It’s high time I wrote another food related post! Luckily, I discovered a new restaurant last weekend, with the help of Charlotte and Phil from Languedoc Living! I met Charlotte and Phil last fall, through mutual friends. We immediately got to talking about food and restaurants, and agreed to go together to L’Ortensia in Saint-Gervais-sur-Marer! Charlotte booked a table for last Saturday lunchtime, and so I drove to Saint-Gervais-sur-Mare on a grey and rainy day, along the beautiful Orb valley and over a mountain, to reach the village where L’Ortensia is located.
The restaurant is in a late 19th century mansion (set in a park), which had been bought by the local council some time ago. The mansion sits high above the village, and it’s park was once a hydrangea nursery. In 2013, after years of complete renovation, the property opened its doors to the public once more. The kitchen is run by Eric Balan, who has worked with Alain Ducasse and Marc Veyrat. His partner, Patricia Rochette, looks after the front of house.
The first impression was one of stark modernity. A modern glass and metal conservatory extension to the main building serves as the entrance from the car park. Stairs and a lift go down to the restaurant, which is two floors below. However, Patricia’s warm welcome immediately broke the ice, and we were soon seated at a round table near the fireplace, where a lovely fire warmed us all.
Once we’d had a chance to catch up with Charlotte and Phil, we turned to the menus and decided to go for the Menu Plaisir – and a pleasure it definitely was!
The meal started with a Prelude Gourmand, something to get us in the mood for what was to come! First, we were served a tray of wonderful little morsels, to accompany our aperitif: Roquefort macarons, crisp linseed “sails”, prunes wrapped in bacon, chorizo madeleines, and in the beaker four straws made with air-dried ham and filo pastry. All incredibly delicious!!
Then came an amuse bouche, a small bowl of mussel soup, very delicate, with tiny mussels and a sprinkling of pungent spring onions.
The starter was pan-fried foie gras, served with quince puree and cranberries. The foie gras was perfectly cooked and the flavour combination worked really well. The red cabbage sprouts added an earthy note, which paired very well with the foie gras and the quince.
After a little interlude, our fish course arrived. Seared scallops were served on a bed of salsify puree, and garnished with pink grapefruit and bergamot lemon zest. The citrus fruit in combination with the scallops was very delicious! And the pretty looking baby leaves were of course edible too!
Pigeon breast in a gingerbread crust was the main course, accompanied by different members of the brassica tribe: romanesco, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cress, and thin slices of radish. Someone in the kitchen was having fun, and we enjoyed eating it!! 🙂
Our dessert had a very sculpted look – two curved biscuits were holding a delicious “blond” chocolate cream, topped with pears poached in red wine, cubes of pear jelly, and citrus sorbet. It was a sublime combination of flavours, and a dessert which had been very carefully constructed. The “blond” chocolate used for the cream was Valrhona’s Orelys; the poached pear was a poire martin sec, an old (and mostly forgotten) French variety of pear which is perfect cooked in red wine; the citrus sorbet was made with calamondines, a hybrid between a kumquat and a mandarin orange. The sorbet was sharp with an incredible citrus flavour, a perfect foil for the sweetness of the chocolate cream.
After dessert came coffee, and with it Les Mignardises – a beautiful selection of treats to round off this wonderful meal. The beaker held a coffee foam; the chocolate lollipop was flavoured with pear, and the madeleine with rhubarb.
What a fantastic meal – wonderful food AND great company!
On the way back I stopped at Colombieres sur Orb to take a picture of the rather spectacular waterfall.
Just by the waterfall is the starting point for a marked walk, up the Gorges de Colombieres – it looks like a really interesting hike, and I’ve earmarked it for the spring!
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