Little did we know when we celebrated Relationnel’s birthday at Domaine des Hauts de Loire in Onzain in the Loire Valley last October that in June we would have finished furnishing a 400-year old house for rental just 15 minutes away! We had decided to come down for a week at the beginning of October to start looking for a place to retire in October 2014 and didn’t imagine for one minute that the first place we visited would be our dream home.
It was already cold in October and when we arrived at Rémy Giraud’s 2-star restuarant at Domaine des Hauts de Loire, an elegant 19th century hunting pavilion in a 70-hectare park, we were delighted to find ourselves in a beautiful drawing room with a log fire. There we were served amuse-bouches with our traditional glass of champagne, based on truffles, basil and red mullet. We were given the menu to peruse and decided to take the wine pairing menu. I had told them in advance that it was “madame’s invitation” so Relationnel was given a menu without prices.
After finishing our apéritif, we were shown to our table in the beautifully decorated dining roof next door. I can only say it must have been a very luxurious hunting lodge in its day! The pikeperch mousse with a crustacean sauce and the caviar and crayfish blancmanger were served with a local chardonnay 2007 from Oisly. This was followed by foie gras with shallot preserve and truffle shavings, lobster with chestnut ravioli and green apple jelly with rosemary and lime. And they were only the starters!
As becomes a hunting lodge in autumn, the main course was fillet of doe with parsnip and cardomom croquettes and mushrooms. To accompany it, we were served an excellent cabernet sauvignon made from the grapes of very old vines. After goat’s cheese with paprika on capsicum, we had peaches in basil with a sorbet in filo pastry and a chocolate sphere with the name of the restaurant in gold letters served with pears.
Of course, I only know what we had to eat and drink because I noted down everything in my trusty iPhone. What I do remember, however, was that each dish was an artistic marvel that tasted as delicious as it looked and that the service was impeccable. Next time, we’ll go there on a fine day so we can eat on the terrace that we tantalised us from our inside table. A perfect venue for a special occasion!
You can order à la carte (starters about 35 euro and main courses about 55 euro) or choose a set menu at 160, 96 or 77 euro at night or a special “express” menu at lunchtime Wednesdays to Fridays for 49 euro including a main course, dessert, glass of wine, bottled water and coffee.Domaine des Hauts de Loire, Route de Herbault, 41150 Onzain 02 54 20 72 57, email@example.com, www.domainehautsloire.com (the English version of the site doesn’t seem to be working at present). There is also a hotel with 25 bedrooms and 11 apartments but I haven’t tried them!