Le Prieuré de Saint-Géry

Le Prieuré de Saint-Géry was the first Michelin-starred restaurant we ever visited, probably about 7 or 8 years ago. We came across it by chance and were suitably impressed. The rest, as they say, is history. In the intervening years we’ve been back about four times, and have never been disappointed, even though we always said to ourselves “Could it be as good as we remember?”.

Since our last visit they’ve renovated, and to be honest this was a little off-putting. The exterior has remained the same.

But the interior, which was once all dark wood and cosiness, has gone all modern and bright white and spotlighty (I hate spots). You can even see the how the straight, smooth surfaces have been slapped on top of the old wooden curves and textures and paired with ugly, ill-hung purple curtains.

Interior Design Team, nul points, although I did like this bit of flower arranging:

Bread and butter, on the other hand, were up to their usual standards, both on visual and taste terms.

And I was very taken with this blue-rinse salt. I even nibbled the odd handful of grains between courses.

We chose a tasting menu but, unusually for us, not the longest one they had. The full promenade gourmande had an extra course but seemed dominated by lobster, whereas the shorter one had a few more interesting-sounding dishes. Once we’d ordered the meal and taken delivery of our apéritifs the amuse-bouches started to arrive. On previous trips these had been an undoubted highlight, sometimes even overshadowing the meal proper. This time there were two problems. Firstly they came thick and fast, with one often arriving before we’d had a chance to pick up the previous one, and verbal explanations were often rushed, meaning that I sometimes only had a vague idea of one or two of the ingredients. The second problem was that most of them seemed dominated by large dollops of cream. The first selection was ok; I liked the mini-waffles (about the size of a watch-face).

Foie gras and…some cream.

Salmon, pea cream, and some allegedly wasabi-flavoured cream at the top which in fact tasted of nothing very much.

Some kind of battered leaf in a bowl of green spit foam.

Prawn, spit foam.

With the first fish course things improved markedly. A small (perhaps a little too small?) portion of fish with artichoke, aubergine, parmesan and olive. After foams, the culinary cliché up with which I will no longer put is the small blob of sauce dotted randomly across the plate. How is one supposed to eat these pea-sized spots of goo? Pick one up on a knife and smear it on the fish? I do think that sometimes the chef is more concerned with creating a pretty abstract expressionist visual than something which you can actually eat. Nice plate, though.

Second fish course, and again a big step up. Relatively sensible presentation (despite the pair of chestnut blobs at right) but most importantly a wonderful combination of big, smoky, comforting flavours in the mouth: sea bass, goose liver, quail egg, truffle, and celery. The first unqualified success of the evening.

Between fish and meat we had a fantastic sorbet. I can’t remember the last time I had this kind of inter-course (mind the hyphen) palate cleanser; it seems to have fallen out of fashion. The white is fennel-flavoured, the green, rocket. It was enlivened with a couple of tiny shrimp and slivers of bacon, although I thought these were superfluous. As you can tell, by this point in the evening the wine was beginning to interfere with my autofocus.

The meat course finally arrived. Pork, potato and some crunchy vegetables. Simple but tasty and elegantly plated. Plan:

Elevation:

Next was the cheese trolley. This is something I always look forward to at the Prieuré, and they didn’t disappoint this time either. They have everything from explosive Roqueforts to unctuous Camemberts, from international favourites like Stilton and Manchego to goat’s cheese made by the local farmer.

Here’s what I chose, with a slice of chestnut bread and some fig conserve.

Dessert was heralded by a trio of nibbles. Top to bottom a caramel lolliop, some kind of small cake with a banana cream topping, and chocolate cake with a blackberry.

The dessert proper was a “deconstructed” Black Forest gateau. Again, the random blobs. Pretty, but too blobby and deconstructed to give the kind of satisfying mouthfeel I demand from a dessert.

Then came another trolley with a further selection of sweets, but by that time our belts were straining so we settled for a couple of spoonfuls of kiwi and champagne sorbet. And here’s a look at some of the focus-befuddling wine. Actually this shot is deliberate; I was trying to capture the fingerprint on the glass. No, really.

So on the whole a mixed bag. An uncertain start, mostly very strong main courses, and a slightly underwhelming ending. Not really as good as I remember them being from previous visits. Let’s hope they regain their form soon. And they really need to change those curtains.