Six of our best great meals of 2018 – Meanderings through France n° 169
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
All through the past year we have had the opportunity to dine in many restaurants in France and abroad. We had great experiences… and not so good ones! We deliberately chose to forget our bad experiences, so today’s article lists six of our best treats and spares you the unpalatable and money wasting ones. Enjoy!
1- “Domaine de Rymska”, all the seduction of luxury country life
“Domaine de Rymska” is the first name that came to our mind when we started our list. With only 5 suites “Domaine de Rymska” is not quite a hotel but is much more than a mere B&B. It offers luxury accommodation in the heart of Burgundy vineyards and a great restaurant. In a matter of months the “Domaine de Rymska” restaurant has already gained a reputation for its delicious cuisine, thanks to the chef, Jeremie Muller. After working for renowned French restaurants such as “Les Crayères” in Reims, “Les Prés d’Eugénie” in Eugénie-les-Bains or “Les sources de Caudalie” in Bordeaux, Jeremie Muller moved to Burgundy with his family to cook for the lucky guests at “Domaine de Rymska”. Most of the products used by Jérémie Muller come from the estate and are of course organic produce.
Charolais beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, vegetables or fruits… are all masterfully cooked by the chef. Every day he makes a different and unique menu depending on the harvest of the day. When staying at “Domaine de Rymska” we enjoyed a great dinner at “La Table de Rymska”, starting with a glass of Burgundy Cremant, the Burgundy sparkling wine, on the outside terrace with Tempura of quail eggs, poultry rillettes on potato chips and avocado guacamole spiced with Dijon mustard. Next we had soft-boiled egg with finely cut vegetables and tumeric sauce, grilled beef tenderloin and sweetbread simply served with soft mashed potatoes, a selection of local cheeses, strawberries from Eric Feurtet’s father garden served with a combawa ice cream…Not to forget an interesting selection of Burgundy wines including a fruity red Pommard Les Noisons . Although the “Domaine de Rymska” opened only a few months ago it already has regular guests who come back to enjoy this harvest of peace, luxury and art de vivre. Why not be one of them?
2- “Chateau de Labro”, genuine products for a genuine cuisine
Let’s go South-West in beautiful Aveyron area and it’s capital city, Rodez where you can visit the unique Soulages Museum. The “Chateau de Labro” probably is the best hotel in Rodez area. Make sure to have a GPS to get to this remote countryside grounds and it will take you this charming and romantic place. The castle was originally built in the 16th century. In 2001 after years of neglect it went through extensive works of restoration and was been turned into a luxury hotel. Jean and Nizou Rouquet the present owners are skilled antique dealers and carefully selected all the furniture and objects d’art decorating the castle, creating an intimate and warm atmosphere.
Polished concrete floor, antique renovated furniture, crystal chandeliers and bare-stone walls create a warm atmosphere. Aveyron is a paradise for food lovers and the chef carefully selects local produce to concoct a tasteful, bountiful yet inventive cuisine. He proposes “market’s menus” that change depending on the products available on the Rodez’s market each week. Beef, veal and lamb come from close by Aubrac or Segala where animals live and graze on green pastures. Fresh and smoked trout come from nearby farm as well as vegetable, fruits, cheeses and yoghurts or honey… Traditional recipes masterfully “performed” will make you sated and happy.
3- “Le Bistrot des Belles Caves”, celebrating Loire wines
Set in Tours in the middle of the Chateaux de la Loire Valley, this restaurant is a great place to eat good food with perfect wine matching. Tours has rightfully been approved “International City of Gastronomy”, and there are plenty of wonderful restaurants in town. If you would like to discover the Val de Loire wines I highly recommend you to go to “Le Bistrot des Belles Caves” (The Beautiful Cellars Bistro). This restaurant was created a few years ago by a group of friends gathering local wine makers and chefs. They propose a delightful cuisine and an impressive wine list, as well as a very good value for money menu matching food and several wines by the glass.
At Le Bistot des Belles Caves, you can thus enjoy a beef tartar with a glass of red Reuilly, filets of sea bream with a glass of white Menetou Salon, and a delicious dessert such as homemade lemon curd pie or pistachio sponge cake and its chocolate ganache with a glass of sparkling Montlouis. You will be able to drink here wines made by Jacky Blot who’s been making organic wines for more than 20 years. His wines are so sought-after that all of his past productions are sold out. The “Bistrot des Belles Caves” and its shop next door are the only places where you will be able to find them in Tours. (You can also buy them in a few selected restaurants and wine shops throughout the world). http://www.lebistrotdesbellescaves.fr/ and www.jackyblot.fr
4- “L’Asperule”, a new address in Dijon
Lets go back to Burgundy and have an awesome feast in Dijon, the former capital city of the Dukes of Burgundy. There are many good restaurants in Dijon able to satisfy all tastes and budgets but don’t miss to go to “L’Aspérule”, a new restaurant in Dijon that opened last May. It has been created by Michelin-starred chef Keigo Kimura. Keigo Kimura worked with renowned chefs such as Joel Robuchon, Marc Veyrat or Christopher Coutanceau before the opening of his own restaurant in Auxerre in Northern Burgundy in 2014 where he earned his first Michelin-star. Keigo Kimura makes an inventive cuisine mixing classical French recipes and a subtle Japanese touch.
We were able to taste some of his wonderful creations such as poached quail eggs in red wine sauce with wild mushrooms, lightly cooked white asparagus coated with mussel sauce, foie gras with pureed black olives and slices of truffle, lobster in its shell with a thin biscuit made with seafood, black Bigorre pork marinated with lime and a nori seaweed and ended with a chocolate cake on a soft caramel core and a scoop of almond milk ice cream. Each dish was expertly presented and served with a perfectly matching vintage Burgundy wine. At “L’Apérule” quality products meet a great know-how for a memorable dinner.
“L’Aspérule”, 43 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Dijon +33 3 80 19 12 84
5- “Le Sénéchal”, elegance and impressive savoir-faire
A French village would not be complete without a good place to eat at. In Sauveterre-de-Rouergue the “Auberge du Senechal” is much more than “good”, it’s a true gastronomic experience! Who could believe that a village of just 500 people would shelter a 4-star hotel and its Michelin-starred restaurant attracting gourmets from the whole planet? Michel Truchon grew up in the village where his mother ruled the local inn. After quickly earning his stripes in famous restaurants, he came back to his hometown and opened the “Auberge du Senechal” 30 years ago.
Far from “fashionable” cuisine he values authenticity and top quality local products sublimated by his outstanding inventiveness.
After visiting Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, one of France most beautiful villages, you can treat yourself in a 1-star restaurant from just £30 with a full menu including appetizer, starter, main course and desert! The menus change according to the seasons and to the chef’s inspiration. Mixing gastronomic and regional recipes, using local and exotic products, Michel Truchon achieve to surprise you with every dish. Book a table and get ready for sheer delight.
6- “Les Hauts de Loire”, a gourmet experience in an historical castle
To make your “castle experience” in the Loire Valley complete, you should of course stay in a castle-hotel. The “Hauts de Loire Hotel” is only a few minutes drive from Chaumont Castle. Blois, Amboise, Chenonceau and Cheverny chateaux are also close by and the hotel is the perfect starting point to visit them all as well as the wonderful Loire vineyards. The “Hauts de Loire Hotel” is a member of the “Relais et Chateaux” luxury hotels. Set in a former 19th century hunting mansion hidden in a huge park it is a haven of peace at only 2 hours from Paris.
The hotel has two restaurants, both managed by 2-Michelin-starred chef Rémy Giraud. He’s been the gastronomic restaurant’s chef of the “Hauts de Loire” for more than 30 years never stopping perfecting his know-how without losing his creativity. In the menu you will find great classics of French cuisine reinvented with Remy Giraud’s touch. Vegetables picked in the hotel’s garden disclose all their aromas, fish and seafood meet citrus fruits or unusually cooked vegetables and legumes, meat including game is enhanced by mushrooms, herbs and spices. Not to forget the decadent desserts’ menu!
If “The Bistrot” cuisine is not as sophisticated as the one served in the gastronomic restaurant, it nevertheless is as inventive and delicious and will be perfect for a lighter lunch or dinner. “Courgette soup with harissa sorbet”, “crispy lamb shanks with semolina couscous scorched with mint” and “Gianduja pastry puffs” are a few examples of the dishes concocted by Remy Giraud for the “Bistrot” menu.
Thank you to all these talented chefs who are able to make us feel so good and content!
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny & Annick Dournes