Le Gambetta, Saumur’s First Michelin Restaurant
Today, the 27th. October was my birthday, (I mention the date just in case anyone wants to start saving for a present for next year).
It is also the date when the leaders of the Euro Zone seem to have finally reached an agreement on the debt crisis. That being the case, I thought that they could stand a little more debt and so we decided to go to Le Gambetta.
Le Gambetta is certainly not cheap. Evening menus From €29,50 to €94,00. Its main claim to fame is the fact that it is Saumur’s first Michelin starred restaurant. To me, however, I shall always remember it as the restaurant where the dessert is a comedy act and leaves you, if not exactly splitting your sides, then certainly chuckling in a very contented manner. But more about this later.
Situated on a side road near the Cavalry School in the centre of Saumur. This tiny eatery of only six tables, was purchased by Céline et Mickaël Pihours in 2006. After only a few months they were mentioned in the Michelin Guide and in 2010 were awarded their first Michelin star.
We went on a Thursday night and for the first hour were there on our own and served by a team of four people after being pleasantly received by Céline. After that time another three tables were taken so we no longer felt that we were keeping the staff from their beds. But, even if the place was full, I cannot think of another restaurant where the staff to customer ratio is as high as here. Needless to say the service was impeccable. When each course arrived at the table each intricate detail was carefully explained by one of the very knowledgeable team.
The dining room itself whilst attractive is quite minimilist but, when the food arrives, it doesn’t really matter because all your attention is focused on the creation in front of you. Of course there is a Michelin starred chef in the kitchen but I think there must also be an award winning architect because everything that is served arrives as a sort of architectural fantasy. Now, I am greatly in favour of well cooked, local cuisine but, every now and again what a treat it is to eat in a temple to food where every taste combination, every texture and the placement of every item on the plate has clearly been the result of much thought and planning.
Given the attention to detail you can expect to wait a while in between courses but, to fill in the spaces, a series of intricate amuse-bouche are served. Effectivel,y these make the three course menu at €53,90 into something approaching a six course menu. Flavour combinations are adventurous and, to be fair, one or two did seem a little discordant to Sheila but there are so many tastes and textures that it wasn’t really that important.
Because of the complexity it is actually quite difficult to describe how the dishes are presented so it is probably better if you have a look at the picture gallery on the restaurant site and you will get the idea.
One thing is certain, once each plate is delivered it becomes a talking point as you try to discover the flavours and textures so dinner table chat will never be a problem if you eat here.
So, onto the dessert. It is called Souvenirs d’enfance, (Childhood Memories) and features all those childhood flavours which are hidden deep in our subconscious from a time when kids ate proper rubbish! Toffee apples, sticky toffee, ice cream, homemade lemonade and, believe it or not – candyfloss. Having been prompted to dreamily relive the endless, hot summer days of days long past, remembering roaming around hills and fields with a group of scruffy, ragamuffins all with grazed knees and sunburnt faces, I then come back to reality and noticed a small portion of what looks like grated chocolate on the side of the plate. Sheila put hers into her mouth, let the chocolate melt and then I saw her eyes widen and looks of alarm and then amazement flash across her face as the tiny particles started to explode on her tongue. I tried it and the tiny explosions were surprisingly strong, rattling my teeth and actually seemingly biting my tongue.
As I said you just had to smile.