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I was devastated when Au Port du la Lune left its roost on the Plaça de la Gardunya just behind the Boqueria. For an age, it was one of my favourite places for a little trip to France: a proper bistro, simple, homey and affordable with reliably tasty food set in a tiny, intimate dining room, with the greatest private room in town hidden away upstairs, floor-to-ceiling windows, creaking floorboards, peeling paint and a vast, chunky wooden dining table. Friends and I often had our birthday parties and Christmas get-togethers there. Then, all of sudden, it was gone. It moved to an equally tiny spot on Pau Claris and, the truth is, I sort of forgot about it until I suddenly got a hankering for a great big bowl of cassoulet. There was a time when theirs was the best this side of Toulouse, so I gathered the gang and off we went in search of mid-week sustenance.
Sadly, it’s lost that special kind of cosiness it once had—back in the day the main dining room was all vintage furniture, old Lillet bottles and quirky home accessories that really made the place sing—replaced in the here and now by walls covered in old theatre and film posters and a spartan bookcase with slightly too-bright lighting. But the food is as solidly French-bistro as ever and is served by a delightful team. We order white wine and red in carafes and share a dozen plump and briny Daniel Sorlut oysters, frizzy escarole salad topped with crunchy lardons and a perfectly poached egg, leeks vinaigrette that are lush and silky, and a chunk of deeply savoury goose rillette scattered with capers and cornichon. But it was the cassoulet that won back my heart: comforting and rich with creamy beans and generous chunks of sausage and duck, this is the kind of food that tells you all is right with the world. The wine flowed, the laughter got raucous and a large table celebrating a birthday in the back room sent over cake. Decor may change, restaurants move on, but there’s still a great deal to love about Au Port du la Lune.