The French Connection

Being a creature of habit, I’m occasionally slow to try new things. Thus, when I finally got around to visiting the kid on our block, Amélie (named not after the delightful Audrey Tatou film, but one of the owners’ daughters), it had already been open for over a year.

As my wife and I enjoyed an excellent flight of wine, accompanied by a cheese plate, one of the owners, Germain, struck up a conversation after seeing my Arsenal jacket (I’m always “on brand”). Originally from Marseille, he supports Olympique de Marseille in Ligue 1. Proudly displayed behind the bar is a t-shirt that depicts two of Marseille’s more famous footballers, Eric Cantona (known to ManUre supporters as “King Eric”) and Zinedine Zidane.

I must confess to a certain ignorance about the French league, which is probably inexcusable given the steady pipeline of brilliant French players into the Arsenal side, and our esteemed manager, “Le Boss”. The Gunners have seen their share of former Marseille players, most notably Robert Pirès, William Gallas, and Mathieu Flamini.

My chat with Germain, turned to Samir Nasri, a current Marseille midfielder, strongly linked with a move to Arsenal after Euro2008 subsides. He pretty much described it as a done deal, claiming inside information from a friend of his, a certain Gilles Grimandi. Arsenal supporters will remember Grimandi as a member of the Double-winning sides in 1998 and 2002, who is now one of the club’s chief scouts.

In 2006, despite having been retired as a player, Grimandi further endeared himself to Arsenal supporters during his appearance at Dennis Bergkamp’s retirement testimonial match. Seeing former Spurs player, Edgar Davids about to score, Gilles runs him down and tackles him from behind. Watch for yourself (video takes a second to load).

I tried to appear calm as Germain rummaged through drawers looking for a kit Grimandi had given him, signed by the entire Arsenal squad, with sort of a “now where did I put this” casualness. Horrific visions of the staff using it to wipe down the bar ran through my head. I couldn’t contain myself. “The least you can do is frame it and hang it on the wall, so I can steal it during my next visit”, I said only half-joking. He promised to try and locate the sacred shirt.

Despite it’s stylish, slick decor, and polished service, Amélie is a really relaxed, friendly, unpretentious place to have a really nice glass of wine. And I’m not just saying that because I want the inside Arsenal scoop.

We didn’t really explore the menu, though our cheese plate was delicious. One of the interesting aspects of the decor is a quote in French from noted author, Victor Hugo, lettered on the low ceiling above the dining area. Because of the way it is positioned, I think you have to lying face up on the floor (and fluent in French of course) to read it. So if you’re in Amélie, and you see someone you think is passed out, they may just be reading the ceiling.

We’re going to go for dinner this weekend and try the full menu on for size. Who knows, maybe I’ll overhear something, and be able to report on Arsenal’s next big signing.

Cheers, Mark

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