If I am asked for a really good Loire restaurant, here are five that I would always recommend. One is in Anjou, three are in Touraine and one in Chavignol by Sancerre. They are favourites because they are consistently good, the cooking is inventive without being gimmicky and their food is complemented by a fine wine list with an emphasis on their local wines. Do book in advance.
La Table de la Bergerie
Run by 40-year old David Guitton La Table de la Bergerie is unique in the Loire – a Michelin starred restaurant attached to a wine domaine. David, who learnt his craft with chefs like Ducasse and Robuchon runs the restaurant, while Anne, his wife, and her sister Marie run the very good Domaine de la Bergerie. Menus from €45, which can include appropriate wines from the domaine.
Vincent Cuisinier de Campagne
Vincent Simon and his partner Olivia Wulstecke grew tired of running a large, successful restaurant in Belgium and moved to the tranquility of rural Touraine. Very strong stress on local produce with many of the ingredients reared or grown by their son Gabriel. Chickens roam free in the adjacent vineyard. Excellent wine list including old vintages of Bourgueil from neighbours Lamé Delisle Boucard. Menus from €18 (weekday lunch). Main menu (€26) with a range of options with a small supplement. With only 15 covers booking is essential.
19 rue Galotiere
Tel: +33 (0)2 47 96 17 21
Great restaurant in deep, rural Southern Touraine run the Dallais family since 1960. Jacky took over in 1984 taking the restaurant to a new level – Michelin star since 1989. His son, Fabrice, took over in 2010. Wonderfully inventive dishes matched by an exceptional wine list run by Xavier Fortin, the sommelier who really knows his job. Menus from €49.
Auberge du Bon Laboureur
This is easily the longest established of my five. Built in 1786 the auberge was originally a Relais de Poste. American author Henry James dined here recounting in his A Little Tour of France (1884) that ‘the cuisine was not only excellent, but the service was graceful.’ This is still the case at this stylish restaurant. The weekday lunch menu (€32) is brilliant value. The good wine list includes a section of ‘natural wines’.
Hôtel Restaurant Famille Bourgeois (previously La Côte des Monts Damnés)
The picturesque village of Chavignol is dominated by the Bourgeois family – one of the largest producers in Sancerre. Jean-Marc and Karine Bourgeois run the very comfortable hotel. The bistro is open daily and the restaurant from Wednesday to Sunday. Menus: Restaurant from 45.50. Bistro from €10.20 (lunch).
Place de l’Orme, Chavignol
Tel: +33 (0)2 48 54 01 72
Jim Budd has been writing about Loire wine since 1988, a year after he bought a house with his friends in the Cher Valley. Jim writes for Wine Behind The Label as well as his own blog Jim’s Loire.
Geography: Climate varies from maritime (Nantais) to cool continental (Upper Loire)
Grape varieties: Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc
Regions: The Nantais (Muscadet), Middle Loire (Anjou, Saumur, Touraine, Vouvray, Chinon), Upper Loire (Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Menetou-Salon, Quincy, Reuilly)
Style of wines: White: sparkling, dry, medium, sweet. Red