We are always on a mission to find a good restaurant and it’s not always easy, even in France. Sometimes the food is good but the service is lacking; on other occasions the décor and ambiance may not be right and then there’s always the crucial factor of value for money. There’s an awful lot of things to take into consideration when evaluating a restaurant.

Today, I think we came as near as we ever have to finding a place that ticked all the boxes and delivered a perfect experience …

We chose to visit Le Roc du Boeuf (www.lerocduboeuf.com) in Rochechouart in the Limousin area of France.  Rochechouart is a beautiful traditional French town set in rolling countryside and topped with an imposing chateau.  It’s about a 30 minute drive from our maison secondaire. There’s ample parking and an outdoor terrace for summer dining.

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The restaurant is owned and run by three ladies. The décor is traditional, rustic, artisanal and stylish. The restaurant has a galleried landing and a roaring welcoming open fire.  A huge metal
chandelier, decorated with white feathers, dominates the airspace. Ceramic and interesting objets d’art fill the room and are dressed with crisp green apples, white feathers and other quirky stuff. Paintings by local artists adorn the walls.  It’s clean, uncluttered, feminine but not fluffy and reflects the personalities of the owners.

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Our
welcome from Nathalie was warm and friendly and we were offered a choice of
tables to sit at.  The ambiance was friendly and there was quiet smooth music in the background (not too intrusive thank goodness!). The acoustics were good. Other guests included a French couple, a party of eight English and another two groups of 6 – 8 French. The restaurant can seat around 30 people.

We opted for the set 28€ menu, both choosing the same dishes. Service was good even though there was only one waitress for the entire clientele and most had arrived at about the same time.

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We were given a tray of beautifully crisp, featherlight, buttery seeded puff pastry straws to have with our aperitif. (I chose a dry white wine and Nigel chose a local Chestnut wine).

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An amuse bouche followed – a light mousse of pumpkin, lemon and pistachio, presented in a flute and decorated with an edible flower. Gorgeous!

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Our starter was a duck mousse, lightly whipped and shaped in to a golf ball sized ball and coated in very fine breadcrumbs. This was then ‘speared’ between two slices of lightly toasted bread and topped with a perfectly dressed pile of lambs lettuce. The plate was garnished with a roasted cherry tomato, a smear of harissa paste and a few blobs of red pepper sauce which added flavour and colour. What a change to having pate served as an uninteresting slab!  I would think that the pate could be shaped using a small ice cream scoop and then gently rolled in the crumbs – I can’t wait to try this!

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Our tastebuds were now well and truly whetted.

The main course did not disappoint either. This was a stew of wild boar with potato and celeriac mash. The presentation was superb. The chef clearly understands how important this is. The potato was shaped into a round and surrounded with subtle garlic flavoured toasts and topped with vegetable crisps. The texture and flavour of the meat was sublime, and melted in the mouth.

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The dessert was a perfect warm melting chocolate fondant spiked with a chocolate Mikado straw and served with a tiny pot of mint ice cream – delicious combination.  The French name for this dessert has a suggestive double meaning but I can’t remember what it is! Perhaps one of you French linguists can help me out?

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After this we had a tiny expresso which was served with a perfect home-made macaron. Mine was pistachio and Nigel’s, raspberry.

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Look at ‘the feet’ on that! Those of you who have ever tried to make macarons will know how hard it is to achieve such good results!!

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Every detail about this meal was perfect, including the china, cutlery and glassware. The water jug was a dark ceramic, handleless vessel (locally made by an artisan) and contained a fishing float to let the waitress know when it needed topping up. The bread was served in a dinky little wire basket. Even the sugar bowl was decorated with colourful sweeties. All these special things made us feel that we were dining in a private home. The attention to detail was extraordinary.

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We considered it to be good value and the sort of place we would like to visit every three months or so. The menu isn’t very big (not necessarily a bad thing) and they change it with each season. Definitely a place to go for a special occasion and we think that it now tops our list as our favourite restaurant in France or, indeed, anywhere.

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