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Georges Blanc

place du marche, Vonnas, France

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Vonnas is 50 miles from Lyon airport, a small village where George Blanc shops and restaurants seem to dominate the town. Near the village of Bresse, this region is home to the famous appellation chicken “Poulet Bresse”, the only chicken with an appellation.  The rooms (we stayed in room 27) are spacious and well appointed.  However, rather like Paul Bocuse, Georges Blanc is an institution, and sadly it is living off its past reputation.  The food is really only 1 star Michelin while the service was remarkably inept for a top French restaurant.

Wine was barely topped up, water hardly ever, bread even more rarely, waiters did not always know who had ordered what, and getting attention was far from easy.  Service would have been about 12/20, if I scored service. The cooking across two meals here was consistently competent, but always around the 16/20 or so level e.g. fillets of red mullet with mushrooms and sorrel, or salad of lobster with quite ordinary leaves. Poulet Bresse itself was of very good quality, but I have had it cooked much better at Au Crocodile in Strasbourg, for example.  Here it was served three ways, though two of them seemed virtually identical, just roasted and served with a cream sauce. Indeed the cooking style is quite heavy, with a lot of use of butter and cream; this is traditional in the area, but surely the odd bit of green vegetable would not hurt?

The cheese trolleys (there were three) clearly have a high turnover, and yet cheese was by no means of the highest order e.g. Brie de Meaux that was not ripe, Reblochon also not ready.  Desserts were again capable but unexciting e.g. pineapple grapefruit served with a chocolate ice cream. One was actively bad – a very poor apple millefeuille, which I hardly touched but was whisked away without inquiry.  The wine list is huge, with 2,500 different selections, and the mark-ups are not too outrageous. Still, with a price of about £150 a head with fairly modest wine, this is a lot of money for what is really one Michelin star food. The place is huge, with over 100 covers, and you get the firm impression of a slightly cynical milking of past glories. One highlight was the little bistro nearby also owned by George Blanc, where we had an excellent 15/20 lunch for just £30 each, with a more appealing menu (and better bread) than the main restaurant.

 

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  • Tariq Khan

    Well what can one say? We dined there in September 2006 & got the distinct impression that Blanc knows he will never lose his 3 stars. The man spends most of his time running around the little square - most of which he owns. Yes the Brasserie is just as good as the main place which says it all really. The other issue is Bresse chicken. Talk about over-rated. Large & hardly tender I really don't know what all the fuss is about! My wife had the "death by chicken" menu as I called it after seeing 7 courses that covered more or less the whole bird! For the the dish that stuck out was the fois gras - why oh why ruin this by adding curry powder to it??? At the end of the meal we had coffee in the reception cum bar area only to be accosted by Blanc & fil wanting to autograph a meanu for us to take back!! Needless to say I shan't be going back anytime soon. At least at Bocuse (visited on same trip) the food is honest without the showmanship though perhaps not deserving of 3 stars.

  • Pierre

    The big question is why ? Usually when big names do open brasseries et al it's a big letdown being a pure commercial push to raise some money to run "the" place. Here however it's a bit the opposite. I had once lunch at the restaurant, and once in one the several brasseries. Basically the food was the same. Really. For a brasserie it's ok, for a three stared (or even two starred) restaurant it's hard to accept.

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