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Monday, February 26, 2007

Osteria Le Due Spade

The day: 13th February 2007, Dinner.
The place: Via Don Arcangelo Rizzi, 11, Trento, Italy (tel +39 0461 234343)
The venue: Osteria Le Due Spade
The food: Fine Italian Dining, with strong regional influence
The drinks: Extensive list, several regional wines but also many other choices, all prices. No list by the glass, but they said they would open almost anything (not Sassicaia)

Osteria (i.e. pub/inn) this may have been in 1545 (when allegedly it opened business: congratulations!), surely now it is not, being a Michelin starred establishment in central Trento. Nor is it a student hangout, in spite of sitting in front of the Sociology faculty of the University of Trento, of 'revolutionary' Toni Negri fame.

The interior is delightfully cosy (mind your head when you enter the low frame door), with a beautiful stube on a side.

The single dining room is divided in two parts, a warm wood panelled front and a plastered back part which gives a cellar feel with its vaulted low ceiling. They say it can accommodate up to 30 diners, but we wouldn’t want to be there in that case – on our night the 19 covers were just about well spaced. In the summer you can dine ‘al fresco’ under a semi-private pergola on the pavement (and if you wish you can look at spaced out students coming out of their lectures

We were greeted by a complimentary glass of Prosecco Colesel Riserva.

Chef Federico Parolari proposes a very varied and enticing menu, which seems equally strong on fish (their speciality) and non-fish dishes. There are four set menus (‘creative’, ‘regional’ and ‘artichokes’ at €60, €50 and €45, respectively, and a €25 one course plus coffee lunch menu). The separate a la carte offering is equally tempting. Among the starters (all within €14) we noticed a seafood ‘trilogy’ (crayfish in crispy batter, scallops in artichoke tart and stewed octopus); and a raw trio of tuna tartare, seabream with pink pepper and passion fruit marinated prawns. Primi (€16) included a home made squid ink fettuccine with shellfish and corn fettuccine in rabbit ragout. Mains (all within €20) highlights included suckling pig fillet with Polenta di Storo and cheese fondue with black truffles.

Man ordered ‘Salt-cod variation’ and baked seabream in chickpea puree and Garda extra-virgin olive oil from the a la carte menu. Woman (in the knowledge that, as always, she would share everything with Man) chose the artichoke menu (the English translation is a bit hit and miss but we’ll help you as we go along). Just in case you don’t know, artichokes are now in season.

This ordering was not straightforward. The very pushy front manager oddly insisted that Man ordered a dessert straightaway (first time ever this occurs to us). Man said he wasn’t sure he was going to have a dessert. Front man insisted it was crucial Man decided now. Man fought him off valiantly, egged on by Woman’s sympathetic look, until Front man agreed to mark a dessert down ‘provisionally’ just in case Man decided to have it in the end.

While recovering from the fight, the bread basket…wait a minute, it’s not just a basket, but a beautiful copper pot more traditionally used to cook polenta over a wood fire. How nice! Here the candle was enough to keep the bread warm:

Attention and creativity in the layout will be a nice recurring theme here. The bread was focaccia, grissini and white rolls, not a spectacular assortment, but OK, very similar indeed to the Scrigno two minutes walk away (same bakery?).

Complimentary vegetable dumplings come to keep company to the Prosecco:

Puff pastry stuffed full with cabbage, aubergines and sprinkled with poppy seeds. An intriguing and good start, with a powdered tomato skin on the side lending a pleasantly bitter note to the sweetish dumplings.

At this point a new offensive by Front man: has Man decided about the dessert? This surprise attack almost succeeded but no, Man hasn’t decided…can we not wait to the end as in any other place?

The salt-cod variations arrives at the same time as the artichoke and squid soup:

As for the Baccala' variations, proceeding left to right in the picture, the first variation had the cod stewed in its own cooking juices (or perhaps even steamed we conjecture) with just some pine-nuts and raisins added. This was soft and delicate to the point of being almost bland. Pleasant, especially when judged in the context of the coming progression. For the second variation, imagine a savoury cod baba’ (spongy cake) in a cheese sauce: truly excellent, both for the consistency and the flavour. The third variation was stewed in a rich tomato sauce and accompanied by polenta. This was slightly woodier and drier to the bite, but tasting very good nonetheless. Overall a well conceived and well presented dish.

The soup, as you can see, came in a bowl all smudged on one side. Apart from this detail (which Man finds unappetising) the only problem was that it was too salty. The broth was beautifully infused with the earthy flavour of the artichoke wedges and potato cubes, and with the sea-flavour of the tender squid. Comfort food, classy style.

At this point the artichoke cake came on its own for sharing.

On the left in the picture is layers of potato and artichokes (not puff pastry as in the English language menu) sitting on an artichoke puree and topped by melted cheese (unfortunately we do not know which one nor did Front man tell us). On the right, four slices of wild boar cured ham (‘speck’). With impressive colours and nicely presented (though what was the fried spaghetto, same as in previous dish, doing there?), they were both supremely good (the only problem for Woman was again too much salt in both). The potatoes borrowed the flavour from the artichokes and thus prolonging the pleasure. The raw ingredients must have been very first quality.

The mains:

Do you see a certain similarity in the dishes? You are right, the garnishes had 80% overlap. To be honest, the presentation looked sumptuous but messy and confusing here, a veritable garden, with a large array of dollops of various vegetables, and as we said, largely the same for two very different mains. Indeed the bream clashed with some of the garnish, and its flavour came out losing the battle. Some of the sides were once again too salty, especially the carrots and the caponata (aubergines in rich tomato sauce, capers, etc.).

The lamb arrived just warm. Particularly bad luck for Man, who was the second to share. These were four chops, not stuffed as in the official English description, but accompanied by a julienne of fried artichoke leaves. Very good and again prime quality, cooked pink to perfection, though a small portion in a very big and not warm enough plate is not psychologically conducive to ecstasy.

Man has finally decided. He will skip dessert but will have a Vin Santo (local dessert wine). When he informs a waiter (not Front man), guess what, we are told that according to the order list Man has already ordered dessert…Man says no (a point of principle by now) and worries whether the ‘due spade’ (two swords) are meant for duels between unyielding customers and Front man…Anyway Man must have had a rather pissed off look, as after a couple of minutes Front man arrived with an apologetic look to clarify that indeed the dessert was written down, but with a question mark near it! That’s all right then.

The symphony is a chocolate and pear cake accompanied by pear sorbet, chocolate sauce and the pear shape that you see in the middle of the picture is a pear puree. Nicely playful presentation. Tastewise, it was good, though the chocolate flavour was perhaps a bit muted. All in all though a balanced, pleasant dessert. Man had a glass of Pravis Arele 1995 Vin Santo (€5), poured with extreme generosity by a nice waiter. This is a wine made from Nosiola grapes, left to dry on ‘graticci’. Amber orange colour, dominant honey flavour and pleasantly dense.

Water was two half litre bottle at €2. No large bottle was available! For wine we had a local Chardonnay Cesconi 2005 at €20. The bill came to €108.

The selection of complimentary petit fours which came in the end was probably the most impressive we have experienced so far:

Great range: mini frappe (typical deep fried pastry common over the Carnival period); various chocolates, ricotta cannoli and chococolate cannoli, fruit tarts, coconut madeleines; home-made cantuccini; and baci di dama. All delicious.

We had mixed impressions of this place. Most things coming from the kitchen struck us as impressive, well conceived, executed, and presented (even if with some repetitiveness, excess saltiness, loss of control and corrections to be made in a couple of dishes). In view of this, the comically open commercialism and pushiness of the front manager looked surprising and out of context, not worthy of the establishment that this aims to, and can, be. If we were the chef, we would be appalled. We also note that the white wine did not come in a cooling bucket and by the end it was almost undrinkable (in fact we left some): this, too, must be laid at the door of the front manager. A pity, because the cuisine and the physical environment strike a nice mixture between simplicity and sophistication. There are many other dishes we would like to try here: what is the manager’s day off?


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lo Scrigno del Duomo

The day: 9th February 2007, Dinner.
The place: Piazza Duomo, 29, Trento, Italy (tel +39 0461 220030)
The venue: Ristorante Lo Scrigno del Duomo
The food: Fine Italian Dining, with strong regional influence
The drinks: Extensive and impressive list, several regional wines but also many other choices, all prices, great selection by the glass

Bang in the middle of Trento, Scrigno del Duomo is a two storey attraction for the Gourmand: on the ground floor is a wine bar which offers classy ‘quick’ dishes, nibbles and drinks, while downstairs at cellar level is the restaurant proper. The dining rooms (a main one plus a couple of more secluded ones) retain the cellar architecture and are calmly elegant.

In the kitchen is Chef Alfredo Chiocchetti, whose talent has been rewarded with a Michelin star.

We perused the menu while sipping a complimentary Brut millesimato Altemasi 1999, pleasant and refined. There are two tasting menus, one at €60 and one at €67, but as usual we maximise variety by going a la carte. Starters are in the €18-€20 range, primi in the €15-€20 range, and secondi all at €23. We were very tempted to go for a meat based dinner. Attractive starters included pork cheek “grostel” with celeriac and shitake mushrooms and orange and guinea fowl salad with baby spinach and sesame oil. Among the primi we had to let go of soft polenta with rabbit ragu’, Puzzone cheese fondue and white truffle, as well as sprouting broccoli and goat ricotta gnocchetti with spiced braised oxtail. Venison fillet with Dijon mustard on a bed of canederlo and red cabbage was one of the highlights of the secondi, and so was rosemary lamb with celery lasagne and artichoke mousse.

But we passed all that to go for a seafood experience…

First, the bread: Homemade grissini with sesame seeds, focaccia and white rolls. Not a stunning variety, but good.

As you can see in the corner of the photo, this was accompanied by herb butter, which of course we did not touch.

Back to starters, we began with a salt cod soufflé with potatoes and Vezzena cheese (which is made from milk produced by a rare cow breed) on a bed of romanesco broccoli; and salmerino fish in bread crust with stewed Summer savory aubergines (both €18).

While waiting, though, a complimentary amuse bouche:

As far as amuse bouches go, these were rather substantial! Raw tuna on a bed of baby spinach, and salt cod ‘vicentina style’. The tuna was excellent, melting in the mouth, and the baby spinach were really baby, supremely tender. The salt cod (baccala’) came with a cube of polenta that beautifully soaked up the rich sauce of the baccala’. The fish itself was very tender, with none of the ‘woodiness’ due to it being ill prepared or ill sourced. This was a great start. Only a pity that since we were already having baccala’, this offering was not more ‘personalised’. After all there were less than ten covers throughout the evening.

Next, the antipasti arrive:

The salmerino (a very local variety of trout) had been thinly coated with a flour, eggless batter and pan fried (we think). This was done perfectly, and the coating was light and crisp. Woman thought it a nice contrast to the softness of the sweet aubergines. The raw materials, especially the fish, were top class. Interesting in this dish the interplay between the very local salmerino and the ‘exotic’ southern accompaniment of olives, capers, thyme and cherry tomatoes (and of course the aubergines). Woman wondered whether the salmerino was too delicate for all this, whereas Man was surprised by how well they worked together.

The soufflé was equally very satisfying. The Vezzena cheese was a perfect match for the saltiness of baccala’ (though Woman would have liked to feel a stronger baccala’ flavour).

Our choice of mains fell on pan fried crayfish (mazzancolle) in orange honey, broccoli sauce and rocket sprouts; and baked amberjack (ricciola) with crispy asparagus and orange dressing (both €23).

The crayfish looked beautiful and plentiful, and were fresh and perfectly cooked, retaining springiness and moisture: you could really taste the sea. But the dish was a disaster! Why? Because of an elementary flaw, there was sand crunching unpleasantly under the teeth. But the dish was also marred by cooking mistakes: honey, we could not have told it was there had it not been for the menu, and the broccoli seemed to have lost their flavour on the way. What a disappointment! Even the more so as there was no reaction from the kitchen when we pointed out the 'sandy issue' to the waiter.

The amberjack itself was perfect and well assembled, though the single chunk it came as was thick but a touch on the stingy side. Also, we are not clear about the contribution of the foam to the dish. But we are not fond of foams in general - why dilute the flavour with loads of air? Man thought that in this case its use was particularly inappropriate, because it truly jarred with the chunkiness of the fish.

While waiting for dessert (€9.50 like all other desserts), a welcome complimentary pre-dessert arrived:

Lemon jelly with stewed bananas, raspberries and coconut… foam! Should we comment further? apart from the foam (which anyway here was not so out of place), it was very pleasant. Man was unhappy with the presentation: the glass was smudged. Surely a Michelin star chef can insert the material in a cleaner way. Yes, we are that nasty.

For desserts, orange and carrot soup with coconut; and cardamom; and ‘mandarin variations’.

The ‘soup’: visually impressive, Man was struck by its interesting, slightly ‘angular’ feel on the palate, and by the balance between acidity and sweetness: a modern dish, possibly with too many flavours, not to everybody’s taste and potentially unsettling. In fact Woman was less positive about it, finding in particular the cardamom flavoured slab a tasteless addition.

The mandarin variations, Man and Woman agreed, was superb. A crema catalana, a jelly, a sponge with custard, and an ice-cream – prefix all items with ‘mandarin’. Which one was best is hard to say, they were all excellent, individually and as an ensemble. Pity the waiter did not advice on the order in which they were meant to be had (those who don’t want to know, look away now….the correct order was from left to right in the photo).

For drinks, we asked the wine waiter to choose for us a white from Trentino. He brought us a Cuvee Maso Torresella 2004 (€23), a blend of 10 grapes, some local (e.g. Trebbiano), some international (e.g. Chardonnay). It was an excellent suggestion, intensely aromatic, buttery and dense, with a pleasant bitter finish. Water was a 0.75 litre bottle at a very reasonable €2.50. Overall, the bill came to €126.50.

Complimentary petit fours:

Very very good (and, Man thought, an intriguing assortment), notably a delicious almond torrone (the others were chocolate bonbon, chocolate and sugar coated strawberries and physalis).

The service was professional if a bit distant, depending on the waiter. This is clearly a refined cuisine with high standards and creativity, and in which the raw materials are also truly first rate. However, as you have seen from our review, there were some hits and misses, with a couple of episodes of carelessness, the sand and above all the lack of response being unforgivable. The impression is that perhaps the chef, for all his technical ability, does not pressure his staff up to sufficiently high standards for an establishment of this nature (a visit by Gordon Ramsey might not be amiss here ). To be fair, we had been here twice before in the past, both times with no complaints; so we may have hit a low night. All misdemeanours forgotten, anyway, as you come out and step into a postcard:


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Four brothers

While waiting for our next review, may we introduce you to four nice brothers – their names are:





They are the four ‘superiore’ expressions of the Valtellina DOC wine. Their red blood is noble: they are made of Nebbiolo grapes (at least 95%), which is is known as Chiavennasca in the Valtellina region of Italy where they are made. The names come from rigidly defined geographical areas around the Adda river, near the northern border of Italy with Switzerland. Ruby red, delicate and peculiar perfume (fruit, barn and forest soil), dry, acidic and tannic, this is an austere yet easy to drink wine that goes well with food, but we also find it a great accompaniment for stupid programs on TV.

We bought the four bottles you see for around €5 each on a special offer at the supermarket: excellent value – with all the expensive restaurants we go to, we’ve got to save somewhere!


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fior di Roccia

The day: 2nd February 2007, Dinner.
The place: Via Nazionale 2, Lon di Vezzano (TN), Italy (tel +39 0461 864029)
The venue: Ristorante Fior di Roccia
The food: Fine Italian Dining, with strong regional influence
The drinks: Good list, many regional but also other choices, all prices


A short drive out of Trento (continuously overtaken on the winding road by madmen at the wheel) and we reach this one Michelin star establishment, with chef Walter Miori in command of the kitchen and his charming wife Franca in charge of the front service. The welcome is completely informal, and the room is at the same time homely and elegant, with several pleasant little details.

Sour note at the start: very annoyingly for Woman, the menu for her arrives without prices. This is, sadly, standard in many fine dining restaurants (thankfully not all), but it doesn’t make it any less sexist. Anyway, Man will, for a price of course, reveal the prices to Woman...

The Chef proposes two tasting menus, one with five courses at €43 and a ‘surprise’ one with three courses at €33. A la carte, starters are all at €12, first courses at €11, and mains vary between €15 and €20. Among the starters that tempted us beside our choice were Rotolini di castagne con ricotta affumicata e robiola (smoked ricotta and robiola cheese in a chestnut casing); and soufflé di broccoli alla bagnacauda (broccoli soufflé with anchovies based sauce – this sauce is typical of Piedmont). For ‘primi’ we left our heart for the gorgonzola ravioli on a chestnut sauce; and cabbage and Puzzone cheese ‘canederlotti’ with truffle butter – mmmmh! Canederlotti are a traditional dish from the peasant tradition (stale bread in milk and eggs with a cheese filling). Other regional dishes came as mains (e.g. venison and ‘carne salada’), and we mention the cod with chickpea sauce and sautéed artichockes in rosemary oil, which sounds very interesting.

While musing over the menu, here is the bread;

All rigorously made on the premises, a first rate offer. The star of the basket was the ‘piume’ (feathers) of potato: they are the long orange tongues you see on the left. Crispy, they play the role of grissini, as light as air and unusually shaped.

We went for a starter and a primo, namely Insalata di baccala' su patate viola con pesto di olive Taggiasche (salt cod salad on purple potatoes with Taggiasche olive pesto); and Orzotto alla zucca, amaretti e canella (a barley ‘risotto’ – a barley-otto in other words- with pumpkin, amaretti and cinnamon). While waiting for it, a greeting from the kitchen:

Turkey roll on quinoa and leek soup. Quinoa is reminiscent of a crunchy cous-cous, and it matched very well the texture of the turkey ‘meatball’, the warm soup excellent to wash it down. A delicate and classy start.

Here are the primi:

The pumpkin-amaretti-cinnamon combination is a classic, here very successfully used with the barley-otto. The roll you see is grana cheese, which adds a very slightly sapid note in an overall sweet dish. The creamy orzotto was delightful and perfectly done. An interesting touch were the small toasted grains of buckwheat, which not only add an interesting flavour to lighten the sweetness, but also make the overall texture intriguing to the bite. The same grains were used with similar and successful intent in the cod salad. Now, cod and potato couldn’t be plainer, but look at what Miori does with it. A superb dish, first of all for its presentation. The purple potato are a rarity which the chef re-discovered: they taste like potatoes, but how pleasing to the eye. The tight assemblage of the salad was elegant, sober and very fulfilling, indeed, filling. A pleasant marriage between the yielding softness of the potatoes and the springiness of the cod. To be fair, the contribution of the olives was for us not central to the dish, and we would have welcomed an even more radical minimalism.

For mains we chose Stinco di agnello al forno con polenta di patate (oven cooked lamb shank with potato mash); and Petto di piccione al mosto d’uva e crema di porri (Pigeon breast with wine must and creamed leeks).

The lamb shank is a simple enough dish where much depends on execution. The cooking here was perfect, the meat falling off the bone having lost none of its flavour and texture. A blemish was the excessive saltiness. The pigeon came with unadvertised mash carrots and a ‘spoon’ of liver pate. The match between the cold pate and the hot pigeon was simply fantastic. Man, while in agreement and awed by this combination, found that the size and intensity of the pate portion detracted a little from the centrality of the pigeon in the dish. This is quibbling, though: once on the palate it was a feast.

To conclude, we shared a generous Tortini di cioccolato al cuore morbido con salsa di vaniglia e menta e crema di mascarpone (Chocolate cake with a ‘soft heart’, with vanilla and mint sauce and mascarpone cream), at €9. Man helped this down with a glass of Late harvested Chardonnay (Maso Martis) at €5, suggested by Signora Miori.

The vanilla and mint were great with the chocolate. The tortino itself was as beautiful as chocolate should be, its warm heart spilling out and mixing decadently with the rich mascarpone cream. The Chardonnay had a distinct panettone aroma with a hint of orange. Man was very happy with his choice.

During the meal, we had two half bottles of wine. With the starter/primo, a Pinot Bianco Terlano J. Brigl 2005 (€9 – no joke, there is a HUGE difference between markups on drinks in the UK and in Italy, where people are in general less prepared to overpay for drinks). With the mains, a Teroldego Foradori 2004 (€13) – Teroldego is the star red of the plain north of Trento, if you haven’t tried it you should. It’s dark (packed with anthocyanides) and perfumed (violet and raspberries) . A complimentary chef-made Limoncello (wow, what flavour!) came later for Man, while Woman and the chef were involved in a conversation on the technicalities of natural leaven bread-making (Man is a very lucky man…) . Adding €3 for water and €6 the overall bill came to €108. Even with the tip, once again we easily ended up within our budget. It looks like we are going to have a good time in Italy

This was a very pleasant evening out in a comfortable, relaxed and homely atmosphere with excellent food. The care and love for the ingredients is evident in every dish. Siphons and foams are not the protagonists here: this is a ‘physical’ cuisine where the ‘chewing’ instinct is attended to as much as the taste buds; a cuisine in the spirit of the regional tradition, but where the hearty flavours are assembled with obvious grace and mastery. The location of the restaurant must not be ideal, in a remote village where the spectacular views (admittedly best enjoyed in other seasons) are apparently not enough to attract the locals (on a Friday night there were only four tables occupied, by couples). A pity, because the place deserves a full house. We are told that they will be moving this year to new premises much nearer Trento. Perhaps the business model and the clientele will change a little, given the forthcoming association with a well-known wine producer. To the other starred restaurants in Trento: beware!


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Farina di Storo

Behind the beauty of a finished dish there is often a lot of beauty in the materials and the work at the root of that dish.

Last week we went to Storo, a village situated an hour of comfortable drive from Trento. In the Storo plain grows a special type of corn, used to make a yellow flour ('farina di Storo') for polenta and other uses. The cobs become a fantastic deep orange-brown colour and are hung to dry in the mountain air, sometimes simply on the balconies of the village houses. What a sight in the bright afternoon winter sun.

We had an ice-cream: Storo corn-flour ice-cream of course! There are several nice walks around to burn it off, either along a creek or up a mountain which dominates the corn-growing plain:
Another 'heavily hung' house:


Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Caveau des Arches

The day: 31st January 2007, Dinner
The place: 10, Boulevard Perpreuil, Beaune, France 21200 (03 80 22 10 37)
The venue: Caveau des Arches
The food: French tradition in Burgundy
The drinks: Very extensive list, mostly Burgundy, but plenty of others, all prices

As anticipated, we stopped in Burgundy about half way in our trip to Italy. In the middle of the legendary Cote d'Or...we love Pinot not to feel a little emotional in its home for the first time?

Unfortunately time pressure did not allow for a longer exploration of the area, we only had one evening.

The manageress of our lovely hotel suggested this place. It is in the historic centre of the city, and it has two Michelin forks.

On a very chilly night, we were looking forward to some comfort food (and wine!) from the Bourguignonne tradition. The impressive dining room is a downstairs cellar that welcomes you in a warm embrace of some elegance.

The menu has various ‘prix-fix’ proposals, as well as a reasonable selection of a la carte choices:

On top of that, there is also a board with the specials of the day:

Plenty of choice, then - and in fact it took us a good quarter of an our to negotiate a final settlement…

This left Man wading disconsolately through the wine list encyclopaedia with hundreds of Burgundy wines of which he had no idea. It's hard to face the extent of one's own ignorance. More on this story later…

In the meantime, though, we got the bread:

Rather solitary it looked (not our beloved Italian basket), but it was good. And, we discovered when finishing our main courses, there was no point in saving it, as the dish was bottomless, thanksgodforthat!

At last, we ordered. We could not have started in a more traditional way: (Poelon de 12) Burgundy Escargots, at €11.20, and Burgundy Parsley Ham (Jambon Persille de Bourgogne), at €8.90.

The Escargots were a true classic: each of them comfortably resting in its own individual bath of butter, showered in parsley and garlic. The nice touch were the crushed hazelnuts, which elevated both taste and consistency. They were excellent, fat, and soft, and juicy and wonderful. But it was clear already that this dinner would not help lower our cholesterol levels…

Woman thought that the Jambon was as reserved as the Escargot were expansive: it came as two slabs of (cold) meat, on a cold plate. Man found it as luscious as the Escargots in a more restrained way. We agreed that the quality of the meat was first rate; the poignancy of the parsley, emphasised by the mustard cream, complemented the fat in the ham terrine beautifully.

Next, the mains: Free range chicken breast with morel mushrooms (from the blackboard), at €15.00, and Breast fillet of duck with black, at €16.00.

The chicken was succulent: an extremely generous serving of mushrooms lent their flavour to a rich, creamy sauce. More cholesterol quickly on its way But it was so good. The French definitely know how to make sauces. They definitely do not know how to make pasta: the twirl which accompanied the dish was a little sorry overcooked thing, totally lacking in bite. Sorry mates, it’s very hard to please us with pasta.

The duck was satisfying, this one in a powerful delicious peppery reduction. The meat was flavoursome but a little tough. The potato mash which came with it however was stratospheric.

To finish, we went for broke cholesterolwise: a selection of cheeses (from a very impressive trolley that we were too gobsmacked to take a picture of), and a strawberry millefeuille, at €6.90 and €6.80, respectively.

We know, we know, it was foolish to ask for strawberries in January. In fact the millefeuille was rather ordinary, and the fruit tasteless. Let’s pass this one over.

The cheeses were for Man the highlight of the dinner. Epoisses, Soumaintrain and Delice de pommard (goat). They were all worth the cholesterol high, and in particular the sumptuous, creamy Epoisses was to die for (well let’s hope not). The chevre had a nice acidity, while the Soumaintrain was rich but surprisingly very delicate.

The meal was accompanied by a 1lt bottle of Evian (€4.70), and a bottle of red St. Aubin 1re Cru Le Castets 2005 Domaine Billard Pere et Fils, at €27. We were a little disappointed by the wine, rather harsh, which would probably have benefitted from more time spent in the bottle. Did Man manage to pick the only bad Burgundy on the list?

The total bill came at €96.50 which included VAT at 19.6%, but no service. Including that, we still managed to remain well within our £100 rule (we are not THAT generous).

Was this place (and the brief visit to Beaune) worth the detour? We thought so. The service was cheerful, efficient and attentive, friendly in spite of the language barrier. This restaurant offers plainly presented dishes in the rich Bourguignonne tradition, cooked to a high standard, with some occasional imperfections. It is superior comfort food that makes you look forward to a brisk walk in the wintry night (and to a few days on a diet).


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