This restaurant is located in the sleepy village of Chasseley, 20km (12 miles) north of Lyon with a population of a couple of thousand people and not even a train station to its name. It does, however, have this fine restaurant, which has been running under the current chef/owner since 1984.
The dining room is carpeted, with no music playing and so there are blissfully low noise levels, even when it is full as it was tonight. There was a five course tasting menu at €115 as well as an extensive a la carte selection. The wine list had around 800 references, with selections such as Loew Bruderbach Riesling 2012 at €40 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for €31, Jean-Michel Gerin Champin Le Seigneur 2014 at €95 compared to its retail price of €41, and Nicholas Joly Coule de Serrant 2008 at €135 for a wine that will set you back €102 in a shop. If you have the means then there were prestige wines too, such as Guigal La Turque 2007 at €480 compared to its retail price of €296, and Guigal La Mouline 2009 at €680 for a bottle whose current market value is €478.
The meal began with some nibbles, which gave little indication of the delights to come. Parsnip cream with chestnut crisps had quite intense parsnip flavour and delicate crisps. Trout gravadlax with cauliflower cream and a tapioca crisp was also very good, the flavour balance of the slightly oily dish with the earthy cauliflower working well. Foie gras cream, smoked duck breast and mushroom foam was suitably rich and indulgent (17/20 nibbles).
Crab and avocado is a classic combination, here beautifully presented as a ring of avocado topped with crab, surrounded by a further ring of broad beans and sugar peas with lettuce leaves, with a garnish of caviar and chopped herbs on top and some sheep cheese to one side. The crab was superbly fresh and the vegetables were of exceptional quality (19/20). Even better were langoustine tails wrapped in angel hair pasta, served with a beurre blanc sauce flavoured with Madagascar vanilla. The shellfish were beautifully sweet and flawlessly cooked, their pasta coating providing a crunchy contrast, the beurre blanc having just enough sharpness to balance the dish, the fragrant note of vanilla present but restrained (20/20).
Fillet of red mullet came with black truffles tucked inside ("demi deuil") with artichoke barigoule (the vegetables braised in a tangy broth) with truffle jus. The fish was superbly cooked, the skin interleaved with fragrant black truffles, on a bed of cep mushrooms, with a rich jus. This was a fabulous combination, the only tiny flaw in the dish being that the artichoke hearts were a touch soft, but this is being really picky (19/20).
My main course was a crisp spicy sphere that enclosed fillet of quail laced with foie gras, with compote of onions and apricots to the side. The flavour of the quail with its rich liver accompaniment was glorious, the spices in the crust nicely enhancing the natural flavours, and the acidity of the apricots able to balance the richness of the liver. This was a fantastic example of high end French cooking, the flavours intense yet balanced, the overall effect indulgent and delightful. It was even better than I remember it (20/20).
A cheese trolley was wheeled into view next, groaning with a vast selection of superb cheese in flawless condition. No chalky centre to the St Maure de Touraine here, no fridge-cold soft cheese as so often occurs even at high end restaurants; everything was perfectly ripe.
Pre-dessert was a panna cotta of blackcurrant garnished with crystallised violets with a lovely madeleine. The fruit was superb and the texture of the panna cotta suitably light and wobbly (19/20). For dessert, raspberries and lemon cream came inside a cone of tuile, garnished with a sliver of lemon crisp. This was stunning in every way, the balance of sweetness and acidity perfect, the tuile ethereal (20/20). Also dazzling was a nod to Black Forest gateau, with sheets of dark bitter chocolate and hazelnut with morello cherry sorbet. The cake element was superb but the sorbet was extraordinary, with perfect texture and remarkable depth of flavour (20/20). This is the kind of quality of dessert that hardly ever appears in a kitchen outside France. Finally there was an array of fine mignardise: delicate almond tuiles, fruit jelly, profiteroles, pink praline tartlet, an orange macaron with chocolate filling and a few chocolate covered almonds. Coffee was from a Nespresso machine but was surprisingly good. I am not sure what pod was used here but it was certainly better than the usual ones I encounter at home.
Service was excellent, with topping up flawless and the staff friendly and helpful. The bill came to €251 (£217) a head, though this was with some pretty serious wine. The food component of the meal came to €99 each including cheese, so if you shared a modest bottle then a typical cost per head for three courses might be around €115 (£100) per head. This seems to me absurdly good value. A whole meal here will cost you less than a main course at 1947, the newest three star place in France up in the nearby Alps, yet the food here is quite evidently superior to it based on meals on successive nights at the two restaurants. If you are ever anywhere near Lyon then do yourself a favour and eat at this superb, underrated restaurant.
Further reviews: 15th Nov 2014