Food Quest: Saint-Émilion
Given it’s size – less than 3,000 residents – tiny Saint-Émilion may offer more fine dining per capita than any other city in France! Not only is the food impressive, but the restaurants are almost always located in extraordinarily lovely sites, with views of surrounding vineyards and architectural treasures.
LES BELLES PERDRIX
at Château Troplong Mondot
For an unforgettable dining experience visit Les Belles Perdrix at Château Troplong Mondot. Perched at the very top of Mondot, overlooking the medieval village of Saint-Émilion and its surrounding vineyards, the views from the dining room and terrace are spectacular. And when the beautifully plated food appears, accompanied by a glass of Grand Cru Classé wine, you truly feel as if you have the world at your feet.
Chef David Charrier, who’s just received a Michelin star, is in charge of the menu at Les Belles Perdrix. There, he makes maximum use of the on-premise orchard and garden to create dazzling plates. His Discovery Menu frequently includes a starter of Escargot Cannellonis with Spinach Velouté, Parsnip Mash, pan-fried Foie Gras and Crunchy Hazelnut. For a main course try Cod Tournedos wrapped in Nori Sheet with Butternut Ravioli and Mussels or Squab roasted on the bone with Cocoa Sauce, glazed Kabu and Gold Turnips, slow-cooked Kumquats. Dessert might be Baba au Rhum with Bourbon Vanilla Whipped-Cream, Candied Williams Pears, Rosemary Jelly and Pear Sorbet.
The large wine selection includes many outstanding Troplong Mondot vintages, with the extra quality of enjoying those wines by the glass. The service is precise and accommodating. You’ll leave with a “top-of-the world feeling.”
HOSTELLERIE DE PLAISANCE
Place du Clocher
More breathtaking views await visitors on the terrace of the Hostellerie de Plaisance. Situated next to L’église Monolithe, the property looks out over the vineyards of Saint-Émilion and the ancient church itself. Begin your evening with Lillet – a favorite French apéritif – or a glass of wine from the excellent Plaisance menu. Then sit back and enjoy a ravishing sunset and views of the village.
Later, move inside and be amazed by the visionary cuisine of Chef Cédric Béchade, whose lavishly prepared five-to-seven course meals could include Scallops from Plougastel with Clementine and Sea Urchins, Roast Pork served with Beetroot Risotto and Ravioli, or Lobster with Jamaica Pepper & Mint. You’ll be pampered with an elegant service and any number of extra treats from the kitchen. Prices for the prix fixe menus range from €116.00-134.00. The wine list features a large selection of older vintages, and some of the most prestigious wines in Bordeaux. Prices reflect the rare quality of the wines.
LA TABLE DE CATUSSEAU
86 route de Catusseau
One of the best restaurants in the area, La Table de Catusseau is located in Pomerol, just a few miles east of the village of Saint-Émilion – across the street from some of the world’s best vineyards. The charming interior is well-appointed with a collection of copper pots and assorted cooking utensils. An outdoor terrace is popular in good weather. Owners Kendji and Nadège Wongsodikromo have created a menu that is an appealing blend of local Bordelaise dishes and Asian flavors.
The menu changes seasonally, but could include appetizers of Escargot in Ravioli served with a Leek Cream Sauce or a Pumpkin Soup with Smoked Salmon. Soups are standouts here. Be sure to indulge! Main courses offered are Crab Parmentier with Anise and Potato Foam, Roasted Squab with a Confit of Vegetables, Crunchy Prawns served on a bed of Arborio Risotto. For dessert have either Poached Pears with house made ice cream or a Chocolate Croquette with Saffron Creme Brûlée and Apple Confit.
The wine list is eclectic, but features well chosen wine with an emphasis on Right Bank properties. The selection of wines by the glass is broad and well-priced, for example, a nice Premier Cru Chablis goes for €7.00. Prices in general are excellent given the quality of the dining experience. The Lunch Market Menu is €18.00, offering a starter, entrée and dessert. The Menu Catusseau includes a broader range of choices for €28.00.
L’ATELIER DE CANDALE
at Château Candale
You can almost reach out and pick the grapes at L’Atelier de Candale, the pretty outdoor seating backs up to the vineyards – guaranteeing more beautiful vistas and alluring sunsets. The interior of the restaurant is artfully decorated. Both lunch and dinner menus are available. Dishes include Pork with Coriander and Ginger Sauce, Scallops in Mille-Feuille Pastry, Ravioli of Porcini Mushrooms with Truffles, Sautéed Foie Gras with more truffles! Prices are very reasonable. A Lunch Market Menu with starter, main course and dessert is €19.
The wine list, as you’d expect, includes many selections from Château Candale available by the glass. And, as an added bonus, you can visit the winery after dining.
LARD ET BOUCHON
22, rue Guadet
You won’t find bucolic views of the Saint-Émilion countryside at Lard et Bouchon. The restaurant is located below the streets of the city in a 12th century wine cellar. But dining within the thick limestone walls and rows of wine bottles has its appeal as well.
Moreover, the owner, Sylvain Sasso, who functions as the headwaiter and sommelier, is quite charming. He moves with enviable ease among all the tables – which fill quickly – seating guests, decanting wines, all the while managing to chat up patrons.
Food at Lard et Bouchon is well-prepared, simple and hearty. Menu highlights include: Tuna Tartare with herbs and Escargots (12 large snails!) as appetizers. Main courses are Duck with Foie Gras Poêlée (pan-sautéed) and daily fish specials.The huge selection of wines are well priced, as Sasso has great relationships with many local winery owners.
LOGIS DE LA CADENE
3 Place du Marché au Bois
Join local wine owners, investors and Bordelais business-types at Logis de la Cadène. The dining room is small but utterly elegant and polished, with starchy linens and impeccable service. Chef Alexandre Baumard serves an upscale version of traditional French dishes. A menu might include Risotto with Truffles and Parmesan, Medallions of Lobster with Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli in an emulsion of Pine Nuts or Wild Rabbit stuffed with Foie Gras, Mushrooms and Potato Churros.
Be sure to order one of the Soufflés – a house specialty – with choices ranging from Cointreau with Blood Orange Sorbet to Caramel with a Compote of Apples or a simply decadent Chocolate Soufflé. The wine list is skewed towards selections from Château Angélus, since the property is owned by Hubert de Boüard, who is also the proprietor of Angélus.
4 rue des Girondins
A great find in the middle of the city, this restaurant offers a flowery terrace on sunny days. The menu includes Southwest Duck Confit, Foie Gras Hamburgers, Hake with Tagliatelle or Salmon Parmentier with Green Lentil Cream. Desserts include Crème Brûlée and Iced Macarons.
CHÂTEAU AMBE TOUR POURRET
Château Ambe Tour Pourret, under the management of Francoise and Celine Lannoye, is one of the few estates in Saint-Émilion that encourages drop-in visitors. Stop by the property to sample the wines and enjoy a cheese or chocolate pairing. During the Summer, a Tapas Party is held every Wednesday and Friday evening. (See the Château Ambe Tour Pourret web site for more details.)
Cooking classes can also be arranged at the estate. The kitchen is professional and well-equipped, with individual cooktops and work areas. Participants even receive an apron as a souvenir. The house chef provides hands-on practice in preparing regional specialties, including foie gras (of course!) or salmon as appetizers, cod or duck as an entrée, with chocolate desserts or macarons. You’ll also have a chance to learn about French sauces, emulsions and espumas.
The plates are matched with the property wines and enjoyed in the elegant dining room at the Château. Tours of the winery can be arranged as well. Reservations for the cooking classes must be made 10 days in advance.
Place de la Porte Bouqueyre
Located at the base of Saint-Émilion, Le Médiéval is a casual brasserie. The shaded terrace at the front of the property looks out on a small park and weekend farmer’s market. The two-story interior provides similar views. Restaurant specialties include Shepherd’s Salad – with Mesclun Greens, Warm Goat Cheese on Toast. Grilled Beef with Bordelaise Sauce, Fries & Salad. Entrée prices are around €11.00. Wines are a good value and the service is friendly with a family atmosphere.