As mentioned elsewhere on this site, there are loads of modest eateries in our frontier country of the Sundgau/Alsace and a handful of more ambitious ones farther afield, but all too few that occupy the middle ground – the kind that serve mildly aspirational food at approachable prices.
A Table chez Marie in Hagenthal-le-Bas is out there in that underpopulated middle ground. Though the restaurant’s address is Hagenthal-le-Bas, it’s actually about halfway between the village and Hegenheim. Remember the Hotel Jenny? The hotel no longer runs its own restaurant and has rented out the kitchen and dining rooms to the eponymous Marie, who in another life worked at the Au Violon brasserie in Basel.
The cooking remains in the brasserie register, fresh and seasonal (the card and website talks of cuisine fraiche du marché), kind of rooted in Alsace but with a bit of a twist. Doesn’t sound too revolutionary does it? But if you’re anything like me, you don’t want revolution, just a smidge of evolution and a tad more imagination than generally evident around here.There’s a blackboard outside on the pavement, which proclaims that they’re open all day and signals the daily lunch menu which runs at about 12 euros. Inside there’s a daily special blackboard with 3 starters (prices ranging from 8 to 17 euros) and 3 or 4 mains (17-26 euros), and another one for desserts. Also notable is their selection of decent wines by the glass – another of my criteria for places that are a cut above the average.
A recent lunch delivered sprightly salads with smoked duck breast, a rich and delicious kind of tartiflette but with Munster cheese instead of Reblochon, and (the other main course) a supreme of guinea fowl with perfectly cooked buttered veg and accompanied by some ethereal Spatzle – sounds like an oxymoron, right, Spatzle not being renowned for their légèreté, but true (and so unusual).
Wines were both from Languedoc-Roussillon, fertile hunting ground for unusual, well-priced drops: a white Faugères from Chateau de la Liquière (4 euros a glass) and Elise Gassac, a muscular Syrah/Merlot blend, the second wine of Mas de Daumas Gassac (a kick under 4 a glass).
The decor is simple and scrubbed, not quite minimalist, just no unnecessary frills/furbelows and service is highly personalised, given that (at least at lunch time on a weekday) Marie runs the place singlehanded, moving seamlessly between kitchen and dining room. And a bonus for anyone living in Switzerland who doesn’t want to drive across the border: get the bus to Schoenenbuch, totter down the hill and across the unmanned, pedestrian-only border and you’re at Marie’s table in the twinkling of an oeil.
A Table Chez Marie,
84 rue de Hegenheim,
Tel. 03 89 89 76 97
PS: After 2 lunches and 1 supper here, I’m still convinced that this place stands out around here for imaginative food, interesting wines and smiling service – a view not shared by one disgruntled reader who reported a miserable evening there (though it was difficult to get to the bottom of her discontent). Let me know your thoughts, please – always welcome!