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French Balls: La Petanque

You know what it takes to play petanque? Brass balls... No, wait. That's how to sell real estate. For this one you need big, heavy silver ones.
By Sep 12, 2013 Nightlife


Popped down to Petanque on Tuesday. It's the new place from the Café des Stagiaires people, their second new opening in three months. Zut! Is there is no stopping these plucky Frenchmen? They're on a mission to retake the concession, and force us all to live under the jackboot of fine, saucy cuisine and good wine.

The new place is a bit more restaurant-y than the three Cafes des Stagiaires, but the emphasis is still on really affordable food and drink, served in a pleasant, unpretentious French atmosphere. Hey, did I just use the words "unpretentious" and "French" in the same sentence? Mais oui, buddy.

The décor is casual and bright. Little bit rustic? Maybe a bit of rusticness going on. Drinks are served from a bar that looks like it belongs more in a Provencial country kitchen. They also have table service. The walls are covered with posters from French art shows and nice exploded photographs of the components that go into cameras, chainsaws and fire extinguishers. Sort of hard to explain. Have a look. Then they have a couple of parakeets in a cage that make a hell of a lot of noise but make the place look pretty.

And yeah, they have this strip of gravel front of house where you can play petanque. A petanque field? A pitch? A lane? It's a stretch of gravel by the door. It's a game of proximity and big, heavy silver balls. Someone throws the little white ball (called the cochonnet or "piglet", impress your friends) down to the other end of the gravel, then players (two, four or six people), try to get their balls closest to it. Everyone has three balls. You don't take it in turns to throw. The one who's furthest away keeps going until they get closer. At the end, the winner scores one point for each of their balls that are closer than any of the others.

Ah, just go toss the balls around. It's pretty satisfying. They put the pitch-strip-thing in the front of the bar. Don't know how that's going to work if the place gets rammed, but I think it probably won't get quite as busy as the other Stagiaires venues. This is a bit more or a sit-down place.

The location's good, though, near enough to Dada to drink here before you go there, or to slip off Xingfu Lu and come here for something a bit quieter and smoke-free.

Right now it's open all day at the weekend but during the week they close after 3pm and re-open again at 6pm for drinks and dinner. The petanque-y bit is open in the evenings during the week, and all day at weekends.

The menu starts with tapas dishes from 25rmb. Bit of tortilla for you there.

Or these clams (45rmb).

All very nice. Chinese meatballs. Yours for 35rmb.

Pretty small plates but tasty.

Things get a bit more oh-la-la over the page where you'll find a risotto served with a lamb shank for 100rmb, confit of cod on squid ink rice (120rmb) and beef filet with mash and mushrooms (120rmb). But there are only five of these main dishes. Keeping it simple. Doing it well, though.

The happy hour replicates the Café des Stagiaires formula: pastis is 10rmb, beers are 15rmb or 20rmb for a small Videt and 30rmb for La Chouffe. That's 4-8pm, and after that prices go up by about 10rmb across the board. So, cheap beer, nice little plates of food, and big swinging balls.

So, a nice place for a mid-week date, or at the weekends, it's close enough to Dada to fall into that Xingfu Lu zone. All told, I'm pretty into this place. Find a full listing here.


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  • handoogies

    That sign is very gaudy for that street. I'm going to petition for its removal.

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