French Photo Diary #11: Lunch at Auberge de la Cour Verte
Last week to finish off our annual pre-Christmas trip to France my parents and I decided to go somewhere a bit different for food. In spite of having our Brittany barn conversion for over 10 years we’ve not really explored more of the less ‘everyday’ restaurants yet, so for a little treat we decided to book ourselves into somewhere my mother had had bookmarked for a while: Auberge de la Cour Verte in Dol de Bretagne, a member of Les Toques Françaises and Association Française de Maitres Restaurateurs (always marks of somewhere special to eat in France), hidden away in a traditional stone house on the outskirts of the town.
As is typical in France outside of most of the big cities, don’t exact the style of the dining room to reflect the food. We were met by the same rustic interior we get all over Brittany be we out for oysters or galettes, but at Christmas time it was extra charming, cozy, and both beautifully and tastefully decorated. Along with the crackling wood fire and charming, flawless service (including that our waitress had noted down the english translations of all the ingredients in our dishes so they could be presented properly – Chef Romain Verzi is bilingual) made for a truly lovely atmosphere for my lunch (that could also be booked online, in English!)
We started with a beautiful bottle of white wine (we were all having either foie gras, fish or chicken), bread and butter. Now, I don’t really eat butter on my bread as I’m not a massive fan of it plain, but I had a lot of this on homemade country style and seed rolls, whipped brown butter with a hint of local sea salt.
While all of the food was simply incredible (it had that mouthwatering quality to it I can’t quite put my finger on and where you can’t quite figure out how the chef achieved that with the ingredients on your plate I usually attribute to meals at The Compasses Inn at Crundale, Bao in Fitzrovia and Château de la Treyne in the Dordogne Valley), and we’re going to start with the dish we thought was the utter star of the show, Daddy’s starter of langoustines with butternut squash and a bisque foam. The langoustine was so tender, and the butternut was so finely chopped it was almost unrecognisable it essentially melted in your mouth.
My mother had this super pretty salmon dish. Just some of what was on the plate: cured salmon, citrus fromage frais, pink pickled onions, pickled beetroot salmon roe, radishes, dill, crackers. All of the flavours melded together beautifully and there were enough extra special touches to totally elevate this dish from any other, more typical, last minute token salmon starters on menus around Europe. A celebration of ingredients.
Why my parents went a la carte, I opted for the set menu for 30€ which at any given time will give you the chef’s choice of one of the main starter options, your choice of the fish or meat of the day, followed by the dessert of the day. This was perfect for me as my starter was a foie gras terrine served with soaked raisins, blanched, almost raw cauliflower, crushed hazelnuts, micro herbs, pink pickled onions and a curious onion relished with a spice I still can’t quite figure out – probably mace as I know it is used in pickling and I don’t cook with it myself, so therefore am not familiar with its flavour. This was again, a balanced, curious plate full of unusual and nuanced flavours. While it was a true celebration of the foie gras, everything on the plate did not just compliment it, but also stood out in its own right.
Onto our mains, we had both the dishes of the day. Daddy’s chicken was incredible, so wonderfully moist and served on a bed of the most delicate, creamy and flavourful mushroom risotto I’ve ever tasted. He’s not really a risotto person, but he was jealously hoarding bites away from us! For the fish we had either sea bass or sea bream (honestly we’re struggling to remember as we got a bit distracted by how perfectly sweet and tender the perfectly cooked fillets were, enrobed in a luxurious beurre blanc) served with a carrot puree (flavoured with the mildest hint of cumin) and andante baby carrots. Local, seasonal and perfect.
Our dessert was so simple, but as we finished it off we could not believe we’d found another place by our other home with one chef doing such fantastic things for his small dining room. We all noted that if you said one of the best desserts we’d have this December would be clementine slices and an impossibly intense orange jelly with some chocolate mousse on top, and hot chocolate poured over we’d have thought you were crazy, but it just worked, fresh but still rich, luxurious but not too much. The perfect end to a perfect meal.
While I’d originally planned on doing one restaurant review and some snapshots from our week in France in separate posts, I decided I’d roll them together, allowing for two more festive recipes in the lead up to Christmas, which, I kid you not, we’ll all be celebrating this time next week! So, tacked on her at the end are a few of the pictures I took over a week of cooking our favourites in our French kitchen, reading on the sofa, playing Monopoly and drinking lots of wine, eating lots of chocolates and watching lots of films. It rained a stupid amount while we were there so just managed to get one long walk in (not through the forest as usual as we’d not have made it through the path in which turns into a bog in the wet!) which was cold, crisp, sometimes grey (even through the blue skies were doing their best to get through!) but still thoroughly lovely.
We had one other meal out at our favourite, quintessentially Breton local, La Cour du Temple in Combourg. I fancied some meat so forwent my usual scallop and creamed leek galette in favour of a perfectly cooked entrecote (the best cut) and chips, followed by my usual crepe, served with lashings of local butter and sugar.
Food wise, at home we did what we always do at Christmas in Brittany and make some mulled wine to enjoy in front of the fire (and this year, Nigella’s Christmas special!) – I was asked by a few people which I posted this to my Instagram story which mulled wine recipe I use – if you need one, mine (which you can make to just serve one, or scale it up) is in Student Eats! We usually just buy Lindt Christmas chocolates for other people, but this year we treated ourselves to a box, and to make up for my disappointment that oysters seemed thin on the ground this Christmas, Daddy made his speciality, his Hot King Prawns in Garlic Butter.
For a bit more inspiration from our French home, be sure to check out my photo diary from last December in Brittany (with a view of the markets that were all rained off this year), a bit more from Combourg market when the sun is actually shining, my photos from my last trip across in the Autumn if you’ve not read my post about St. Malo yet, and this post on the Cancale oyster beds (and my favourite place locally to get Fruit de Mer) to make up for their absence this time around!