It would be wise, we thought, to break our journey in Burgundy for a light lunch; how pleasant it would be to revisit one of the better restaurants where we’d lunched and dined during an organised trip to Burgundy a couple of years ago. We were driving from Haute Savoie to spend a few days in the Loire visiting friends and relations. Having driven through the Jura on the splendid L’Autoroute des Titans we arrived in Chalon-sur-Sâone and parked just by the Rue de Strasbourg, a street with many restaurants, on a small island in the heart of the city.
I am always impressed that not only are there no parking charges in France between midday and 2pm, but if you arrive during that time and will be leaving after 2pm the charges start after the free period. How civilised is that?
After a stroll along this street of restaurants and bars we arrived at Le Bistrot. Seated outside we were able to watch the world walk by along the mainly pedestrian street as we decided that instead of our previously planned one course choice, we would have the prix fixe lunch: 3 courses for €27. If we’d wanted cheese as well it would cost €33. There was a certain logic to this decision as from the a la carte the first courses would be €16 and the mains a tad more. With dessert €7.50 we were going to enjoy a bargain!
There was a sign in the window exclaiming that the ‘cut in VAT was a cut in prices’. A couple of months ago VAT on food in restaurants was reduced from 19.6% to 5% to help during the recession to reduce prices and as well help pay wages. Each establishment has reacted to this ‘help’ in different ways. Here the price of only three dishes have been reduced; for example from €16 to €14.11. I suppose every little helps even though the VAT on wine and other alcohol remains at 19.6%.
Wink started with Rémoulade de celery aux cereals, sa marinière de noix de St Jacques à l’huile de cèpe et maceration de ciboulette, a celeriac remoulade with slices of scallop, dressed with wild mushroom infused oil and chives.
I had a dish which seemed to be modest but was in fact packed with a double whammy of rich flavours. Verrine de compotée de tartare de pot au feu de boeuf du lendemain en gelée de caisson et foie gras; a compote of concentrated, tender beef served in a glass jar topped with a slice of foie gras.
Both our main courses were fish, Wink enjoying a piece of gilthead bream in a rich sauce: Sur un toast tiède à la tomate et aux herbes fraîches, filet de dorade royale poêlé au thym citron et jus de canard.
I enjoyed the plat du jour, an osso bucco of monkfish crowned by a splendid king prawn and garnished with pasta in a tomato sauce. The fish did resemble its more traditional veal counterpart as it was cut across with the bone in the middle.
We drank a white Burgundy, Montagny Premier Cru 2007, Château de la Saule. Light gold in colour, its touch of oak flitted in and out of view depending what you were eating with it; full bodied with good fruit it was a decent half bottle.
Desserts are good too though a tad rich. Wink’s Mousseline de pâte d’amande de Provence, ses abricots à l’huile d’olive et sa glace aux amandes grillés was decent although the mousseline was a bit gloopy!
However I got my chocolate kick with the rather scatological dish Mousse chocolat au beurre salé, saveur caramel mou, sabayon vanilla-mangue. The rich mousse was complemented by the vanilla and mango sabayon, which continued the Italian theme as sabayon is French for zabaglione.
The proprietor, Patrick Mézière, is a fine chef as well as a keen gardener growing a lot of the produce used in his dishes. Indeed, when we visited here a couple of years ago our group wanted to thank him after an excellent meal only to be told that he had gone to attend his vegetable garden! Ably assisted by his wife in ‘front of house’, Le Bistrot is worth more than the one knife and fork in the Michelin guide.
This was a good start to our few days travelling and we were looking forward to some more good meals in the days ahead.