I can’t believe it’s already the 29th of August and I have only managed to do one post a week this month. Sorry! I will catch up next month and you’ll be inundated with posts. What I also haven’t done for a long while is a restaurant review, so today is the day.
At one point Joerg asked me if I had to do any cooking for this blog or was I going to be a restaurant critic…oops. So I had to go slow on the restaurants but I do have quite a few lined up to tell you about. Today I am featuring a restaurant in the village of Aulon in the Pyrenees Mountains. The setting is magnificent and we had a wonderful day, both scenery and food wise. Joerg was a little “distressed” by the fact that it is a 2 hour drive away – the things one has to do for this blog!
We had planned to go for a walk after lunch, a rather foolish idea as after a 4 course meal all we wanted to do was have a little lie down. The 6 of us did manage to go for a meander around the village though, something I highly recommend and something that is easily done after even the biggest of lunches. There is a vantage point with 2 beautiful crosses/features up a small hill that passes by the most beautiful flower garden I’ve seen in a long while. I hadn’t realized that the garden was not part of the ascent, so Deb’s and I strolled around it telling the owner how beautiful it was. I think she must be used to it as she was very encouraging (afraid?) of us.
To get back to the food, lunch was superb and well worth the drive. We had originally only planned on having the 3 course meal, but everyone else wanted the 4 course (greedy guts!) so we “graciously” agreed. And thank goodness we did as the presentation of the extra course was especially nice. All the little details were incredible and so beautiful. I think he got the idea from the flower garden as it had such a multitude of color and tastes.
We sat outside in the sunshine overlooking the village and surrounded by mountains. Stunning. It was very hot and there happened to be a lot of flies on that particular day, but I shan’t be making the restaurant responsible for the weather!! We are still reeling from a miserable winter so you will hear no complaints about the heat from this lot.
The meal started with a Vegetable soup – a very typical start to a meal in the Southwest of France. It was very yummy. These soups are very often Garbures (a traditional French meat vegetable soup), and this was very similar with a mix of turnips, potatoes, carrots and white beans in a wonderfully delicate broth. I love soups and had to stop myself from eating the whole pot considering that 3 more courses were due to follow.
The second course was the most beautiful one and was at the same time delicious. I chose the Tomato Muffin and Joerg chose the Terrine with pear chutney – we always chose different things so that we can try each thing. Both were very good, but it was the presentation that gets 11 out of 10 points. There were little endive leaves with various types of taste sensations on them. One was guacamole, another tapenade, another with anchovy in it. We all tasted them and tried to decide what they consisted of. There was also a melon ball rolled in sesame seeds and a mini cape gooseberry that looked like a pearl. Exciting stuff. The muffin was very nice – I personally would have spiced it up a little more, but the French generally don’t like spicy food (not that I wanted it laden with chilies by any means) but it was very good anyway. Joerg’s terrine (like a meat pate) was also very good.
The next course was the main course and there was a choice of 3 dishes. I chose the Veal Tagine which I absolutely loved. It came in the traditional Tagine dish with a sort of a hat on top – for this alone it’s worth ordering the dish! I love little surprises so opening the lid and finding the food so beautifully presented was an added bonus. It came with couscous that had raisins in the middle and black sesame seeds in the mix so it was a little crunchy and totally delicious. I love Moroccan spices and the veal was not only tender but also delicately spiced and a real winner.
The other two options were Confit de Canard (duck leg fried and preserved in duck fat) with potato gratin which is always good and this was no exception. The other option was for the Plat de Jour (the daily special) which was Pork filet with a wild cherry sauce. The sweet and savoury type sauce with the cherries and the perfectly cooked pork was also superb. We were all delighted with our meals.
Then came the dessert menu… I normally don’t eat dessert as I don’t really have a sweet tooth and generally I have eaten so much of the other courses that I have no space for dessert. But the menu was so large and the temptation equally so that I did go ahead and have my dessert. And what a beautiful thing they all were!
I had the Orange Crème Brule which had a lovely hard caramelized sugar topping and a delicate orange flavor – delicious.
There was also Red Fruit and Mascarpone,
a warm Chocolate cake which was like a brownie. (All photos at the end.)
No-one tried the Fromage Blanc with honey and almonds, but I’m sure it would have been just as good as the other desserts.
All in all, the food was superb and I can highly recommend the restaurant. There are many walks of different levels starting in the village, but I would recommend you go before lunch! Or do what we did and go for a sightseeing stroll around the village and enjoy the beautiful gardens and picturesque houses on every corner.
Restaurant Les Aryelets