Saturday, 31 May 2014

4 : Le Relais d'Ozenay in Ozenay

Ozenay is a small village close to the metropolis of Tournus, about 11 miles or 25 minutes driving from here. It has a cute Romanesque church with an interesting interior, but I will not elaborate on this since this blog is supposed to handle culinary aspects, not architectural ones.

The church of Ozenay
We had heard very flattering reports, and not only from guests, but even from a columnist in a Dutch quality newspaper.
Although we normally have quite a strong preference for smaller down to earth restaurants, we also have often thought "wouldn't it be nice, if only for once, to really splash out?". At the end of 2012 we were invited to a meal in a slightly more posh restaurant then our usual one, and we were given the choice. We were in doubt between La Table de Chapaize and Le Relais d'Ozenay, and because the menus and the carte in Ozenay looked as if we would have a bit more choice than in Chapaize, we proposed Ozenay.
We arrived around 19h30, and although that is quite early according to local standards, the restaurant filled up quite quickly. The interior was tastefully decorated. The walls were adorned with various ceramic "paintings" made by a local artisan from Martailly-lès-Brancion, and the patterns on these "paintings" were in perfect harmony with the way the rather "Nouvelle Cuisine" dishes were made up and decorated.

A "painting"
When we were about to order we were a bit disappointed with the unexpectedly limited choice. We had set our mind on a not so expensive menu, and the € 33 menu was the same price or slightly cheaper than the remaining main dishes alone on the à la carte part of the menu. And since this € 33 menu had only 2 different starters and main courses to choose from, the choice was all of a sudden roughly the same as in Chapaize. For starters one could choose between a butternut soup and a smoked salmon dish, and for the main course there was a choice between a risotto dish with soul and a lamb dish. For the person who is allergic to fish and shellfish the choice was reduced to choosing between 1 starter and between 1 main course. The same applied to the person who does not like pumpkins in any form or shape, nor lamb. Upgrading to a € 38 dinner was also no option, because these menus could only be ordered when every member in the party ordered the same menu. The meal started with an amuse and closed off with a number of cheeses and a rather obscure desert where the recognisable bit was a small piece of pistachio cake.

Le Relais d'Ozenay
Unfortunately the wine we chosen from the carte with our meal, a red Henri Lafarge Pinot Noir was not available anymore, and we had to resort to a red Henri Lafarge Mâcon. The food was beautifully laid out and presented, the service very friendly and efficient. My starter (salmon) was nice, but not exceptionally, however those who had ordered the butternut soup were very enthusiastic about it. There was more consensus about the main courses. I thought the risotto and the soul quite bland, and those who had ordered lamb had a similar comment about their dish.
The cheeses were a nice selection of goat's cheeses, a blue cheese and two runny cheeses, of which the Époisses was not bad at all. I certainly was not thrilled with the desert, but I have to be honest: I am simply not a sweet tooth or a desert type of person. Having said that, most people at our table were also not terribly impressed with it.

The interior
The food was mediocre to good, although I thought the quality / price ratio a bit disappointing.
I would prefer a wider choice of dishes (I think 2 fish main dishes and 3 meat main dishes à la carte is not exactly a big choice).
The ambiance and the service were impeccable.
My preference was and most likely will always be a restaurant with a wider, although not such an exclusive choice. However, that might have something to do with the lack of snob appeal I am suffering from....

Saturday, 24 May 2014

3d : Eating out in Cluny (4 of 4)

Hôtel de Bourgogne
After long deliberations we finally decided to go for a real expensive meal. We had chosen Hôtel de Bourgogne, a beautiful building overlooking the square where also the Palais du Pape Gélase is located.
That sounded very promising, a dining room with a view, were it not, that the dining room was not located at the front of the hotel, but at the side of it, with a stunning view on the building site of the abbey which is being restored. Unfortunately our table was facing the window, hence I was overlooking the restoration works. Further, the street along the windows connected the town centre with a parking area, and the narrow pavement allowed pedestrians to have a good look at what the financially better off were having on their plates.
Of course one goes to a restaurant to eat, and not to criticise the location or surroundings. Still, I felt a bit like being on display here, something that does not bother me the slightest when I am having a meal on the terrace of a much cheaper restaurant in a busy street.
Palais du Pape Gélase
Anyway, here we were. Sue was strategically positioned overlooking the (in my eyes) old fashioned, almost English interior.
Neither of us ordered a menu, basically because a starter and main course contain more than sufficient food for us. Both of us ordered a foie gras with very special pieces of toast, I ordered a tournedos with mashed potatoes, spinach and chanterelles, while Sue had a piece of Bresse chicken in mushroom (morels) sauce, with carrot and asparagus and a few new potatoes.
As an amuse we got a tiny bowl with a bit of red cabbage with a creamy sauce.
The food was really excellent, as were the staff and the service.
The now finished renovations of part of Cluny III
We knew that this meal was going to set us back a few bob. I had spotted in the menu that the prices were nett, hence the additional VAT on the bill did not come as a surprise. Why the VAT was not included in the menu prices however is a mystery to me. All in all, we had spent approx. € 65 a head, including a bottle of wine and a cup of coffee.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

3c : Eating out in Cluny (3 of 4)

Speciality restaurants
There is one restaurant well known around Cluny for its frog’s legs.
Le Rochefort
The place is called Le Rochefort , on the through road from Cluny direction Mâcon. I once ordered a plate of cuisses de grenouilles including desert for € 25, without desert it would have been € 21. The portion was so big, and eating the legs so time consuming, that I had finally eaten all the legs only after two hours. Fortunately Sue did not mind to take my desert, because I really felt stuffed. The frog’s legs were deep fried, garnished with parsley, and over-delicious.
On the same road, near the old railway station one finds bio-restaurant Le Pain sur le Table .
Le Pain sur le Table
We went in one day, but neither the clientele nor the dishes made us think “yes, let us try!”. It all looked a bit too healthy and too bio for my taste. However, vegetarians have a hard time in Burgundy, when it comes to finding something else but a green salad (which often has lardons = bacon in it anyway!). So maybe this is the place for them. We hope to get a review from one of those vegetarians who are not put off by the look of their food!
Le Potin Gourmand (just outside the centre, at the very “end” of the main street) offers apart from (sporadic) jazz concerts also mediaeval meals. I can vouch for the jazz music, but have not (yet) tried the mediaeval meals.

Expensive restaurants
One of those,  Hôstellerie d’Héloïse is still on our program for a very special occasion. Once we have been there, we will probably give them a separate entry in this blog. Another one, Hôtel de Bourgogne we have tried in the meantime (see the next chapter).
Auberge du Cheval Blanc
The only slightly more expensive restaurant we have frequented for a while was Auberge du Cheval Blanc, not quite in the centre of Cluny. The food there was always excellent, the ambiance nice. However, recently we resorted again to this place (our usual restaurant for special occasions has stopped to exist). They gutted the inside of the building, the service was not what it used to be, and although the food was good, it certainly does not rank like it did before.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

3b : Eating out in Cluny (2 of 4)

Cheap, cosy restaurants
Cosy is a strange criterion for a restaurant, but we distinguish cosy and design restaurants. In our view design restaurants are slightly more expensive than “normal” places, and boast design furniture and decorations. We have tried several, and despite the food, which has the same quality as elsewhere, the “sterile” atmosphere puts us off.
La Petite Auberge
Our favourite : La petite Auberge , a small intimate place with a terrace on the main street. I have been eating a plat du jour there every Tuesday, for over a year, and I still cannot understand how the cook manages to bring something different on the table each time. An estimate: I have a plat du jour approx. 40 times a year. Of those 40 times I have seen a maximum of 5 à 6 dishes which I have had before. And these 5 à 6 are also different from each other! The food itself is excellent, Sue loves the pizzas here, the service is friendly and efficient, and for well under € 10 one has a plat du jour.
Chez Sissis / Café du Centre
Almost next door there is Le Bistrot , which we have tried some time ago. The menu is not very inspiring, and the general impression is that it is more a bar than a bistro. We stick to their neighbours.
Another typical French restaurant, with reading table and excellent French food is Café du Centre or Chez Sissis , just off the main street.
There are few others, which I will just mention. La Halte d’Abbaye is one of those, as is Le Cloître . They offer good food, bur are just a bit further away from the main street, near the abbey.

Design restaurants
Brasserie du Nord
Cluny has a handful of restaurants we do not frequent any more, basically because we do not like the un-French, a bit sterile, ambiance. However, some people are a bit more modern than we are, hence here they are. The main street has Le Comptoir and La Nation . The latter has a terrace, the first one has some chairs and tables cramped outside under an archway. Brasserie du Nord (near the abbey – with terrace) has the same sort of interior and food and the same owner as Brasserie La Nation.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

3a : Eating out in Cluny (1 of 4)

Cluny is without a shadow of a doubt the town around here offering the widest range of restaurants. We have tried (almost) all restaurants mentioned here at least once. There are a few places we prefer not to eat, and that is irrespective of the quality of the food; it is mainly due to the ambiance we do not like. We start off with low budget places.

Fast food
Le Bosphore
Le Bosphore in the Rue Prud’hon (centre) is an excellent kebab place, although different compared to their English name sakes. For less than € 6 one gets a very nice sandwich kebab, and for around € 9 one gets a plate with kebab (different varieties), French fries and lettuce. The sauces that come standard with the dish are sauce blanche and harissa, a North-African hot (spicy) sauce. The service is excellent and the personnel is very friendly.
There is something resembling a (French) fast food place in the main street, called Quebec Burger. This street changes name as number of times, hence I keep calling it main street. One can buy French fries here, or various types of burger sandwiches, at very reasonable prices. The portions are big, possibly the reason why this place is very popular with the ENSAM students. The restaurant plays rather noisy music, with heavy basses pounding away, reason why we do not go there anymore. However, the service is good.

Le Loup Garou
The main street has two pizzerias, Le Loup Garou (at the beginning seen from the post Office) and La Petite Auberge (a tiny bit further).
As a pizzeria I prefer Le Loup Garou, because the pizzas there are very thin, well filled with a negligible empty edge. For less than € 10 one has a wonderful pizza here. Since I have discovered the pizza saumon, I have never ordered anything else anymore. They also sell various pasta dishes.
La Petite Auberge is also a pizzeria, with roughly the same assortment. Since I am rather choosy when it comes to pizzas I refused to order a pizza here after I tried it once. My better half, very keen on thin crusty edges on pizzas, disagrees with me on this and fully enjoys her pizzas whenever I indulge in their unbeatable plat du jour (see also under cheap restaurants in part 2).
Le Forum
Just outside Cluny’s centre, on the other side of the river Grosne, lies Le Forum, another Italian restaurant / pizzeria. We ate there once, and were quite happy with the food as well, but we prefer Le Loup Garou because of quality, ambiance and location.