Many small country stations of the SNCF had to close in the last century. Some find a second life, as in Douzens where a restaurant, “L’Art & Gourmand”, now welcomes “travellers”.
In 1970, the trains connecting Carcassonne to Narbonne no longer stopped at Douzens, a small town in the Corbières of less than 800 souls, at the foot of the Alaric. The station was abandoned, it was only 25 years later that an individual bought it from the SNCF. Six years ago, this owner passed away. At the same time, the only café-restaurant in the village lowered the curtain, after the retirement of its manager. Philippe Rappeneau, the mayor of Douzens, then bought the disused station on behalf of the town from the family of the deceased, with a view to bringing these places back to life.
Why not turn it into a restaurant? A file is tied up with subsidies granted by Carcassonne Agglo, the Department of Aude, the Occitanie Region and the European Regional Development Fund (Feder). They make it possible to carry out the major exterior work necessary for the rehabilitation of the building. Covid obliges, the calendar is delayed, but not abandoned.
A gastronomic showcase
Learning of the Aude village project, Tania and Olivier, two catering professionals (read below), apply. Their file is validated by the municipal council, it is up to them to carry out the interior design work. The agreement is accompanied by a very competitive rent, which makes it possible to cover the municipality’s loan for the additional financing of the purchase of the station and the exterior repairs. “It is for us, elected officials, a white operation, costing nothing to the village and which now allows us to have a gastronomic showcase consolidating the image of our winegrower town”, welcomes Philippe Rappeneau.
The dining room, lined with wooden paneling, is particularly neat. The benches in the station waiting room have been kept “in their own juice”, the openwork kitchen takes up the frame of the ticket office. In fine weather, a terrace next to the vegetable garden can accommodate a varied clientele, rather bistronomic at noon, more oriented towards gastronomy in the evening. Every Thursday, the establishment offers tapas and oyster evenings, which each time put a village winegrower in the spotlight. animate the station which also offers from a grocery department: local products, wines, home-cooked meals.
At the rhythm of the trains…
Tania and Olivier, the two tenants of “L’Art & Gourmand”, have been immersed in the restaurant world for many years. She is from La Rochelle, and it was in Strasbourg that she met her future companion, an Alsatian. Both chefs, they found themselves in the kitchen of a renowned restaurant in this Eurometropolis, capital of the Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine region, very close to Germany. After their hotel studies, they strengthened their skills with starred chefs Georges Blanc and Paul Bocuse, their know-how finding a great playground there! Afterwards, a small Tour de France took them to Bordeaux, Courchevel, the Luberon, as far as Nîmes. It was time for them to settle down on their own. Open since June 2021, “L’Art & Gourmand” – a nice wink – has already made a name for itself. When the young couple is asked if the passage of trains does not harm the tranquility of the place, they answer with a big smile: “On the contrary, it is part of the attractiveness of the place, it contributes to the music of our restaurant”.