Have you ever eaten Alsatian?
Strasbourg is an interesting place whose nationality has swung back and forth between French and German due to its proximity to the border and the sometimes rather enthusiastic tendency of its near neighbours to pop over for a visit and decide to stay for a lot longer. Driving around you see road signs to places that it’s hard to believe a French tongue can contort itself to pronounce. I was visiting our office in Schiltigheim and we have another in Bischeim – what can I say other than they don’t sound very French. Alsace is thus rather special with a culture and heritage quite different from much of France and of course its own local cuisine. When someone asks you “Do you want to eat Alsatian?” – don’t worry, they’re not offering you dog. You’ll need to go to Korea for that.
My lovely colleague Dominique invited me for dinner and asked if I had seen La Petite France, the city’s historic riverside district. I told her that I had but only in photographs so we decided that we would head into the area, have a look around and then pick a restaurant.
Washing your linen in public
After wandering the streets and looking at menus rather too heavily based on sauerkraut and pork, we opted for La Corde a Linge – or 'the washing line' for those who’ve long forgotten their school French lessons. There’s no historical information about the building on the restaurant’s website (or at least not any I could find or understand) but it’s a fair guess that it must have been an old laundry building. The theme is apparent inside with clothes lines hanging from the ceiling in some areas, wooden draws with the menus in which look like they were used for linen storage, and blown-up photographs of laundry themes on the walls. We had a tiny table from which I could see colourful spools of thread lined up between the ceiling and the top shelf. Even the menu expands on the theme giving some of the dishes names taken from the typical items in a laundry basket. And why not – it’s nice to have a gimmick.The restaurant is mid-sized with several different dining areas. People were sitting outside which seemed rather silly in February until I realised this didn’t mean the restaurant was full – only that some people wanted to smoke. There’s an area to the left as you walk in which is close to the bar and if you turn right there’s are several distinct areas, the most popular of which seemed to be under the glass roofed ‘drying area’. We were shown to a really small table which made us realise we’d better not order too much or there’d be no place to put it. We hung up our coats, hid our bags behind my chair and settled in to look at the menu.
Feeding hungry laundry users
The specialities of the restaurant are ‘spaetzle’ noodles – more normally associated with Germany but very much a part of the Alsatian kitchen. They also have lots of salads, gourmet burgers and daily specials on offer. I found the menu totally confusing in both structure and content and having the info in English didn’t do much to make it clearer.