Auberge History, Chapter One
In view of the strange attitude of the current owners of the Auberge du Petit Prince, I wonder what stories they tell their customers when they ask about the restaurant's origins.
I guess it's up to me to set the record straight.
It all started after I came back from a year in Europe, in late 1969. My friend Robin Askew had joined me near the end, and when we came back to Canada we returned to the apartment we shared in Montreal. But we had both spent a few years in London, Ontario, and we missed our friends there.
We had to find an excuse to move back to London. It came to me in a dream: we would open a small French restaurant! I would do the cooking and Robin would look after the wine list. Robin loved the idea, and so did our London friends, and before we knew it we were all packed up and ready for our big restaurant adventure.
We arrived in London in mid-October 1970, and immediately started looking for a location. That took a whole year! You have no idea of the excuses we heard from prospective landlords; my favourite was from the owner of a perfect little spot on Dundas Street, an abandoned store. "French restaurant? Oh no, the smell of French fries will drive away the other tenants!" He wouldn't budge even after I assured him that I would never make French fries, and that I was willing to put that in the lease.
Later, we found a perfect Victorian house right next door to the downtown Holiday Inn. We couldn't have dreamed of a better location. The owners agreed to rent it to us, but the morning we were due to sign the lease, they called to tell us they were reneging on their word because they had decided to accept the Holiday Inn's offer to buy their house. They had resisted for years, because they knew this meant their family home would get demolished. But Holiday Inn had upped their offer...
That day, we swore to only open the champagne after the lease was signed, sealed and delivered!
Little did we know that our troubles were far from over.