I spent a few days in the Loire doing some cycling and wanted to share some thoughts on three of the meals I had, as it doesn't seem to be an area that gets much Chow chatter.
L'Auberge du Chateau (Talcy)
This was the only restaurant within a 10km bike ride of my chambre d'hote, so was an easy choice my first evening. Not bad. Not great, but not bad. Paté de campagne for a starter, followed by roasted sandre (local white fish) with sorrel sauce, a tricoloured flan of cauliflower, carrot and spinach purées and some other veg I've forgotten. Crepes au sucre for dessert -- two massive ones, but sadly overcooked and muscular rather than delicate. But still, for 16 EUR? Could've done worse.
Le Relais du Chateau (Beaugency)
I also could have done better, and did the next night. I drove over to Beaugency, which turned out to be a rather pleasant little town, and wandered into this restaurant because I couldn't believe they were offering a four-course prix fixe for 16 EUR. When I walked out, I couldn't believe they'd offered an eminently *edible* four-course prix fix for 16 EUR. Soupe de poisson avec sa rouille was deeply flavoured and came with the classic garnishes of rye croutons and grated cheese as well as the garlicky mayonnaise. The main, paupiettes de volaille with a mustard pan sauce, sauteed spinach and carrot purée, suffered from a slightly over-salted sauce, but was still quite good. I opted for fromage blanc for the cheese course and ended with a tartelette aux quetsches (sweeter than I would have liked, but still...). Can't beat it for the price.
Le Bistrot du Cuisinier (Blois)
Oh, this was SUCH a nice meal! I think it's a good sign when a restaurant's lunch crowd is equal parts French hommes d'affaires and elderly couples, as both demographics generally like to eat well, with a group of six French teenagers thrown in for good measure. I started with one of the house specialties -- a soufflé chaud de crevettes, gambas poêlées, émulsion de fumet façon américaine. The texture of the soufflé was lovely, a cross between a quenelle and a flan, the gambas were nutty and toothsome and the emulsion was deeply flavoured and just plain yummy. Then moved on, at the recommendation of the friendly waiter, to suprême de pigeon rôti, spaghetti chinois et shiitakes glacés au jus, rœsti d'abats sur un pain de campagne, caramel d'épices. Wow. Just plain wow. Perfectly cooked pigeon breast with a sauce (she says modestly) very like one I thought I'd created myself -- basically a butter-mounted gastrique tinged with cardamom and clove -- but with an extra depth of flavour from the shiitake soaking liquid. With the liver-heart-kidney mush on toast, perfection! I desperately wish I'd had room for cheese or dessert, but no luck. Had a glass of very nice Cour-Cheverny (Philippe Tessier, 2004).
The restaurant is actually across the river from the center of Blois, so you don't get to take advantage of sitting on one of the vieille ville's many lovely squares, but you get a nice view and a great meal. Highly recommended.
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