On the second night of our trip around the Dordogne Valley we stayed and probably one of the best places I've ever stayed overnight at. Manoir de Malagorse is a simply stunning guesthouse (there is also a gite in the grounds) in the middle of the French countryside in Cuzance. The rooms are big, elegant and beautiful, the hospitality offered by Anna (who is English) is wonderful, and the food her chef husband Abel (who is French) produces is perfect. You know where you stay somewhere that is almost perfect, but there are a few little things that bother you like dust on the skirting boards? Manoir de Malagorse had none of these, and we were all gushing about how wonderful our night there was for days afterwards.
I chose to sleep in the main house (all of the rooms are fantastic, but I liked the traditional feel of the building, rather than the slightly more modern gite) and my beautiful (and very large) blue room was perfect with a big bed (with fresh sage on the pillows), plenty of seating and a day bed. All of the little details from porcelain knobs to pull the window sashes back, to bottled water and waffle bath robes were there, and it was honestly a space I wish that I'd been able to spend more time in (and to take more baths in the deliciously deep tub!) My room costs €200 a night (including breakfast) which is about £150.
After freshening up and changing for dinner, I went to explore the house a little bit. The kitchen is frankly incredible, and everyone is so warm and friendly that they don't mind you stopping by for a peek or a chat while they're getting dinner ready. There is a lovely warm snug with a bar (great for an after dinner drink or when it is raining) just off of the patio, which also doubles as the best place in this very rural Manoir to get an internet connection. I also snuck into the dining room for a peek at the table that was being laid for dinner.
Before dinner, we were led in a wine and cheese tasting of some hyper local wines from the region. I honestly loved them all, but I want to give a special mention to this gloriously dark pink, and actually rather unusual rose Malbec (which is usually red) from Cotes de Lot. Really deep and fruity, I'd try serving it with something like a pink barbecued steak that you'd usually serve with a red, but when you're sitting outside in the late evening summer sun, or by the pool hiding from the midday sun in the shade and you want something cold.
Dinner itself really stood out from the rest of our trip, and not just for the little details like the lemon scented herbs that decorated the table and each of our place settings. All of the food really represented the region and showcased local ingredients, but it was so much lighter and brighter than anything else we ate. Dinner at Manoir de Malagorse really stood out among all of the rich and heavy (while still wonderful) meals we were treated to elsewhere. I was almost silent most of the time while I enjoyed my duck carpaccio, with a wonderfully crunchy pepper, cucumber, avocado and dill salad in the middle, all anointed with light but still peppery olive oil. Everyone else's dishes were also scattered with generous shavings of parmesan.
The beautifully presented main also stuck with me. When the cod came to the table it looked like ti still had its skin; instead it had ben re-dressed with a wonderful layer of black olive tapenade, before being sat on a bed of mashed potatoes, steamed courgette, tomato pieces, black olives, balsamic vinegar, and creamy toasted pine nuts. This dish was all about showcasing the very best, freshest ingredients.
For dessert we had a simple crisp made from local strawberries served with vanilla ice cream, and a little touch which got everyone (including me) who had ever been a child in France very, very excited: a Carambar tuille. For those of you who are uninitiated, Carambar are a French chocolate caramel sweet which is long, thin, so hard it just might break your teeth, and wrapped in a yellow, dark pink and white wrapper with a very bad joke written on the inside. You can usually find them being sold individually at the counter in bakeries or in big bags at the supermarket, and used in a dessert like this are a pure hit of nostalgia.
Breakfast the next day was an equally delicious affair. I'm not usually one for eating first thing in the morning, but never have I seen so many things I wanted to eat all on one table. The melon (which is in season in the Dordogne at the moment) was bright and perfumed, the grapefruit juice fresh and sharp, and the smell of the brioche baking got me out of bed bright and early as it wafted up the stairs.
As well as some of that brioche (and a selection of homemade jams) and a few pieces of that melon, I went for some prunes and apricots which has been wonderfully stewed in a cinnamon and star anise spiced syrup, and a berry yogurt parfait. I was also tempted by a perfectly runny soft boiled egg, with which I made some impromptu soldiers from the baton of fresh bread on the table.
I've stayed in some beautiful hotels, cottages and guest houses over the years, but Manoir de Malagorse is the only one that I'm absolutely adamant that I must go back to. Go on their website, have a look around and call up (because you know they'll speak English on the other end) and simply enquire about a room, talking about what sort of things you like to eat and any other details you may need for your stay if you fancy a trip!
In other news, the other bloggers in our #Perigold (it is best if you don't ask!) crew have posted teasers from our trip; click through to read Yaya and Lloyd's post on '10 Things You Need To Know About Visiting The Dordogne Valley In France For The First Time', Karen's post 'Notes & Postcards from the Dordogne Valley' and Ketty's post 'The Dordogne Valley: What To Expect'.
I was a guest in the Dordogne Valley of Brive and Bergerac Airports and the local tourism boards. Thank you to Manoir de Malagorse for their hospitality.