As you’d expect in France, there are many places in this area to eat and serving a variety of dishes, some of which are local specialties. The changing seasons dictate the vegetables and fruit available so that dishes are different throughout the year.
Here we review three restaurants where we’ve eaten and can really recommend the food and the establishment:
Auberge du noyer, Londigny
Opened in August 2014, the Auberge du noyer is partly owned by the chef, who established his first class reputation at the Cafe Porte Bleue in Verteuil, and his parents who front Irish trad music band The Craic and so an evening at the Auberge du noyer often finishes with The Craic playing in the bar.
The A la Carte menu was not available on the night that Abi and me visited and so we chose from the extended bar menu – a selection of home-made burgers with different styles: Cajun chicken burger, Chinese crispy duck-style burger (crispy duck on top of a burger patty) all served with a small mountain of chips; Irish stew and dumplings and rack of ribs with BBQ or Chinese sauce. I know that this doesn’t sound like typical French cuisine, but this was the bar menu and the French were there in numbers seeming to enjoy the food! What is most interesting is that there are a number of vegetarian dishes on the menu – not always the case in French restaurants.
I had the Cajun chicken burger and Abi had the rack of ribs. Both were excellent and there was no danger of leaving there hungry. And no real danger of leaving a pauper, either, since the main dish was €9.45 and I couldn’t have eaten a pudding.
Hotel du Commerce, Civray
Situated on the bank of the river Charente in Civray, the Hotel du Commerce is open all week except Sunday evening and offers traditional French gourmet cuisine. It offers a varied and different menus from 18 € to 30 €, and a menu of the day on weekdays, every lunchtime.
The outside terrace overlooking the river is the most charming spot for a summer lunch or evening dinner. All the dishes are beautifully presented, we have had the frito misto as a starter, which is finely cut vegetables, prawns and calamari in a light tempura batter, which was delicious and also available as a main course. Their beef is locally sourced and there is a good choice of steaks on the menu. The prawn risotto was gorgeous! There is a good selection of cheese and deserts, but if we can fit a desert in, we always go for the Cafe Gourmand, which is 3 or more mini puddings served with an espresso coffee, no need to agonize what to have as you get to try at least three!! One little touch I loved was an amuse bouche which came before our starters, of a miniature salad of Charentais melon, vendée ham and spiced salt sprinkled on top.
The Hotel Central, Chaunay
The Hotel Central in Chaunay is a 5 minute drive from us, in the centre of the village. Chaunay is a quiet little village, with a small market on Monday mornings, there’s a little supermarket and two boulangeries. The bar and restaurant are very typically French, quietly understated, but with great food. We went for lunch, but they are also open in the evenings from 6pm.
They have a lunchtime Menu du Jour as well as an A La Carte menu to choose from. The Menu du Jour is 13.50 euros, the day we went the choice was:
Quiche Lorraine or help yourself from the salad buffet, which includes cold meats and numerous salad dishes.
A choice of either a beef dish or navarin of lamb, with a selection of vegetables
Followed by cheese and desert.
We chose from the A la carte menu, John had 12 escargots in garlic butter, and I had a chicken Caesar salad, which was huge! The escargots were presented out of their shells, swimming in parsley and garlic butter, in a dimpled dish – easy to eat and delicious with fresh bread to soak up the garlic butter.
Our main courses were cod baked in Parmesan and king prawns in a Ricard sauce. Both came with julienne vegetables, rice and salads. The filleted dos de cabillaud was baked in a Parmesan crust and served with a modest portion of rice (although I could have had chips instead!) which complimented the delicate flavours of the fish and was satisfyingly filling. So much so, in fact, that we couldn’t manage either a pudding from their traditionally French dessert menu, nor the cheese selection that would normally complete a French dinner.
Everything was beautifully presented and in very generous portions, they also have specials, it was sea bream the day we went. They also have a good wine selection, again, with recommendations on the board in the dining room. The bill was €56 and in my opinion, good value for the à la carte meal that we had.
The new owners speak French, English, Dutch and German, so it is impossible to practice your French as they like to practice their English!
We hope to post more reviews in the coming weeks, so you know that you have some great restaurants to try when you come to stay with us here at La Ferme de l’Eglise!