le puy a vins

In Le Puy a Vins Restaurant with our regular guests and friends, Jim and Sue from Kent, who came to Le Clos des Guyons for a March break.

It’s always been a bit difficult for us to eat at Le Puy a Vins Restaurant at 10 rue des hotels, in our village of Le Puy Notre Dame, as we are such good friend of Jean-Yves who is’ le patron’ of the older village restaurant, le Bouchon Ponot  but, as he was on holiday, we ate at le Puy A Vins Restaurant without feeling guilty!  Situated in a wonderful position at the side of the gothic, Collegiale church, the restaurant is just a five minute walk from our holiday accommodation gites “Le Sauvignon” and “Le Chenin” at Le Clos des Guyons  in rue du Moulin.

The ambiance of the restaurant is lovely, with a warm welcome, nice fresh tablecloths and lots of softly lit candles making it all the more inviting. The food was prepared by their excellent chef, David Beaufreton, who offers lots of culinary creativity.  This was accompanied by a bottle of 2010 AOC Saumur “Puy Notre Dame” Vin Rouge made by fifth generation winemaker Bruno Albert of the  ‘Domaine du Vieux Pressoir’ situated in the adjoining commune of  le Vaudelnay. Of course we were not disappointed!  This Domaine now has 26 hectares of AOC Saumur  and Saumur-Puy Notre Dame vineyards located on two hills of different terroir (Turonian and Jurassic) and a high reputation for excellent wines.

We liked the restaurant wine list having an extensive range of over 60 Loire wines, all from the Loire Valley but with an emphasis on the local wines within a 20 kilometre radius. Romain Amblard, is in charge of the wines and he has made his clients very spoilt for choice!

Le Puy a Vins Restaurant offers ‘Cuisine Gourmande” to its customers and is open all the year round for service at midday and evenings. Lunchtimes prices are a  two course menu at 14 Euros or a three course menu for 18 Euros. Evening prices ares a two course menu at 19 Euros or a three course menu at 24 Euros. We are looking forward to making another visit very soon and recommending to our guests but don’t tell Jean-Yves who’s restaurant we will, of course, continue to frequent as well!  In fact we are very lucky indeed to have two quality restaurants in such a small village.

Bon appétit a tous! Sheila and Brian

Gites in the Loire Valley

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Hotel Le Bussy, Montsoreau – Restaurant Review

Hotel le Bussy, Montsoreau

Since we moved to the region in 2001 one of the things that we have noticed is that it is actually quite difficult to eat anywhere with really great views of the Loire.  There are some restaurants of varying standards but they are few and far between.  However, one that we have found only recently, (don’t know why because it’s not far away), is the Hotel Le Bussay in Montsoreau, just the other side of Saumur.

Montsoreau is one of the “Plus Beau Villages de France” and worth a visit just for that.  It has a famous Chateau and a stroll on the “coteaux” the narrow, winding streets on the hillside opposite the chateau, is well worth the time and effort.  The hotel is just past the Chateau, heading East towards Candes-Saint-Martin on the higher road which passes in front of the Chateau although there is a track up to the restaurant which goes from the road alongside the Loire.  It starts just past the Chateau again heading East.

The Hotel is one side of the higher road and the restaurant on the other, overlooking both the river and the Chateau and the views are truly stunning. We have only eaten there at lunchtime because we called in on the last day before it closed for the winter so we can’t say what the full evening dinner is like.  Lunch was the typical three course formula which is so common in these parts.  For around 12€ it was extremely good value, simple local produce mostly cooked on a giant BBQ outside the kitchen.  As in any eating establishment around here it provided good, well made wine from local producers.  So, well prepared and tasty, to be fair, not exactly a gastronomic masterpiece but, then again, what would you expect for that price.   Certainly when the restaurant re-opens at the start of the season, we will be eating off the menu and, if it is as good as the ambiance, I’m sure that we won’t be disappointed.

Brian and Sheila

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Beaujolais Nouveau night in Le Puy Notre Dame

Beaujolais Nouveau night in Le Puy Notre Dame

One of the events on the French cultural calendar which is never missed is held on the third Thursday of  November when the whole of France organises events to mark the opening of the Beaujolais Nouveau (the first wine of 2013’s Beajolais Harvest)!  It’s still quite a big thing probably because it’s just another reason to party.  Either special lunches or dinners are organised giving everyone a chance to celebrate wherever you live!  Officially bottles are launched and uncorked at midnight in  Beaujeu,  the ancient capital of the Beaujolais, but here we are always a little ahead!

And so in the spirit of the wine village of Le Puy Notre Dame (never known to miss out on such things) the Beaujolais Nouveau Soirée was held in ‘Le Bouchon Ponot’ Restaurant as per usual.  Over the last few years it’s become a bit of a tradition and is now always full of locals who, given that we all know each other, can quarantee a lively evening.  We had been eagerly looking forward to it all week with Chef, Jean Yves, waiting to surprise us on the night with his specially prepared menu!

This year Jean-Yves had chosen a Beaujolais -Village Nouveau- this is from vineyards that are judged to produce a richer, riper grape and on a constant basis – usually costs a bit more for its better quality.  Frankly I forget the name of the producer – by 02:30 I was having problems remembering my own name!  The wine was well liked, with glasses being poured, swirled, sniffed, views exchanged by all –  it was fruity, sturdy, young and enjoyable with a great nose of cerise (cherries) and a little pepper. There is a great deal of snobbery about Beajolais Nouveau, much of it misplaced.  It is what it is, a frothing torrent of vibrant, scented, young purple wine which floods out of the hills of Beaujolais to the delight of everyone who is a true wine lover.  The population of Lyon rioted in the streets in 1788, the year before the French Revolution but, it was nothing to do with profound questions of liberty, equality and fraternity.  It was because the Beaujolais had failed to arrive!

We got to the restaurant around 19:30 and spent the next hour passing around never ending platters loaded with delicious canapés!  It was hectic and noisy but there you go it was party night after all!!  Even those few diners who were not partaking of the special meal were treated to a glass or two of Nouveau.

As we sat down at the table – we were presented with an awsome plate of Cote de Beauf!  Rare for me, ruined (ie. well done) for Sheila.  It was gorgeous and there was an awful lot of it.  Even I couldn’t manage a second serving.  Next came fromage and after that the dessert, whilst the wine kept flowing until the early hours.  Freddo, the husband of Sonia in the bar, got back home at 04:00 as a disgruntled Sonia told me the next day.   We were quite civilised making it back about an hour earlier and that was including a trip to a friends house in the early hours.

 Thanks for a lovely evening Jean-Yves!

Raise your glasses wine lovers and enjoy!

bon courage


Gites, wine tours in the Loire Valley

Le Gambetta, Saumur’s First Michelin Restaurant

Le Gambetta, Saumur

Interior of Le Gambetta, Saumur

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.

Memories of Childhood

Dessert, The memories of Childhood

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.

Bon Appetite


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Le P’tit Resto, Saumur

If you are the sort of holidaymaker that rushes around from point A to point B or who spends all the time snapping pretty, evocative pictures then the chances are that in walking up to the flashy Auberges and Brasseries further up the street into la Place St-Pierre, Saumur, you will have missed “Le P’tit Resto” in rue de la Tonnelle completely – unless you read this blog of course!

The entrance is quite inconspicuous, there are no tables and parasols outside and no sign of busy waiters and waitresses bustling around serving food with the great “voila” which is a necessary ingredient of French panache.  If you stick your head through the door you will find no attempt to create a historical facimile.  If you go a bit further you will also see that the menu is restricted and the meat almost entirely composed of cheaper cuts, no Cote de Boeuf  here. This is the sort of cooking which our grandmothers, back in the UK, were so adept at preparing particularly in the lean years after the war. Ironically of course it is now the height of foody fashion.

interior of restaurant


So, why have I put it on this blog and on our restaurant review?  Because, simply, “Le P’tit Resto” is a Saumur institution!  Generations of office and manual workers have filled this small restaurant for years.  (One of the menus is simple called le Menu des Ouvriers, the workers menu),  and the reasons for this popularity are simple:-  it’s good, honest local food at a very affordable price, cooked and served with a smiling proficiency by the husband and wife team of Claude and Brigitte Frémont. Claude does the cooking in the open kitchen with his grills and ovens  for all to see adding to the convivial atmosphere and Brigette bustles around the tables single-handedly with cheerful politeness and efficiency .  The ‘Plat de Jour’ price is €7.80 and the set menus start at €9.80 with wine included, no wine list of course, just excellent, honest Saumur rouge, blanc or rosé by the pitcher.  Each menu starts with a visit to a groaning buffet table for your entrées followed by the main course, served at the table, afterwards a huge plateau of assorted cheese appears being shared around the tables and then the desserts, an example being Panacotta with a Coulis de Framboise, which is just delicious. There are a few options including steak if you don’t fancy the day’s fixed menus which will feature thing like:- Boudon Noir, Andouillette and Tagine de Agneau. Incidentally, the restaurant is only open at lunchtime, 1130 – 1400.

There will be those, of course, who will bemoan the lack of “theme” and the fact that there is no attempt to serve food which may have more appeal to the tourist hordes which descends on Saumur.  These people can be safely ignored because they are really missing the point which is that the restaurant is a fine example of traditional, french, regional cuisine which quietly goes its own way supported by its multitude of devotees.  In fact, it is so popular that unless you are there by midday the chances are that you will be asked to go away and come back half an hour later.  All these diners can’t be wrong!!

à bientôt


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Restaurant Review, Le Baccarat – Doué la Fontaine

Le BaccaratThe Chinese are opening one mammoth, coal-fired power station every month.  Apparently each one of these emits more carbon than the rest of the known universe. And then some. 

Which is why I decided to replace my ancient electric razor with a traditional wet one, thus doing my bit to combat the peril from the east.  All we need to do now is to stop cows farting and we are on a roll. 

So on, one of my rare sorties through SuperU Hypermarket in nearbye Doué la Fontaine, I purchased something called a Gillette Mach or Macho Razor or some suitably masculine sounding thing.  Surprisingly; it appeared to be the only item in the Men’s Hygiene Department which had no picture of David Beckham or Zinidan Zidaine stuck on it, (thankfully), but it did have a futuristic ultimate war machine on the front, or perhaps it was just a razor painted like a futuristic, ultimate war machine.  Anyway, the razor did the job excellently although, the first time, it left my face looking like the back of a self-flagellating Opus Dei monk.

(Incidentally, whilst typing this I missed the k out of Beckham and Microsoft Word told me I had spelt it wrongly. After inserting the “k” it gave me the all clear.  How did it know this?  Is David Beckham now so famous that even a computer software programme knows of his celebrity?  There must be people called Becham, without the “k”. So how did Word know I wasn’t talking about Mr. Becham and was talking about St. David of the Goldenballs himself)?!!!!  Bloody weird if you ask me.

Eventually, of course, one has to buy new blades for a razor but it is at this point that one realises that although SuperU sells the razor, by some sort of convoluted logic, they do not actually sell the replacement blades to go with it. Don’t ask me why.  It is beyond all human reason.  I havn’t bothered to ask in case the answer causes me to lose the will to live.

Now Sheila, on one of her Voyages of Discovery, or ‘shopping trips’, as they are also known, actually found out that the replacement blades were sold in Intermarché, the other large supermarket in Doué la Fontaine.  They do not, of course, seem to sell the razor!! 

But the problem is that I rarely enter through the portals of Intermarché as I find the interior dismal, their foodstuffs lacking in range, not offering the variety of goods that the discerning buyer may expect in the early years of the 21st Century and the staff/customer ratio seems to be totally out of balance…..Oh, and it hasn’t got a bar either.

I could ask Sheila to buy me a packet but she would forget and bring me a banana.

So I have therefore been reduced to buying packets of disposable razors from our local shop in Le Puy Notre Dame.  These razors are perfectly functional when it comes to shaving the hairs on the front of my face but, surprisingly, are about as much use as a chocolate teapot when it comes to tackling  the softer hairs under my chin.  Thus, over a period of a few weeks, I acquired a noticeable layer of thick felt under the jaw, which serves no noticable purpose whatsoever, except for hiding the odd malignant mosquito, and also looks decidedly odd. 

So, finally, it  became necessary to either call a carpet layer or to go to the Intermarché to buy replacement blades for my Macho Turbo Thingy.

Well, on arriving on the car park you could have knocked me down with a pain au chocolat.  Not only had the whole store been renovated but someone has bunged a brand new bar/restaurant on the front of it.

I am sure it wasn’t there when I passed it last week.

Now, at this point, may I thank all of you who actually thought this posting was about a restaurant  for staying with me!  We have now arrived at the establishment itself.  Le Baccarat

Le BaccaratLe Baccart gites in loire valleyIt is called the ‘Le Baccarat’ and is cleverly situated so that you do not actually feel that you are in the supermarket itself.  It is brand, spanking new and has a sun terrace in front, together with tables and sunshades.  Service is pleasant and attentive and the quality/food ratio is superb.

We chose the €11,00 four-course Menu, (€16,00 over the weekend).  This consisted of a self-service salad/entrée bar followed by a “plat principal”, followed by cheese and dessert.  The entrée included things like crevettes, spiced sausages, prawns, boudin noir, fresh salads, dressings, etc., etc. The main courses had about six choices including fish dishes, beef goulash, roast beef and braised ham.  I had the ‘Beef Goulash’ which was subtly spiced and very tender.  Sheila had the ‘Roast Beef’ which was done to perfection; rosy/red in the centre and, again very tender. The round dessert table was groaning, under a very large selection, sitting on a bed of ice.  Sheila chose a huge slice of Lemon Meringue which, Harry Potter like, she magically made invisible, (only House-Elves can do this without a wand)!  I, being of much sterner stuff, chose to have neither cheese nor dessert – Well, it gives you a certain feeling of moral superiority.

With a perfectly acceptable half pitcher of Anjou Rouge and Coffee, the total bill was €25,00. I didn’t even bother to negotiate a lower price to acknowledge the fact that I had not had the last two courses from the fixed menu.  I thought it was pretty good value as it was.  

They also do an à la carte which includes grills, (steaks etc.), enormous salads and there is a choice of ten different pizzas.

So, in short, excellent food, incredible prices, pretty good choice and clean, pleasant surroundings. Ideal for a family lunch, without breaking the bank.

You can also do your shopping there.  That is, of course, unless you want to buy a Gillette Mach II Turbo Razor Thingy with the Ultimate War Machine on the front.  You can get the replacement blades though!

Bon courage et à plus,


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“Le Bouchon Ponot” – Le Puy Notre Dame

Le Bouchon Ponot, Le Puy Notre Dame

Le Bouchon Ponot, Le Puy Notre Dame

I have been a little busy lately with my new position of “travialleur social” – carer- to my wife, Sheila, who, after having spent a lifetime preparing for the big one by breaking various ankles, wrists, suffering severe whiplash and having other mysterious and complicated illnesess which were a source of great delight and edification at assorted hospitals in both England and France, has now decided to slip a disc in her back and so is incapable of any meaningful movement.  That is with the notable exception of her right hand,  which, with the utmost dedication,  she selflessly continues to use in writing page after page of lists, just in case I forget to do anything. Thus I am now trying to finish the renovations and, at the same time, do all the shopping, driving, cleaning, etc, etc.   A woman’s work is never done!

I really cannot understand what the problem is with women these days.  In the past they would have a baby in their tea-break and then get back to the fish-gutting, corn threshing or whatever, ignoring any pain.  Now,  a little twinge from a disc pressing on the spinal nerve and that’s it – incapacitated.  I blame Mrs. Pankhurst!

One great problem was that, until recently, not only could Sheila not even stand and cook but, in her more depressed moments seemed quite prepared to put on her hair-shirt and live on stale bread and water.  This does not suit me very well as, of course, with all the extra duties plus the additional stress, (I mention stress because one feels that these days one must, otherwise it would seem as if I was the only person in the world not suffering from it),  I am normally in a state of ravenous hunger which sometimes puts me in danger of eating my own arm!!

However, salvation was on the horizon, when the new restaurant, Le Bouchon Ponot, opened in the village.  After a slightly dodgy start when Jean-Yves and his team had to overcome major obstacles like how to switch the new cookers on – and I am not joking!! – , all has now settled down and each time we (or I) go it gets better and better.

The restaurant is situated next to the small supermarket and occupies the former bread depot which, in turn, gave way to the artisan bakery just up the road.  The renovations have been tastefully done and feature lots of the local white, “tuffeau” stone, this, together with the tiled floor, gives an impression of space and cleanliness.  They have also managed to make the place look about three times the size it was before, which is a neat trick.

Lunchtime meals are €11 and like many local restaurants the menu is fixed.  The price is for three courses and, normally, is the sort of simple, well prepared food one expects at lunchtime in rural France.  The Evening menu is four courses at €16,50.  The last time we went was last week  and the entrées ranged from paté to frogs legs, (which I love and  were delicious),  whilst the main course choices were monkfish, duck, beef or venison followed by cheese and a selection of desserts.  I am afraid I neglected to ask about ‘Veggy’ options, a subject not dear to my heart, but I will do so tomorrow.  Everything was superbly cooked although our friend thought the veg was a little uninspiring.  This is often a complaint about France in general and, given that the region  is a major producer of market-garden produce, of the Loire in particular, I am afraid, that is the traditional french way with  vegetables being given only a small accompanying role, almost as a garnish.  The french generally supply the “bulk” by eating copious amounts of bread with their meals and quite often have a dish of “crudités” (raw vegetables) as a starter.  And don’t forget that four courses is often the norm.

The wine-list has only wine from two local producers, one organic,  but it is quality stuff – the 2005 Red from La Domaine du Vieux Tuffeau is particularly interesting  – and why not drink the local wine when you are eating in a wine producing village, particularly one with its own appellation?

All in all, a very promising start exemplified by the fact that it is getting busier and busier.  The other night, (Thursday), there were just two tables empty, which is not bad for a restaurant in a small village in the middle of January and the talk in the bar on Saturday was that it had been full on Friday night.  I presume that most of the people there could easily have eaten in Doué la Fontaine or Montreuil-Bellay, both five minutes drive away and with a vast choice of eateries.  My rule of thumb in France is that if the locals use it then give it a try and I have rarely been disappointed.  We are now recommending to our gite accommodation clients that we reserve the restaurant for them if they wish to eat there when they arrive.  It really is a wonderful thing for both residents and holidaymakers to be able to walk to a local restaurant of quality, (or indeed a bar),  given the increasing governmental pressure on drink-driving which, as a result, is becoming more and more risky,  plus, of course, it really is not very sensible.  Thus I am sure that “Le Bouchon Ponot” will become a great asset to the village.

Just one postscript.  The former restaurant, La Collegiale, which closed two years ago, has now been purchased and the rumour in the village, is that it will become a Wine and Tapas-Bar,  if this is the case it will be amazing in a small, traditional village like ours. Whatever next – a Lap-dancing Club?!

Finally, I bumped into Jean-Yves in the bar and asked him about ‘Veggie’ options and he is quite happy to discuss various options when the reservation is made.

à plus

Brian   Gite Accommodation in the Loire Valley Read all our restaurant reviews