Claude Darroze, Langon, France

http://www.darroze.com

95 cours du General LeClerc, Langon

Hola France! Back to the UK for Xmas and learning from the hectic nature of our trip last time, we decided to book some time away in Europe before heading back to the UK to see friends and family. The destination was San Sebastian (for obvious reasons). Ever the opportunistic glutton we also spent a couple of days in France, flying into Bordeaux. It being Xmas time we didn’t have the full gamut of dining options available and having heard conflicting reports about La Tupina we decided to spend the evening in a small town east of Bordeaux, staying at Hotel Claude Darroze. The Darroze name is well known with Helene operating michelin starred restaurants in London & Paris, a family business in armagnac and this restaurant also benefiting from a michelin star. This is a family with a sense of purpose.

It’s a comfortable hotel in the centre of a pleasant town. The room we stayed in, although small had been thoughtfully designed with a slate partition and a modern sleek bathroom. No complaints.

We were of course here for dinner. The main salon sat about 40 or so with about 10 tables. A variety of menus were offered, all well priced, with us opting for a menu saveur – of which there were 2 options for each course. The evening got off to an excellent start with a selection of amuses – foie gras with champagne jelly, salmon tartare and mushroom soup.

This is a way to start a meal. A selection of honest, excellent tastes. France on a plate. Just the sight of a slice of foie gras was enough. I’d been deprived too long. It was of course a lovely plate. The foie gras rich and creamy with the sweet acidity of the jelly. The salmon was fresh, clean and light. The mushroom soup, delightfully earthy.

It segued beautifully into my starter – more foie gras:

A terrine of leak and foie gras with a truffle vinaigrette served with asparagus and of course foie gras. Served a little cold, it soon warmed up with the flavours coming together nicely. Maybe the truffle lacked a little intensity, but it was a fine plate of food and I savoured every bite. My wife opted for a ceviche of saint jacques with a fennel salad and truffle cream sauce. She was not able to eat some of dish, but it was my gain.

The main courses arrived. My wife ordering the wild boar with poached figs, venison sauce and chestnut puree

Wild boar is not something we have often, It was a couple of small ribs on the bone, succulent without the heaviness of other game/wild meats. The venison sauce created the intensity with of course figs to cut through it all. We weren’t sure about the chestnut puree – a bit weirdly sweet. But there were no complaints.

Taking a break from the foie gras I opted for hake, cooked basque style

A sizeable tranche on the bone. It was a good peasant style dish with big flavours. The white wine based soup was lovely, studded with eggs, peppers and celery. It was hearty and delicious. Not finessed food, but very comforting dining.

Being back in France there was of course the cheese course, with a decent selection of unpasteurized cheeses

Dessert was baba rhum for me:

Drenched in rum, it was full-on. The cream barely able to compete against the saturated sponge. The pineapple provided a little more lightness. It was tasty, but too rich when eaten on the back of other indulgent dishes, not that I wouldn’t want to try again…

My wife opted for the classic tarte au pommes.

A slightly souped up version – crisp pastry, flattened to the extreme. I like a little more air in my tart, but it was of course a competent version, if lacking a little character.

After a long day of travel we declined digestifs (a decision to regret in hindsight). We are still presented Baillardran Caneles to finish.

Having only encountered these before at the Connaught, this was like welcoming an old friend. These little beauties are crisp pastries with a slightly gooey custard laced with a bit of rum. They are divine. It’s a struggle, but I manage to eat them both.

And so our first meal back in France boded well for the rest of the trip. A good family hotel and restaurant – serving excellent hearty food in comforting surroundings. We enjoyed this meal even more so with the knowledge our bed being a few seconds away. So if you’re in this neck of the woods, Claude Darroze is well worth a visit.

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