Ferme au Grives (a “grive” is a thrush in English) is the casual sister restaurant of Les Pres d'Eugenie. It is located on the same property a short walk from the main house, and is set in a converted barn. The main dining room is dominated by a huge fire at the back of the room, with multiple spits on which birds and suckling pigs are roasted. In front of this is a large wooden table groaning with vegetables and fruit. There is an additional dining section upstairs overlooking the fire, and here enticing cooking aromas rise up from the animals roasting over the flames.
The meal offers nibbles followed by three courses, all for €52 (£46). There is a very short wine list with a few basic bottles, quite different from the vast tome in the main restaurant. Mr Guerard apparently wants to keep the rustic simplicity of this place, so everything here is in line with that, from the simple wines to the basic crockery. I was told at an earlier visit that they have specifically asked Michelin not to inspect it – Ferme au Grives is aimed at the local population at least as much as the tourists staying at the property. Certainly on this Sunday lunch it was packed out.
The nibbles are large, freshly made gougeres and a few slices of saucisson. Although I prefer my gougeres to have more cheese than these, the quality of the choux pastry was evident (16/20). I began with a terrine of pig trotters and foie gras, served with toast and a green salad. The terrine had excellent texture and deep meaty flavour, and even the simple salad had a fine salad dressing, made with high grade oil and vinegar (17/20).
Cream of mushroom soup sounds very simple but had terrific flavour. The wild mushrooms were excellent and the stock used was lovely, the soup flavoured with herbs. There was a poached egg and melba toast as garnish, and the seasoning was precise. The soup also had a hint of chestnut flavour (16/20).
Local Landes chicken was cooked on the spit and served on the bone, with crispy skin laced with sweet onions and Parmesan. The bird rested in a sauce of the cooking juices. For those used to tasteless mass-produced UK chickens, the flavour here is a revelation. The Landes chicken here is a different creature entirely from the birds that we have sadly become all too used to (17/20). Monkfish came with a thyme butter herb sauce tinged with a little orange. The fish itself was beautifully cooked, and I would have scored this a notch higher except for the orange flavour, which felt just a little off-key to me, though I suppose that is a matter of personal taste (16/20).
Apricot and apple tart had the same gorgeous pastry as elsewhere on this property, the fruit in lovely balance. The quality of the fruit was excellent and this was a simple but top-notch dessert (17/20). Even better was a waffle with red fruit compote. If you think of a waffle as one of those rock-hard concoctions that you see in American supermarkets, then think again. This had the shape of a waffle, with its ice-cube tray appearance, but the leavened batter was staggeringly soft in texture, coated with icing sugar and simply beautiful to taste. I had no idea that a waffle could be even distantly as good as this. Moreover, the fruit compote was fabulous, the cherries having terrific flavour, supplemented by raspberries, their acidity a lovely foil to the waffle. I don’t think that 19/20 is really fair to this – this would sit proudly as a dessert in any three star restaurant.
Service here is simple but friendly. We just had water so the total bill was €55 (£49) a head, a ludicrously generous bargain given the exceedingly high standard of the food here. If I lived anywhere near here then you would have to prise me out of the place. This may be notionally rustic, country fare but the standard of food trounces plenty of multi-starred restaurants. It is one of the great hidden gems of world cuisine.