Today I have eaten, probably, the best restaurant meal in France I’ve ever had.
Being Francophiles we’ve spent a fair bit of time in France and sampled plenty of restaurants – some good, many mediocre and, dare I say it, some uninspiring and ordinary. I’m not happy to write bad reviews – I think that these can often be unreasonably damaging to a restaurants reputation but am more than happy to report on good places.
How refreshing then to find the Hostellerie St Jacques, in St Saud, not far from our home in the Limousin. http://st.jacques.pagesperso-orange.fr/
We met up with some new friends who live in Rotterdam but also have property in the local Limousin area. We met them at a village feast last summer and along with a fair amount of ‘face-booking’ we finally managed a rendezvous today at this lovely restaurant.
The décor is comfortable, interesting and quirky. Paintings of cows adorn the reception and lounge area and there are unusual artefacts all over the place……model chickens, rabbits etc. We were made to feel very welcome by the friendly, unstuffy staff.
The restaurant overlooks the beautiful terrace and gardens. In the summer months the trees on the terrace provide a natural shady canopy and guests may relax in the grounds, including the use of the pool and Jacuzzi. I had lunch here a couple of years ago on a hot August day and it felt like paradise.
The restaurant was pretty full – they only opened up again this weekend after the winter closed season. The acoustics were good – it was easy to chat across our round table with our new friends. I haven’t got perfect hearing and struggle sometimes if there’s a lot of background noise.
We opted to choose from the set lunch menu @ €26.50 a head. The price included a glass of Kir, a choice of seven starters, mains and desserts, two glasses of red, rose or white wine, a glass of fizz and coffee. What you also get is numerous amuse bouche delicacies which means that the amount of courses rises to around eight! Not for the faint hearted!
So here’s the first amuse bouche:
Not entirely sure exactly what they all were although our friendly waiter did rattle off some descriptions in sing song French! I think they included a caramelised cherry tomato which had been injected with something alcoholic – vodka? A shot glass of Parmesan Mousse with home-made basil pesto. A rolled whirl of chestnut sausage wrapped in smoked ham. Notice also the gorgeous serving dishes.
What also came with this was a couple of injectable tubes of mousse – avocado and a salmon flavoured one. Interesting presentation and delicate flavour and texture. I was loving all this fussiness – after all, you’d never do all this at home would you? Some may, however, find it a little over the top.
Next came a third amuse bouche. A tiny terrine of soupe de poissons with a crustacean garnish (not for me that bit!) The soup was delicious – not too fishy.
My starter was Parmesan Panacotta with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Cured Salmon, Passion Fruit Jus and a ball of Rocket Sorbet – garnished with raw fresh peas, chives and pink peppercorns. So fresh and tangy!
Nigel chose Creamed Artichoke, Veal Tartare and Grey Shrimps with Lemon Caviar and Crispy Fried Onions. He was not complaining!
Bernadette chose Lobster Roulade with Mango & Duck Breast and Tomato Ice, beautifully garnished with micro leaves, and broad beans. Generous portion – she started to struggle!
Redmond chose Scallop Risotto with Prawns, Baby Spring Vegetables on a Curry and Coconut Sauce. He was all smiles!
Can’t believe at this stage that we haven’t even started on our main courses! Nigel, Bernadette and I all chose Beef Cheeks in Orange Sauce with a soft Potato Puree and Vegetables. Served in a dinky little clay tagine. Meltingly tender meat and a flavoursome sauce.
Redmond chose rabbit…because he always does when it’s on the menu! Bernadette isn’t keen on rabbit so won’t cook it at home. I can understand that – I don’t dislike the taste or texture but the raw carcase reminds me of a dead baby! Served with a spicy crouton and lightly spiced carrot puree. Clean plate!!
Now another amuse bouche….. a refreshing Iced Lemon Tea served in plastic cones!
And another tray of amuse bouche! A selection of mini Tiramisu Pots and Petit Fours. We were defeated with these and had to leave some – sacre bleu!!
Now the desserts……. Nigel chose a Black Forest Stack with Cherry Confit Chocolate Cigars and Spun Sugar Garnish, dramatically served on a mirrored tile!
I chose Vanilla Millefeuille with warm spiced mango and Saffron Ice Cream. Crispy, fragrant……I’m struggling now! Washed down with a glass of fizz.
Bernadette declined her dessert and Redmond chose an Upside down Apple Tart with Maple Syrup and a pot of Vanilla Cream
After all that, we had a tiny cup of strong coffee. What a meal! We cheekily asked for a copy of the menu to help me write this blog and the charming Madame said she remembered me from last time nearly two years ago when I asked for the menu! Made me feel special!
Undoubtedly the best restaurant in the area and they also have lovely accomodation. Can’t wait to go back!