My daddy was a good ole country boy from Louisiana who knew good food and loved great cooking. When it came to choosing a restaurant, he lived by a motto that will forever be ingrained in my heart: “You can’t eat atmosphere!” And while my daddy’s down-home wisdom is 100 percent correct, I couldn’t help but think of him as Tim and I pulled into the parking lot of Mère Bulles last week to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary. Even my daddy would have loved it!
We arrived at twilight for a 7:30pm reservation. Little white bistro lights glowed over the heads of diners on a side patio enjoying a light breeze and good conversation over glasses of wine and what looked like delicious delectables—everything from appetizers and crab cake sandwiches to the most beautifully plated lobster tail.
As our party of four walked around to the front entrance, the simple grandeur of the restaurant stopped us in our tracks. Mère Bulles is located in Maryland Manor—a plantation-style home built in 1942 by Truman Ward, one-time owner of Nashville’s WLAC radio station. Truman and his wife Mary loved horses, and at one time, this beautiful Brentwood home and horse farm sat on 400 acres of picturesque real estate enclosed by five miles of white fences. Today, Mère Bulles continues to capture that Old South charm. To walk through the front door is to walk back in time.
A+ hospitality and service
Seated at a cozy table near the fireplace in what used to be the living room of the manor, white linen tablecloths and candlelight accented the room in romance. It was the perfect backdrop to celebrate our special occasion with our friends; a room filled with an understated elegance—but something else too – lively chatter and laughter. The patrons at adjacent tables were relaxed and having fun, and soon we followed suit.
Our waiter Russ was friendly and attentive and guided us through the menu by asking us our culinary likes and dislikes. He made recommendations based on our answers, and we made our selections based on his recommendations. A good waiter always knows!
We started the evening with a couple of appetizers: lightly battered calamari that melted in our mouths and the best stuffed mushroom caps I’ve ever eaten, prepared with lobster crab butter, champagne and feta and Parmesan cheeses. Next we enjoyed a cup of the house specialty, Charleston she-crab bisque. Oh my goodness! I see why Mère Bulles is known for this palate-pleasing delight. It was rich and creamy with a bite of lobster in every spoonful. If I could have bathed in this bisque I would. My friend Ruthi made the comment that if she could eat a cup of this soup every day, she’d never need a man again! That, my friends, is high praise indeed.
Life is too short to drink bad champagne ever again
Steven Smithing, owner of both Mère Bulles and the Green Hills Grille, graciously sent over a bottle of champagne to our table to help us celebrate our anniversary. I’m not much of a champagne drinker, but I thanked Steven for his kindness as I watched Russ uncork the bottle of Veuve Clicquot and pour each of us a glass of bubbly. Hold the presses! As it turns out, I love champagne (I love GOOD champagne!) and Mere Bulles knows a thing or two about bubbly.
Mère Bulles became a Nashville fixture in 1985. Rodney Wise, the original owner, named his restaurant after his French grandmother Michele Bouvier who herself became a restaurateur in Charleston, South Carolina. Michele loved champagne and was known to make as many as a dozen toasts at her restaurant during the course of an evening. Her love for champagne earned her the nickname “Mother Bubbles,” which in French translates as Mère Bulles.
One of the nicest things about going with good friends to a restaurant for the first time is ordering different things and tasting everything. I’m so glad Tim and I have friends who share. Debbie’s seared jumbo scallops lived up to their name and then some. I usually stay clear of scallops when I dine out, because the center of the scallop is rarely cooked enough for my taste. Debbie’s scallops were cooked to perfection.
Tim went with the night’s special of surf and turf—a 10 ounce rib eye steak coupled with a 4 ounce lobster tail, roasted Parmesan red potatoes and julienne garden vegetables. Can you say doggie bag? We happily made a second and third meal the next day. The rib eye was so tender you could have cut it with a fork.
Ruthi ordered the shrimp pignoli pasta. She couldn’t pronounce it, but she sure enjoyed it. The dish consisted of shrimp, artichoke hearts, pine nuts, feta cheese, Parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper and diced tomatoes tossed with penne pasta in extra virgin olive oil and spinach pesto. Yum.
I held fast to my Louisiana roots and ordered shrimp and grits. I’m a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to this dish. It’s my favorite thing to order at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, but Mère Bulles didn’t disappoint. Maybe it’s the way the chef prepares the grits in buttermilk with goat cheese and a hint of creamed country ham topped with a nest of fresh, shredded spinach surrounded by a half dozen grilled jumbo shrimp. Yes, oh yes, maybe it’s that!
Getting our just desserts
Just when the table was cleared and we thought we couldn’t possibly eat another bite, Russ rejoined our group and began to describe the dessert selections. He had me at bananas Foster. As a group, we decided to sample and share my caramelized bananas bathed in a warm, succulent sugar and rum sauce atop banana bread peaked with the sweetness of slow melting vanilla ice cream. We paired that sweetness with the tangy tartness of key lime pie – the yin and yang of desserts.
With every bite we’d exclaim there’s no way we can eat anymore. We said that until both desserts were completely demolished. When something tastes this good, self control flies out the window. We then lingered over a cup of coffee, not wanting the night to end, a night celebrating our marriage with great friends over an incredible dinner filled with great conversation and love.
We’ll be back
Mère Bulles is officially a new favorite of mine. We’re already planning our next visit to try their renowned Sunday brunch buffet—omelets and eggs made to order, fresh crepes, waffles, carved meats, sautéed fish, salads, crab bisque, crème brulee, French toast and hash-brown casserole—and that’s just for starters. I understand their famous chocolate fountain on Sunday is something to see – and taste. It’s a dining experience.
Overall, I believe the prices for the quality of food and service you receive at Mère Bulles are very reasonable, and Mère Bulles has a great website that gives you a taste of their menu and rich traditions.
If you visit Mère Bulles in the future and happen to see their manager Pam, please tell her Roxane sent you. She’ll be happy to accommodate you. This party of four wholeheartedly gives “Mother Bubbles” eight thumbs up!
Mère Bulles is located at 5201 Maryland Way in Brentwood, Tenn. Reservations are recommended but not required. You can reach the restaurant at 615-467-1945.