Wine and fine food come hand-in-hand and you can be certain that at the heart of Beaune, capital of France’s wine county – Burgundy, this pair is almost inseparable. It is telling when the gods of the Michelin guide gave out some 27 stars to restaurants in Burgundy alone. One can be assured of the quality when it comes to dining in Beaune with the competition heating up for this highly contested title in this small town.
Laurent made dinner reservations for us at the Loiseau des Vignes restaurant on our first night at Beaune. The location was perfect as it was literally next to the hotel that we were staying. The warm glow of the Summer sun formed the setting for our dinner as we took in the scenic view of the veranda and nibbled on freshly baked French rolls while studying the menu. The Sommelier appeared with a simple 2-page wine menu but as B flipped it open, the smirk he displayed showed that he was impressed with the extensive wine list featuring over 70 premium names all served by either the glass or bottle. This meant that he could sample and savour all his Grand Cru, Premier Cru etc on his Wine Wish-list all for a fraction of the price.
You could see the different kinds of wines which are kept in a gigantic aquarium-like glass tank that takes up the better part of a red-lacquered wall. Instead of fish, there are several bottles, and this is probably the first restaurant in Europe which serves every wine they have by the glass – thanks to the tank’s ingenious oxygen-free, totally closed atmosphere in which an open bottle may last for up to three weeks. B later added that he wanted to have one of these fancy machines in our home.
As French was not my forte, I listened hard as our Maitre D explained the dishes in English with his heavily accented French. Basically, with our limitations, we went with whatever English words we could see and understand from the menu.
The Amuse Bouche was a chilled tomato soup with truffle oil. The refreshing soup captured the freshness of the vegetables and served as a palette cleanser to whet our appetites for more good things to come. Our appetisers debut together with mine taking a notch in terms of its presentation. B’s foie gras was a thick pate served with a honey apricot jam and fig. His response to the pate was lukewarm but if you give this man his foie-gras pan fried, I am certain that he would polish the bits right off his plate.
As my starter was set on the table, I wondered if the dish had only these 6 tiny escargots with a huge croquette as a talking piece in its centre. The Maitre D then told me that I would have to take a stab at the golden sphere. I picked my cutlery in glee and poke the golden ball with caution. Garlic butter gushed out and revealed more escargots hidden in captivity. What an unusual way to serve up plain-looking snails. I was off to a flying start and waited in anticipation for my mains.
But my enthusiasm fizzled out when I saw my main course – the Salmon with fennel served over a foamy cream sauce. The fish was not thoroughly cooked and a little raw for my liking. The fennel lents its crunchy touch to the dish but that was not sufficient for me to polish it off. B’s bird ,on the other hand was clearly a winner. It’s oft not easy to cook pigeon. If its cooked to well, the meat of the pigeon is likely to be tough. The meat from B’s pigeon was pink, an indication that it was cooked just right. It could be that the puff pastry acted as an insulation and prevented the meat from being too well-done.
Desert was almost a no-brainer for me as I went for the chocolate delight. Thin chocolate wafers formed a fan formation as scoops of chocolate gelato held the entire desert in place over a bed of orange confit. Ooh, yumz.. I love anything citrus. B’s menu had an additional serving of fromage and this came in the form of soft goat cheese that was heavily coated with parsley. The first few mouths were manageable but the parsley overpowered the natural taste of cheese. Another cheese desert came in the form of a molten cheesecake with balsamic sorbet. Melted cheese oozed from the soft sponge cake and the balsamic sorbet added the zing for the desert. I don’t recommend this for the faint-hearterd (ie: if you can’t take anything that’s too sharp and sour in taste).
A cuppa of espresso with petite fours to end the meal.
I truly enjoyed the dinner at Loiseau des Vignes, the warmth and hospitality extended by the Maitre D and the Sommelier was a plus along with the fine French gastronomy that we got to sample that evening.
Loisea des Vignes
Address: 31, Rue Maufoux, 21200 Beaune
[Updated as at Jul 2011, this restaurant has been awarded with a 1-Michelin star.]