Food Food mainly, Domaine des Hauts de Loire, Onzain

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Nigel Groundwater, Aug 5, 2018.


  1. I used to post photos of the excellent dishes provided at our annual visits to some of our favourite French restaurants; Les Crayeres, Reims; Cote St. Jacques, Joigny; Lameloise, Chagny and Troisgros, Roanne [haven’t yet been to their re-location at Ouches] but most particularly Domaine des Hauts de Loire just outside Onzain between Blois and Tours.

    Of course all these locations also provide the opportunity to visit and buy the local wines.

    However we have only managed the latter so far this year maintaining a 23 year unbroken streak whereas the others except Les Crayeres, which we began at even longer ago, have been more occasional visits. So for those who are interested I have included below 4 each of the starters, main courses and desserts.

    En passant we stayed overnight at the Michelin 1* Manoir du Lys at Bagnoles de L’Orne on the way to the Loire. Good food but a very good wine list which for a UK visitor contained some white Burgundy bargains.

    The weather was forecast to be and was exceptional [July 24-31] so we had decided that our regular hopelessly greedy purchases [only made possible by the hotel’s willingness to cellar the excess over our car’s capacity for later collection] would be severely curtailed. We did manage a single trip to Sancerre but eschewed its normal extension to Chablis. And our normal visits to Baudry, Joguet, Amirault, Mabileau, Blot, Chidaine and Huet were also avoided.

    And we also forced ourselves to confine our Sancerre visits/purchases to Thomas-Labaille [two of his lovely and inexpensive whites: Authentique and Les Aristides and excellent the Rose] with the ever-jovial Mr Labaille and to Andre Dezat [his Traditional & Prestige Pouilly Fume and Prestige Red] whereas we would usually have also included and bought from Henri Bourgeois and Gerard Boulay in Chavignol [it’s easier to buy Cotat wines from Chidaine’s La Cave Insolite in Montlouis], Lucien Crochet in Bue and Alphonse Mellot and Vacheron in Sancerre itself with a swift nip across the river to Didier Dagueneau.
    The photos of the food were taken mainly with my phone with no flash so please forgive the lack of quality which is hopefully still enough to communicate the general excellence of Remy Giraud’s creations. The words are straight from his a la carte menu.
    1. ARTICHOKE TEXTURES. Mild harissa sorbet. Barigoule jus, green coriander and black and fruity by Xavier ALAZARD

    2. COURGETTE FLOWERS BY Samuel MARPAULT Roasted Anjou quinoa and egg plant béarnaise. Olive oil ice cream

    3. EEL Pan fried fillet. Crispy golden bread crumbs with celery seeds

    4. SPIDER CRAB Fennel mousse. Cucumber with dill and preserved lemon

    5. TURBOT Pan-fried. Polenta with green cardamom and grapefruit confit. Crispy skin in a lacy crêpe. Sweetcorn and butter mousse.

    6. PIKE Flavored with cured ham, in a potato crust. Beetroot ketchup and truffled turnip risotto. Zabaglione with butter sauce.

    7. SQUAB BY Rémy ANEZO Roasted with the press juices. Buttered spinach with cocoa nibs

    8. RACK AND SHOULDER OF LAMB Chick peas with raspberry and saffron oil. Tender baby turnips candied [this seems to have disappeared in the upload so appears out of sequence]

    9. THE RASPBERRY Stuffed with blackcurrant , Basil and lemon sorbet Raspberry jam coulis

    10. THE PEACH Roasted with honey. Caramelized apricot sorbet Light rosemary cream.Provence herbs sorbet.

    11. THE STRAWBERRY In poppy vinegar tartare, candied beets Strawberry and beet sorbet

    12. LIME SOUFFLE

    13. PLAIN FRUIT SALAD

    ARTICHOKE TEXTURES. S 2018-07-31 235943-1676634.jpg COURGETTE FLOWERS S 2018-07-31 234050-2279421.jpg EEL S 2018-08-01 001247-1551197.jpg SPIDER CRAB Fennel mousse. Cucumber with dill and preserved lemon S 2018-07-31 233900-1493973.jpg TURBOT Pan-fried. S 2018-07-31 234209-1916600.jpg PIKE  Flavored with cured ham, in a potato crust. S 2018-07-31 235206-1344661.jpg SQUAB BY Rémy ANEZO Roasted with the press juices. S 2018-07-31 234325-2538726.jpg THE RASPBERRY  Stuffed with blackcurrant S 2018-07-31 235738-1760894.jpg THE PEACH Roasted with honey.  S 2018-07-31 234738-1761123.jpg THE STRAWBERRY In poppy vinegar tartare 2018-08-01 000529-1434865.jpg LIME SOUFFLE S 2018-07-31 234611-1618372.jpg PLAIN FRUIT SALAD  2018-07-31 235557-2121165.jpg RACK AND SHOULDER OF LAMBS 2018-07-31 234456-1926612.jpg
     

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    Last edited: Aug 5, 2018
  2. Thanks as ever, Nigel. I’ll post some thoughts on Crayeres and Lameloise in a while, though I haven’t been taking photos.
     
  3. You seem to have eaten rather well Nigel!
     
  4. First thoughts looking at that (don’t worry about what’s taking photos as look stunning) is what a LOT of work and effort to get dishes like that.
    Saying that they do charge for it though I don’t normally look or worry about pricing at any top Michelin restaurant but it did raise an eyebrow with €35 for the kids menu or €60+ for a main course and €35 for starter. Saying that it’s probably stunning.

    I’m only used to local London Michelin restaurants and the odd one abroad,
    Le Gindreau in the Lot region the only 2 star I’ve eaten in and very much looking forward to another visit shortly.

    Thanks for pictures and raising awareness as not somewhere I knew of.
     
  5. Nigel
    It's the only place where the cooking enables me to eat this kind of food every day for all the days we stay there [6 days this July but only 4 in the gourmet dining rooms - the lowest for many years - but up to 11 if I go back a few years]. However this year is the first year they decided that the gourmet restaurant will only be open from Thursday to Sunday with their brand new Bistrot open all week for lunch and dinner 6 days a week - shut Thursday. I suppose I should be grateful but the Wednesday and Monday were quite a change of gear. At least for me with Susan reminding me that it was a Bistrot with a very different business model. I have included a few photographs of the Bistrot food - and the sunset eating outside on the Bistrot terrace on our first night there.
    1 Courgette soup Refreshed with harissa sorbet
    2 Melon with tarragon syrup, Tangy granita
    3 Chilled peaches dish Verbena and yogurt whipped cream
    4 Sunset from the Bistrot terrace

    As I think you can see the beautiful food served in the Michelin 2* dining rooms is in decent but not large portions and their half board prices mitigate the individually priced items on the a la carte menu which I assume Mike is referring to when wondering about the level of prices when staying there.
    On balance and taking into account room prices [we have an everytime favourite that is in the middle of a very wide range] it is very much less than anything similar we know in the UK.
    Even for a one-off seems pretty competitive on a like for like basis particularly bearing in mind the prices include VAT AND Service. I recall my surprise when I saw that Bibendum had added 15% for service when I had been expecting 12.5%.
    We take a very light lunch or just have some tea in the late afternoon in preparation for the gourmet dinner. Of course some might prefer to take the lunch [same a la carte menu] but we always choose dinner.
    It may seem odd but our weight does not increase over our stays there. Perhaps the swimming pool and the extensive grounds help with that but friends that have occasionally joined us there for 3-4 days have actually claimed they lost a little weight while fully expecting it to have increased.

    They have also added a spa which I am sure will appeal to some but we managed to refrain from that at least this time. Plus a cookery school with its own dedicated kitchen where Remy can involve guests who wish to learn his secrets


    Courgette soup Refreshed with harissa sorbet  S 2018-07-31 233358-2238659.jpg Melon with tarragon syrup, Tangy granita S 2018-07-31 233429-1899726.jpg S 2018-07-31a 233331-2720388.jpg Sunset Bistro Dom des H de L  2018-07-30  222838-1402948.jpg .
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2018
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  6. I look forward to hearing them Simon. We must have been to Les Crayeres 30 times over the past 25 years [only once in the Brasserie some years ago] and while I again love the food under Philippe Mille [things rather fell apart under his predecessor after Thierry Voisin left for Tokyo] Susan feels that the main dining rooms have 'lost that loving feeling' - too few tables taken, too few locals and much less staff than in the good old days under Gerard Boyer, his wife Eliane and Chef de Cuisine Thierry Voisin. At least Philippe Jamesse the head sommelier is still there. We have only been twice in the last 5 years.

    Of course I understand that the Brasserie there is humming all the time but I wonder if, while attracting a wider more consistent clientele - particularly useful in the winter months, it hasn't greatly undermined the main Le Parc dining rooms.
    I feared [still fear] the same might happen at the Domaine des Hauts de Loie with their new Bistrot. I hope not and there are major differences.
     
  7. Nigel, the photo quality seems more than fine to show off these lovely dishes to my unprofessional eye. The dishes are magnificent and I have always rather envied your knowledge and experience of this somewhat secret place just outside of Blois.

    Will you forgive my rather gauche question as to what a room with dinner and breakfast might cost there, approximately, these days?
     
  8. Professional eye or not the pictures are just fine and look great on my iPad :)
    The colours and effort come through strongly and I’m sure I can almost smell a few dishes.

    Only info I found on pricing was main website. I even saw they have a kids club though I’ll leave mine at home for something like this.
    They are at that young tearway age.
    Les Hauts de Loire I Hotel, Restaurant, Spa, Châteaux de la Loire I Site Officiel

    Looks a great place.
     
  9. David please regard my figures with some suspicion because we have been going there for so long and so often that I suspect we may be getting something of a special deal and treatment. However we have 4 friends [two couples] who have joined us for 3-4 days for the past 6 years and AFAIK their bills have been similar.

    The main attraction has always been Remi Giraud’s superb food in their gourmet dining rooms but as their website amply demonstrates there are other things to commend it.

    Sadly the gourmet restaurant is only now open from Thursday to Sunday with the new bistrot open every day except Thursday. I say sadly because for many years we managed to eat comfortably 7 days a week in the former and would still do so if available. Please note it is essential to reserve a place for dinner or lunch when booking a room to avoid finding the restaurant fully booked particularly at this time of year.

    The bistrot is clearly popular since it was always full but my age makes such changes more difficult to accept and the two are, IMO only of course, an even more polarised experience than Le Parc versus the Brasserie at Les Crayeres, Reims.

    The amount paid will always significantly depend on the specific room and wines and other drinks chosen plus whether, as we do, a light lunch or instead, later, a light tea is also taken at the hotel. All in, I still budget about £550-600/day at this time of year for the days the gourmet restaurant is open [at 1.12 Euros/£]. There are seasonal variations in room prices and availability.

    However there's a very wide range of room type and price as you can see from their website and we always choose the same room - one of the least expensive but with a fine king-size bed, air-conditioned as required, a large 2 basin bathroom and bath and a separate WC.

    We always book early to ensure we get ‘our’ room and have always refused the free upgrades offered since it suits us perfectly. However the more expensive room prices will dominate any final bill.

    Of course that is a considerable sum [obviously much more attractive when the £ was much stronger] but includes everything even the very occasional 120 Euros [rather than the more usual 50-80 Euro] splash on our shared bottle of wine at dinner plus an aperitif before dinner [glass of champagne for Susan, large gin and tonic for me] with which 4 canapes each are served plus coffee for me and a lot of [expensive] water for both of us. It also includes the occasional light lunch [about half the days we are there] or a light afternoon tea with a financier cake instead. Room prices and the gourmet and bistrot menus with prices are also on their website so you can do your own check. All my photographs relate to the current menu on the website.

    By UK comparison we haven't stayed overnight at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons for many years but IIRC the cheapest room sans anything is today more than £600. I consider the cuisine qualitatively similar and the dishes [we were there earlier this year] even more expensive particularly when service is taken into account.

    Please PM me if you have anything further questions I might be able to help with but hopefully I have covered what you were looking for since there isn’t a single answer without considerable qualification.
     
  10. Thank you, Nigel. Your generously full reply deserves more than my merely pressing the “like” button.
     
  11. This will be necessarily brief, Nigel, not least because I only took a couple of photos. Crayères was interesting. I'd not been before, but managed two visits at either end of our holiday. On out first pass through, we sat outside on the terrace for aperitifs and canapés. Fizz rather alarmingly kept in a Perspex trolley, in and out of the direct sunlight. One glass of Comtes bubbly and vibrant in the glass, the other as flat as a pancake (pours one and two from a new bottle).

    We took the Crustacean set menu, details as per the website currently. What to make of it? Well, the presentation was always excellent, generally very pretty and sometimes really quite intricate. First up, the langoustine carpaccio, but the dish generally pretty bland. It seemed a waste of what had probably been quite good langoustines. The second course was gamberoni, smoked haddock and saffron potatoes. A very large tiger prawn appeared, per person, for carving at the table. Duly carved and arranged on the kitchen-assembled plate with haddock and potato. The prawn was gorgeous. Superb produce, cooked exquisitely. It would have been fantastic on a plate without further dressing. The potato and smoked haddock rather left us feeling “so what?”, serving to add nothing for our palates.

    Next up, the wild spiny lobster with beans, miso and onion. Another pleasant enough few mouthfuls but probably not worth the kitchen’s efforts. The roast lobster was a different story though. Simple, and tasty, and served simply alongside fine tagliatelle cooked in a champagne sauce and topped with a very generous portion of oscietra caviar. Comfort food for the Gods, along the lines of La T’s tagliatelle with butter, parmesan and black truffle.

    Pudding was pretty, and I have a photo.


    4AD512A8-DE31-47E0-BCB9-54E9AF619D8D.jpeg

    Variations on the Reims pink biscuit and of raspberry. I enjoyed it. The wine list, especially the fizzy portion, is as excellent as I believe it is known to be. We followed the 07 Comtes aperitif with a bottle of Selosse’s Côte Faron which was an excellent accompaniment to the food. Overall, yes, possibly a little soulless and quiet in the dining room, friendly enough staff of varying competence, but overall he food gave the impression of a good to superb main ingredient that wasn’t enhanced or necessarily complemented by the rest of the food on the plate.

    For the return visit we took our aperitif and amuses inside (35C outside even with the sun setting), and ate from the carte. This was more successful. I started with the lobster/caviar/fine tagliatelle and followed it with the turbot. The fish had been cooked in a vine leaf parcel in tomato broth, and was served with “different kinds of tomato and young onions”. The reality was more a dish of tomatoes that happened to have a bit of turbot loosely associated with it. All very nice, but one could have ditched the fish and made it a lovely first course celebration of tomatoness. My wife had the foie gras to start with, and this was also very nicely presented. All sorts of fine vegetables either as miniature veg, or in intricate little parcels arranged in the bowl alongside the generous portion of liver. This was served with a tea pot of poaching liquer turned consommé, largely champagne I assume, which was poured in to the bowl to cover the smaller items. It was devoured with enthusiasm. Breast of veal followed, and again, lots of detailed and precise arrangement. Another success. We both took the Chocolate from Guinea and Sao Tomé in its various guises for pudding. Again, a success, and a photo.


    89BF1B88-03E1-4D11-B29A-0D87D6E5BDE5.jpeg


    Crayères? Overall a success. Service a little variable — by way of example, some tables got napkins with their nibbles/amuses, some didn’t (my greasy post-parmesan-tuille fingerprints can probably still be found adorning one of the menus). There were other little examples of this inconsistency / lack of attention to detail. I’ll go back, but I suspect there would still be a slight lottery element to unfamiliar dishes. Two stars is fair, three would not be. I’ve not been to Assiette since it was a good 1* and early 2*, but the food there struck me as better / more interesting, but also more modern. Crayères remains reassuringly traditional.

    Sadly only the one visit to Lameloise, but what a belter! We’d not been since Jacques was still in the kitchen, and indeed our last visit must have been when he was in his brief two-star ‘dip’, though we never noticed a decline. Delighted to see the Maitre d’ still there, and also Patrick in the dining room. Atmosphere unchanged. As friendly as ever. The food very Lameloise, perhaps a little more modern under Eric Pras, but just as generous as previously. Indeed, having made discreet enquiries as to whether slipping in an extra starter might be a good idea (there were two that I fancied), the clear advice was not to, and this proved very sensible. A disaster averted. The lobster and strawberry dish looked pretty enough, and the lobster tasted good, but it was a long way from my all time favourite preparation which was Jacques’s mille-feuille of lobster and tomato. Fortunate then that I’d been persuaded away from adding this, and had instead opted for a girolles tartlet. Mushroom heaven. It was, of course, rather more intricate and elaborate than it sounds, but in the online absence of the a la carte menu, that’s the best I can manage. Suffice to say, I’d made the correct choice. We both took the pigeon as a main course. Served off the bone, breasts simply (I assume) roasted, legs en confit, and served with variations of cauliflower and some apricot elements. Lovely, and whilst rich and (very) filling, the dish was lightened and made more summery by the addition of the apricots. Puddings were of strawberry and lemon & jasmin respectively, and both lovely.

    The wine list was varied. Quite a wide range from the Côte de Nuits, but priced as one might fear, and all young vintages. The Côte de Beaune brought the odd bottle with a little more maturity, and slightly friendlier pricing. A complete lack half bottles meant that we started (after the seemingly ubiquitous 07 Comtes) with a bottle of Xavier Monnot Meursault Charmes 2010 followed by glasses of red from the reasonable by the glass selection.

    I shall be happy to return to Crayères, though probably having another look at L’Assiette Champenoise first, but I shall be actively engineering opportunities to get back to Lameloise. Apologies, this has turned out somewhat less brief than I’d anticipated.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018
  12. Lameloise is everything a French *** should be.
     
  13. Simon

    Many thanks for the detailed, descriptive updates on Les Crayeres and Lameloise. As for brevity I am the worst possible example and I doubt that anybody who enjoys the description, verbal or photographic, of such food could take exception to the care and enjoyment you put into your report. The same is of course true of your wine notes.

    I have so many good memories of both - Crayeres for family anniversaries of every kind and wine buying as well as a staging post on travels further south and on the way home. Lameloise en route to go skiing when we still did that and for food and wine subsequently. Pic too has very good memories but is not now on the route we choose to go south.
    However, as I mentioned, while I still love Phillipe Mille's food and find Philippe Jamesse's wine advice as reliable as ever the atmosphere sadly seems to have gone from the Le Parc restaurant. We thought it might be because we had stayed there most recently in the middle of the week but our last visit was as usual overnight but on a Friday and Le Parc was still very far from full.
    Lameloise has not suffered in the same way at all and I would be interested in knowing if others think that the Brasserie at Les Crayeres, which I believe is always full, may be a significant factor. Perhaps we just no longer go often enough but so much has changed there in the last 10+ years..
    I will resist posting further photographic examples of the superb content and presentation of both houses except for what I think might have been the foie gras dish you describe from your second visit.

    As for L'Assiette Champenoise [when a 2*] we have only been once and only because Les Crayeres restaurant was closed. The food was very good but the hotel was horrible, indeed dirty, although our stay was many years ago and I understand from reports read on this site, including a visit by Tom C, that major modernisation has taken place, and along with its elevation to 3*, it also has some very nice rooms now.

    Frankly I find it very hard to tell the difference between 2* and 3* restaurants except possibly the pricing and have experienced many transitions from one to another and sometimes back again e.g. Les Crayeres from 3 to 2 and a period when it had none and back to 2. Lameloise from 3 to 2 and back to 3 and Cote St. Jacques from 3 to 2. I also wonder about the 2s and 3s in and around London and oddly I have found more consistency and personal pleasure in the 2* with our [fortunately rare] disappointments confined to the 3*.

    FWIW we now avoid special or tasting menus [save for rarities like El Celler de Can Roca] preferring to choose 3 courses from the Carte with the inevitable and usually very tasty amuses providing filling additions.
    Foie Gras, Les Crayeres.jpg
    Foie Gras, Les Crayeres by the Philippe Mille brigade
     
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