I’m always on the look-out for new restaurants to try so when my friend and neighbour Françoise mentions the Manoir de Contres in Sologne, I immediately note the name in my iPhone for Jean Michel’s next most significant birthday – the one corresponding to his retirement and our move to Blois!
Contres is about 45 minutes by car due south of Blois so night is falling when we arrive. As we drive into the grounds, we can just see the beautiful early 19th century brick and stone manor house with its many turrets and gables. It was built in 1818 in the style of Louis XII and modelled on the Louis XII wing of the Blois Royal Castle combining the Gothic tradition with the early Italianate influence.
We are welcomed by the owner, Maria Orsenne, originally from Hambourg, and taken through to the beautiful living room with its large fire place, sculpted doors and painted ceiling, which we later see is actually papered. What a clever idea!
The manoir has had a somewhat chequered existence, we learn, changing hands every 30 or 40 years. Maria and her husband Victor bought the château in 2010 and turned the main house and garden pavilion into a hotel. We are sorry not to be able to visit the lovely grounds.
We sip our fine bulles (fine sparkling wine) from Saumur and read about the history of the Manoir then we consult the menu. We can choose between the Menu of the Day (3 courses, 32 euro, starter + main or main + dessert 35 euro) or the 4-course Autumn Menu for 43 euro. We are told that everything is prepared in the manoir kitchens from fresh produce by Victor Orsenne and his team.
We choose the Autumn Menu, starting with foie gras, followed by medallion of venison with chanterelle mushrooms and spaetzle (the hunting season has begun), a selection cheeses and a hot vanilla soufflé.
Maria suggests we have a glass of semi-sweet local wine with our foie gras and a glass of côt de Touraine with our venison. We’re happy with the choice.
Our meal is enjoyable and the service is friendly and discreet. The venison is not too strong and the spaetzle (noodles boiled in water or broth then pan fried in butter) remind us of our recent cycling holiday in Germany. The vanilla soufflé is mouth-watering!
When I take the bill, I explain to the young man serving us that it is Jean Michel’s retirement birthday. Maria then appears with a little Villeroy & Bosch dish with the logo of the manor house on it as a souvenir.
We are able to reassure Françoise that her recommendation was worth taking up. We plan to come back again in the summer and have lunch on the terrace!Manoir de Contres, 23 Rue des Combattants d’Afrique du Nord, 41700 Contres, FRANCE.
Tel. +33 254 784 539, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.manoirdecontres.com/english/welcome.html