Dave and Tiffany Smith first came to France in the year 2000 fresh from the Hyatt Regency Casino in Thessaloniki, Greece.
We needed a change of direction, and wanted to base ourselves in France, having fallen in love with the country, and each other, in the early ’90’s on the Cote D’Azur working at the Carlton Casino in Cannes. So what do two ex-casino workers do? Buy a hotel/restaurant of-course!!
We bought a small hotel/restaurant from the receivers in the gorgeous Dordogne region in a small village. The optimistically named Le Trefle A Quatre Feuilles (four-leafed clover) had been closed for 2 years as the previous owners were in bad health.
It had 12 rooms in a building behind the main one, separated by a beautiful wisteria covered terrace, the main one housing the restaurant , an apartment and owners accommodation. We renovated the property, reduced the rooms numbers to a more manageable 7 and hired a chef. 4 years later the chef left and I (Tiffany) decided to bite the bit and take over the kitchen. My passion for food has grown and grown ever since.
In 2008 we sold the property, deciding hotels weren’t for us, and bought another renovation project in the Pyrenées-Orientales, south of France near the Spanish border in French Catalonia. This time, restaurant only, and a separate house to live in.
Bistrot Le Cortal was known as Le Cortal and was suffering from a lack of investment and a closure order by the hygiene authorities. After 10 months of works, it was reopened all lovely and new and has now been operational for 2 years.
I have really found my style of cooking since we have been here, loving contemporary bistrot style cuisine and am constantly experimenting, reading and learning – when time allows. Having your own restaurant is an unforgiving activity and becomes it’s own living breathing entity needing firm control. Also, bizarrely, in the summer months there is no time for actual research and experimentation as there is only time to serve the orders and maintain the menu that is in place. So I look forward to the quieter winter months to reflect and absorb all that is food.
Having learnt the hard way the cost of employees in France, we are determined to stay just the two of us as much as possible, employing a third person for the summer months. This means our capacity is very small and we work very hard!!