mezzanine is a great extension if you want to be in a quiet place, to meet your friends, to organize a private party or meeting. Recently we had a wedding party, a baby shower and a French class.”
I asked Pauline what the most popular dishes in the bakery were. “Difficult question!” she said. “Savoury, I will say our famous Croque-Monsieur, a typical French toast with ham, cheese and béchamel. Cake; I will propose the strawberry tartelette, made with homemade short crust pastry, crème pâtissière and fresh strawberries. Pastry; our traditional and famous Croissant. Simple but so yummy!”
I must whole-heartedly endorse Pauline’s suggestions, and also say you should definitely try the flan as well!
BVH is gearing up for the festive season in great style too! “Oh oui! Christmas is one of our favorite moments!” Pauline said, enthusiastically. “As you know, the French are greedy! What a exciting moment to celebrate delicious sweetness and savoury. We will propose some Christmas Cakes, we call it in France: Bûche de Noël, some special wines, some typical little treats and much more!”
I can’t wait for my next visit! And, look out for more upcoming events too. As Pauline said, “Mixing art, music, food, wine and friends! What a perfect blend to enjoy life! As we say in France, ‘La joie de vivre!’.”
How can you top that?!
Visit BVH online: https://www.facebook.com/bvh.southampton. Bon appétit!