Burgundy, Alsace and Champagne
Notes from our trip to France in 2012
Les Berceaux *
13 rue des Berceaux, Epernay, 51200, Tel 03 26 55 28 84 www.lesberceaux.com
Les Berceaux restaurant
Les Berceaux mechanical wine pourer
For such a wealthy town Epernay has a dearth of quality restaurants but Les Berceaux (one Michelin star) was certainly on song for dinner on Sunday 15 April. The fixed three (€69) or four course (€81) menu plus cheese had four choices in each section (and they call that fixed?). There was plenty of angst in deciding which to have and we were all very happy with our selections. Our star course was definitely the lobster and crab starter.
How does one choose a champagne in Champagne, especially if one wants to try something new? In the past we have relied upon Les Berceaux’s sommelier’s non-vintage recommendation and did so again this night. An excellent decision; we had a Franck Bonville Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc (€78) from the village of Avize. It had fine bubbles and good bottle age; an excellent aperitif and accompaniment with the fish-based courses.
The wine list had a good range of Bordeaux to suit all reasonable prices but was a bit short of choice from other areas. We identified a 05 and a 08 Bordeaux as the ‘gimmies’ on the list and chose the 05 on the toss of a coin; the Ch Potensac 2005 (€53) was decanted at the recommendation of the sommelier. This highly rated Medoc Cru Bourgeois showed why 2005 was such a great vintage; it was full of black berry fruits and the tannins had softened nicely with bottle age and decanting.
13 Rue du Général de Gaulle, 67730 La Vancelle; Tel 03 88 57 93 90 www.frankenbourg.com
Frankenbourg langoustine and duck
Frankenbourg Menu Gourmet
The 5 course Menu Gourmet (€48) was really excellent. The stand-out dish was the duck with asparagus and langoustine; a really unusual combination that worked. Coincidentally the next day when we visited Fux-Fuchs we agreed that one of their Rieslings would go well with both duck and langoustines. The langoustine must have been pan-seared in clarified butter as it was crispy on the outside but ‘sushi’ inside. We selected the Fux-Fuchs Pinot Gris Grand Cru Froehn ’04 (€35) and Ch le Crock St Estephe ‘05 (€39). The former was unctuous and at its peak; the red opened up nicely after decanting.
9/13, rue du Général de Gaulle, 68240 Kayserberg; Tel 03 89 47 10 17 www.lechambard.fr
Le Chambard had a unique approach – a list of a dozen or so dishes including a cheese board from which you selected what you wanted and the price varied by the number selected. We had the Formule 3 Plats + Dessert for €84. For the first time we had pan-seared goose foie gras; it was only slightly pink and did not ooze oil as duck liver does – a bit disappointing. For wine we had a Riesling Cuvée Théo ‘98 from Dm Weinbach (€43) and a Ch Beau Site ‘98 from St Estèphe (€45).
We had a really interesting discussion with the maitre’d about cheese. We noted that we had eaten Munster (from the town of Munster which is further up the valley from Le Chambard) which was really runny whilst the cheese that night was ‘rubbery’ (not in a bad way) and asked why the difference. He said that it depended on the milk that was used to make the cheese. If it was summer milk then the cows had eaten rich grasses and the cheese was rich and runny. If it was winter milk then the cows had eaten hay and the cheese was not runny. This confirmed an earlier discussion with guys in the branch of Cave de Fromage www.la-cave.co.uk where we live about the different tastes in Comté cheese. They said that the flavour depended on the milk (fruity being summer milk) whilst the age gave the crystals.
Le Pré aux Clercs*
13, place de la Libération, Dijon 21000; Tel 03 80 38 05 05 www.jeanpierrebilloux.com
We selected the fixed Menu Carte (€52) for this one star opposite the palace of the Dukes of Bourgogne. To accompany it we had a Chablis 07 (€48), Dm Berthelemot Pommard ’08 (€53), and Dm Seguin-Manuel Savigny-les- Baune ’08 (€59). We deliberately had the Pommard and the Savigny to be able to compare the two communes; it confirmed our prejudices in favour of Savigny. However it was a strangely disappointing meal relative to all the other restaurants we ate at this trip; a good one star meal but nothing exceptional. The starter Quenelles were probably the star of the show.
Vonnas-ain-France 01540; Tel 04 74 50 90 90 www.georgesblanc.com
Georges Blanc restaurant
Georges Blanc menu
Georges Blanc menu cover
Langoustines and oysters
The most tender pigeon ever
Georges Blanc dessert
Georges Blanc dessert
This is the second time we have been to this 3 star Michelin restaurant and its standards certainly haven’t dropped. We selected the mid-priced Menu Clin d’oeil gourmand (€130) plus cheese (€27). The plan was to have Champagne as an aperitif and with the fish course and the Sauternes with the foie gras, cheese and dessert. However, best laid plans … Unfortunately what we did not expect was the practice in top English and French restaurants differ. In the UK we are quite used to being called when the food is ready; in France it appears that one has to demand to be seated and then they serve. As a result we finished the Gosset Brut Reserve (€120) before we were seated. It didn’t turn out that bad as the Chateau Rieussec 1990 (€140) also went with the fish. The red wine was Chateau Haut-Batailley 1999 (€130). A pricey evening but great food and a memorable experience.
Loiseau des Vignes*
31, rue Maufoux, 21200 Beaune; Tel 03 80 24 12 06 www.bernard-loiseau.com
This is one of four Loiseau restaurants and is located near the Hospices de Beaune. We selected the Menu Découverte (€75). To accompany this we had a Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux 2009 (€80) from Dm Raveneau and a Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru Ille des Vergelesses ’08 from Dm Rollin (€75). The highlights of the evening were the cold pressed foie gras and the cheese board. Unfortunately the table we were given, being in line with the front door, received wafts of residual smoke that came in attached to the smokers’ clothes on their way to their tables. There were no half bottles but a large selection of wines by the glass.
Hostellerie de la Montagne*
Rue de Pisseloup, 52330 Colombey le deux Eglises; Tel 03 25 01 51 69 www.hostellerielamontagne.com
Hostellerie de la Montagne restaurant
Hostellerie de la Montagne Mise en bouche
The restaurant is in an old stone house with great views eastward over the rolling countryside with sand-coloured stone walls and clipped yews. We selected the Menu à €65. The Mise en bouche was the star of the trip; pea puree, foie gras pieces and balsamic vinegar. For the white wine we had a Raveneau Mont de Milieu 08 (€50). The red was Les Genevrays Vosne-Romanée ‘Les Raviolles’ 2007 (€74). We wanted a Sauterne with the dessert but the sommelier insisted we have Ch Boucassé Les Charmes Celeste 04 (€32). This Madiran wines is made from a blend of local grapes picked at various stages; green, late harvest and totally mouldy. This gives it an interesting fresh sweetness which went well with the chocolate dessert.
20 Place Hôtel de Ville Roye 80700; Tel 03 22 87 00 56 www.laflamiche.fr
The significance of this one star Michelin restaurant is that it is 2 hours from Calais which makes it the ideal lunch spot on the way back to the UK. We had the Sunday lunch set menu (€85) of which the langoustine and asparagus main was the star alongside, a larger than expected, chocolate macaroon with raspberries. For the wine we had a Weinberg 2008 Schlossberg Grand Cru Riesling (€90) which we had previously tasted during our visit to the winery in Alsace (see here). The place was packed for the noon sitting, deservedly so.
Hotel La Cloche, 3,5 Place Mendés, Epernay 51200; Tel +33 (0) 3 26 55 15 15 €55 An anachronism of an hotel but meets the requirements (clean, en-suite shower, free wifi and a short walk of the restaurant). We have battled to find reasonably priced hotels that do meet our requirements in Epernay, particularly the ‘short walk to restaurant’, so we will be back. On the rue Gambetta around the corner are two interesting champagne shops that specialise in ‘Grower champagne’, that is champagne made by the grower of the grapes rather than a big ‘house’.
Auberge Frankenbourg, 13 Rue du Général de Gaulle, La Vancelle 67730; Tel +33 (0) 3 88 57 93 90 €65. This restaurant with rooms in the mountain village of La Vancelle is undergoing renovations so our room was at a discount. We were in one of the new rooms. It was modern and spacious. It more than met our requirements and had the shortest walk to the restaurant ever.
Hotel Les Remparts, 4, Rue Flieh, Kaysersberg 68240; Tel +33 (0) 22.214.171.124.12 €63. A pleasant modern style hotel the other side of the village from the restaurant so an interesting amble to and from dinner.
Hotel Le Jacquemart, 32 Rue de la Verrerie, Dijon 21000; Tel +33 (0) 3.80.60.09.60 €55. A rabbit warren of a hotel but in the old part of town and met all our basic requirements.
Hotel Restaurant de la Place, 51,Place de la Marie 01310 Polliat; Tel +33 (0) 126.96.36.199.19 €50. Recently renovated – quite large rooms but tiny toilet cum shower. Blew the requirement for a short walk to the restaurant way out of the water – but then there aren’t any reasonably priced hotels in or near Vonas. Guess one can’t have everything all the time!
Hotel de France Restaurant Tast'vin, 35 Av. Du 8 Septembre 1944, Beaune, 21200; Tel +33 (0) 188.8.131.52.34 €64. Right next to the station but wasn’t that noisy; run by charming people. Had to take a taxi to and from the restaurant – a rare treat for us parsimonious people but justified on the fact that it might rain, haha!
Hotel La Grange Du Relais, 26 Rn 19, Colombey Les Deux Eglises 52330; Tel +33 (0) 3.25.02.03.89 €65. One of the best hotels we have stayed in on our tours – spacious rooms recently renovated by someone with an eye for style.
Looking at the hotels we have stayed in over the last couple of years we are going to up our budget by €10 per night – as with food and wine, an extra 20% ups the quality by considerably more.