The Sunday market draws people from the surrounding area. This is a great opportunity to buy everything from tapenade to tomatoes and hats to herbs and to enjoy a drink on the terrace of the Café at the same time. (Picture credit: Maureen Brander)

Montcuq has attracted many newcomers in recent years. Stewart Andersen, editor of Homes&Travel, talks to Patrick Henrotin, the new owner of the Café de France restaurant, located in the heart of the village.

It would be almost impossible to open a newspaper or a magazine or to turn on the television without hearing that more and more people are looking to move to France or at least to own a second home there. The southwest region is, without doubt, one of the most popular. Go to any bar or restaurant in the region and you’ll probably hear everything from French, Dutch and Italian to German or English being spoken.

One place in particular has attracted foreigners for the last three decades. Located in the southern tip of the Lot region and about 20 kilometres from the bustling town of Cahors is the village of Montcuq.

With easy access from Toulouse (over the last five years Blagnac Airport, close to the city and the autoroute, has grown and been modernised until now it is one the most efficient in Europe) and Bergerac Airport (small, charming and easily reached from Montcuq), it’s easy to see why so many foreigners have chosen this attractive village to own a home in France.

One couple that has elected to settle there, and also to open a business, are Patrick and Penny Henrotin. Patrick, a Belgian, has worked in the international restaurant business for many years and when the opportunity came to acquire the Café de France, located on one the main streets, he didn’t hesitate.

Explains Patrick: “Montcuq is a typical French village with cosmopolitan residents and visitors. It holds quite a number of cultural events throughout the year, including a two day Arabian horse endurance race (there are only two others in the world – one in the US and one in Australia) as well as brocantes and vide greniers (antique fairs and flea markets), theatre and musical productions and concerts given by the local choir which makes it a lively and a fun place to be. Also, being in the middle of a rich and diverse food and wine region, our restaurant can draw on fresh supplies from local producers.

Said Patrick, “I love the fact that as we walk down the street, everybody greets us with a ‘Monsieur, Madame’ and a smile.”

“The Lot department is home to the excellent, and strong, Cahor’s dark red wines and the soil here is predominantly limestone. Combine that with the excellent climate and it’s small wonder that we have many clients seeking the local wines. In terms of other produce, this is a wonderful region for fruit, goat’s cheese, truffles and confit of duck.

“Our menu consists, at present, of entrées that range from a goats cheese salad to carpaccio of salmon. Our main courses include faux filet of beef and Thai curry with scallops and crevettes. Crème Brulée is my favourite to end a meal but we also have sorbets such as mango, cassis and passion fruit.

Continued Patrick: “We bought a house nearby in 2004 without, to be honest, any thought of settling here permanently. We used to eat regularly in the Café de France and it wasn’t until 2009/2010 that we heard that it had come on the market. Because I had worked in the restaurant business for so long, it seemed too good to be true and I made an offer. To my delight, it was accepted.

“Perhaps the nicest thing about Montcuq is the way that we, and most other foreigners who come here to live, are accepted into the local community. I love the fact that as we walk down the street, everybody greets us with “Monsieur, Madame” and a smile. It’s a great way to start the day!”

The cosy interior of the Café de France

Taking over the restaurant has meant the Café de France going through an extensive period of change. They have been modernising the building’s infrastructure, including installing new high tech equipment, altering some of the interior to make it more convenient for clients and over time, revamping the menu. During the winter months, there’s now a cosy wood-burning stove in the dining-room and a number of changes are planned for the New Year.

“One of the great things about Montcuq,” concluded Patrick, “is that people are drawn in from other towns and villages. Apart from the bars and restaurants there are butchers, bakers, doctors, dentist, in fact all the things you want for a comfortable existence.”