A tale of two restaurants. (but only one city, well village)
I’m going to talk holiday. I’m allowed. It happens. I’m sure that you go on holiday and eat out too.
And this is all about food really because we made a terrible faux pas early on in our trip to the Loire valley in July. We chose a restaurant according to its Michelin star. Now I am not one of those people who goes bemoaning the Michelin star world. I like good hearty honest food, and ethnic food, but I also love innovative food with special attention. What this all comes down to is that I like food, and unlike when choosing where to live as either relaxed or busy, modern or traditional, or quirky, it’s one area I can change what I have every day.
However, despite picking the top end tasting menu at La Gambetta in Saumur we found the Michelin starred restaurant hugely disappointing, with elegantly designed dishes, that had nothing interesting to offer in terms of taste or flavour combinations.
And this put us on a bad footing all holiday. We started searching for more homely type offerings, but when deciding on a location we would find it was not open on the night we were looking for.
So this was the mood we were in on our return home via Jumieges checked into our spa hotel and were offered the option of booking into Auberge du Bac, described as having beautiful views, and Auberge des Ruines described as being a gourmet restaurant. We were flummoxed. We asked for more time to consider the question.
Eventually I suggested that we book dinner at Auberge du Bac. This was because my La Gambetta experience had left me a little jaded about the use of the word gourmet, and Auberge du Bac scored well in trip advisor with words like ‘authentic’
But it worried me at night. It disturbed my massage and jaccuzi trip. (OK, I am exaggerating a bit for the elevated purpose of making sure you know how great a trip I had) and eventually I reasoned, well, we had to have lunch somewhere… so why not at the gourmet restaurant? And we could exercise restraint by having their cheapest set menu this time. My husband agreed with this readily and that was the plan we went for.
Let me just underline that we chose the cheapest menu at Auberge du Ruines that was EUR25, and a Euro isn’t going very far at the moment. This was how it went: Refreshing tomato salad with tomato sorbet, an exciting fish dish, strawberries with popping meringue discs , and other delights. It was flawless. It was exciting.
We ordered off ipads –now that bit was pretentious. They weren’t interactive (saving valuable wait for the waiter time) and they occasionally crashed. Although I liked the connect 4 sugar balls presented with the coffee, the petit fours were a bit stodgy.
So I was pretty glad I squeezed in that lunch. We walked down to the Seine in the evening to ensure that we tried to burn off room for dinner at Auberge du Bac. And here we picked one of the more mid-range menus, that was of a similar price to lunch. Let me begin with the starter, seafood profiterole. Now profiteroles are just pastry, and yep, this starter was mostly pastry. However it is more usual for profiteroles to have some sort of flavour, and one might expect this to hold true when they are named after seafood. But, nope, there was no flavour in this profiterole. You know it didn’t have to be seafood flavour, it could have tasted of garlic, or cheese, or just basic seasoning. It did however bring one unique feature: sogginess. I saved the top in case it tasted better. It didn’t. The waiter didn’t even bother to ask why we hadn’t finished our starter. He swept it away without giving us a chance to comment. I figured he’d tasted it too.
Here is the cod in chorizo. I hope you are comparing and contrasting with the pictures above, because these meals cost exactly the same. I think that it would be more accurate to call this cod with chorizo dumped on top, any benefit in flavouring the cod by frying it in Chorizo juices was lost on this chef, bless him. Kind of.
And at no point did anyone ask if we had a good meal, even though it was obvious we had left some of the dishes. Only the very young trainee waiter asked as he took our payments. We looked at him sadly and said, not really, but that was nothing to do with you.