We were drawn to this little restaurant on the Marché aux Herbes in Mons by the colourful chairs on the outdoor terrace. And once we saw the plates on the tables, piled high with generous serves of saucy meats and leafy salads, we were hooked! With the bright terrace already completely full we were led into the indoor dining room of À La Bonne Heure which was cosy and bathed in a subtle pink light. Old advertising signs dangled from string on the ceiling, and an eclectic selection of miscellaneous bric-a-brac adorned the shelves, giving the interior a rustic yet homey feel.
In a desperate attempt to maintain some semblance of healthy eating, I reluctantly skimmed over the enticing hot dishes (which included offerings of seared dusk breast, baked scallops and veal medallions) and focused instead on the salad options which all sounded delicious, with warm goats cheese, prawn and avocado, and smoked salmon among the featured ingredients.
For something different, I ordered the salad of aged beef with buffalo mozzarella, avocado, melon and cornichons, which was generous in both its serving size and flavour. Huge portions and big flavour hits seem to be the trademark elements of À La Bonne Heure. Even the simple appetiser that was served before the meal – toasted baguette slices topped with lashings of homemade olive tapenade – was super tasty. The restaurant’s name is taken from a French expression that can be used to mean “excellent” or “just right”. This place certainly lives up to its name.
As we took our seats, we were handed the largest menu I have ever seen, a large chalkboard almost the same size as our table! I was intrigued by the inclusion of a sardine dish on the menu, and feeling adventurous decided to order the sardine tart – after all, anything sitting on a bed of puff pastry is right up my alley.
My dish arrived looking amazing, and smelt even better. Presented simply, a row of sardine fillets had just enough charring on the skin to make it even more mouth watering. As I made my first cut through the tart I heard the beautiful sound of puff pastry crumbling under the weight of the knife. A layer of soft aubergine oozed out from its hiding place beneath the sardines. The sweetness of the eggplant matched the saltiness of the fish perfectly. With the added crunch and butteriness of the pastry, I was in heaven. I never knew sardines could taste so good!
When the waiter came to collect my clean plate, I told him the dish was excellent. The next thing I knew we were being introduced to Chef Zohra, who came to our table to describe to us in detail how she made the dish, from the grilling of the sardines, to the stewing of the aubergines and even a quick tutorial on making pastry. It was nice to see so much passion from the chef, and her readiness to reveal her trade secrets to us. She seemed genuinely pleased that we loved her dish, and we were thrilled to have been able to eat it!
À La Bonne Heure
Rue de la Coupe 34, 7000 Mons