|Douglas Blyde: restaurant review of La Table de La Bergerie, Loire|
|Written by Richard Siddle|
|Wednesday, 05 January 2011 12:38|
Restaurant review: La Table de la Bergerie, Loire
If I never see another stainless steel tank, bottling line or labelling device again, I will feel little remorse. I find the technical tools of wine's manufacture backstage and impersonal and difficult to communicate. Much more interesting are its tastes, textures and alcoholic effects, its overall role in culinary culture, and the idiosyncrasies of those who take time to make it materialise.
‘La Table de la Bergerie' is overseen by David Guitton, husband of Anne, seventh generation vigneron of the Domaine. Before developing this project, which alas saw him break a leg, necessitating, for some time, the use of a skateboard to navigate the kitchen, Guitton trained with Michelin rated chefs. These included Alain Ducasse and Joel Robüchon as well as Michel Roux jnr. Guitton mentioned that Roux's kitchen at London's Le Gavroche was apparently the quietest and most beautifully orchestrated of his career, despite the food being too classical in genre for his fresh ambitions.
According to demand, the restaurant opens Wednesday to Sunday. Fortunately for our small press pack - but unfortunately for him - Guitton willingly gave up one of his days off to single-handedly cook, serve, and then wash up lunch on an icy Monday.
Triple glazed, plate glass frames a view of half century old Chenin Blanc vines (Pineau de la Loire). It was a privilege to sip their 21 year-old output, which nervily binds flavours of maple syrup, honey and apricot, in sight of them. Further into the distance are leafless trees, laden with nest like mistletoe.
Within, limed oak tables seat a maximum 25 and echo the colours of rugged granite walls and the pass of the open plan kitchen. Meanwhile, blazing red modern tableaux are daubed with gold leaf. The presence of the occasional carmine chair reflects, perhaps fancifully, the lesser quantity of red wine made by the domain.
Unlike a great many chefs working in vineyard restaurants, Guitton seems to strive for simplicity in his menu, often, but not always, allowing, rather than over elaborately curbing, the wine's expression. Two choices are offered per course, which runs to five including cheese.
After a cosy, beetroot based amuse bouche, dredged with a warm bread roll shaped like a petit pain au chocolat, we segued into perfect foie gras parfait. Having ingested so much of the famous fattened liver over the past day that I felt like a goose on gavage, this was, refreshingly, not served in a particularly French way.
With faintly floral, skeletal, dry, steely riesling-like '07 Savennières from shared vineyard, Clos le Grand Beaupréau, Guitton served wild seabass - presumably not a resident in the frozen Loire? Served skin up in a sturdy gravy, its almost steaky meatiness gave way to tangibly fresh fleshiness. Contrasting the angular plate, a circular stack of shallot, egg and Parmesan proved a little bulky alongside, alas. Confected foam bathed all.
A fellow guest claimed, in culinary context, the epiphany of "finally understanding foam". Although I think the setting may have swayed her more than its sudsy relevance, the direct wine nonetheless cut through so skilfully that I begun to wonder why wine writer, Tim Atkin MW felt the need to post on his blog that Savennières was a region he could "happily do without".
After cheese with slim red Cabernet Sauvignon (Anjou Villages, Le Chant du Bois '08) it was time for Guitton's set chocolate and clementine tart. Matching particularly well with clementine ice cream was botrytised, Quarts de Chaume '04. Otherwise, the diverse nuances of sea breeze, clay and ripe olive oil within this lozenge like sweet bronze beauty got lost against the sturdy shortbread encased pudding.
Although in winter, Guitton is not privy to the lighter flavours of nature's larder, lunch, quietly prepared in his minimal, electric kitchen, had proved very good value - five courses with wine for €60.
Inevitably, my desire for the enjoyment of wine naked from its manufacture proved finally impossible to realise. Bellies full, scarfs dangling, feet freezing, it was time to go to glare at the portable disgorgement apparatus around the back of the restaurant, where lurid but savoury Crémant popped its cork in our honour...
‘LA TABLE DE LA BERGERIE' Champ sur Layon (near Angers)