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Monday, 8 August 2011

The London Foodie Goes to France - Beaune

Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, is a beautiful historic walled town in Eastern France just a few hours drive from Paris, and surrounded by some of the world’s most famous wine villages including Nuits-Saint-Georges, Gevrey Chambertin and Pommard, to name just a few. Dr G and I love Beaune and we were very happy to have the opportunity to return twice this year.

The wine industry is the town’s main pull, but Beaune has much more to offer – it is also a foodie’s paradise with numerous Michelin-starred restaurants to its name, and a fine food market on Saturdays with a large number of local artisan suppliers selling the finest produce. The gorgeous countryside is also ideal for cycling or hiking, while the quaint antique shops, art dealers, and the stunning Hotel Dieu (Hospice of Beaune) with its colourfully tiled Burgundian roof will keep you entertained before you reach for the wine bottle!

Where We Stayed

On this visit to Beaune we stayed at the beautiful Hotel Le Cep, a four-star member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World Group (SLH). The hotel has been created from a series of interconnecting mansions dating from the 14th to 16th centuries, and is located a stone's throw from the Hotel Dieu in the walled historic centre of Beaune on 27 Rue Maufoux.

It is hard to believe that there are 64 rooms in this seemingly small boutique hotel. This reflects the gradual expansion of the hotel over the last few decades as the owners have bought and sensitively converted neighbouring properties.

The hotel has a beautiful central courtyard where breakfast is normally served and a one-Michelin star restaurant run by Dominique Loiseau's team (see Where We Ate section below). There is also a number of plush living rooms that make it feel more like a grand home than a hotel.

Our room was a beautiful junior suite overlooking the courtyard. It was enormous (I don't think I have ever stayed in such a huge room), lavishly furnished, and had walls lined with burgundy and cream striped silk. It had all the luxurious amenities expected of a hotel of this calibre like heavy, fluffy towels and bath robes, posh toiletries, a welcoming fruit basket on arrival and a massive and very comfortable bed.

We loved our room at Hotel Le Cep, and were shown a number of other rooms which were also very spacious and well appointed. All the rooms were elegant and many furnished with French antiques and works of art. Room rates vary from around €130 to €500 per night.

On the morning of our departure there was a fine drizzle and so breakfast was served in the hotel's converted wine cellars. There was a generous spread of cheeses, cold meats, eggs, strong coffee and a nifty gadget for making our own freshly squeezed orange juice. The varied breads and pastries were of excellent quality and  set us up nicely for the day.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Hotel Le Cep in Beaune, and hope to return in future. For more information about Hotel Le Cep, room rates and to book, visit their website here.

Hotel Le Cep
27 Rue Maufoux
21200 Beaune
Tel: 03 80 22 35 48

Where We Ate

Loiseau des Vignes

At Hotel Le Cep, I had one of the most memorable meals this year at one-Michelin starred restaurant Loiseau des Vignes, run by the legendary Dominique Loiseau with head chef Christophe Queant.

After the death of her chef-husband Bernard Loiseau (the founder of the restaurant group) in 2003, Dominique took over the running of the business and its subsequent expansion. Their flagship restaurant is the 3-Michelin starred Relais Bernard Loiseau in the Hotel de La Cote d' Or in Saulieu with two other restaurants in Paris Tante Marguerite and Tante Louise.

Their Beaune offshoot, Loiseau des Vignes, was the first in Europe to offer the entire wine list by the glass using Enomatic wine dispensers.  There are around 70 wines on its list. The restaurant is elegant, combining original stone and wood features with contemporary lighting and decor.

Dr G and I went for the full-monty menu priced at €95 with accompanying wines at €55 per person. This was an exquisite meal and despite the extravagance, it was worth every penny. There was a tremendous refinement evident both in flavour and cooking skills with each dish appearing to outshine its predecessor! We were in heaven throughout the meal and below I list the dishes we had.

Poached Egg Meurette in a Bernard Loiseau Style

Vichyssoise of Ratte Potatoes with Smoked Eel and Prestige Oscietre Caviar

Sole Meuniere with Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

Breast and Thigh of Caramelised Pigeon, Girolles Mushrooms

Cheese Trolley

Raspberries on a Lemon Cream and Almond Emulsion

Baba with Rum and Vanilla Whipped Cream

Tasting menus range from€59 to €95 with optional wine flights matching each course for €45 and €55. This was one of the best meals Dr G and I have eaten this year, and I thoroughly recommend Loiseau des Vignes.

31 Rue Maufoux
21200 Beaune
Tel: 03 80 24 12 06

Le Caveau des Arches

Another excellent restaurant in Beaune which we have visited several times is Le Caveau des Arches. With menus ranging from a mere €15 to €50 (Menu Gourmet), this is one of the best value restaurants in town.

On our latest visit, Dr G and I had the Menu Gourmet which was again fantastique! As the name suggests, the restaurant is housed in a beautifully converted cellar underneath the ramparts of the walled town. Head-chef and owner Marc Gantier, originally from Normandy, has run Caveau des Arches for 20 years very successfully. The restaurant is always full and booking is essential.

On our visit Dr G and I had the Gourmet Menu at €50 per person. Following a lovely amuse bouche, we had the following dishes.

Tatin of Duck Foie Gras Fried with Caramelised Apples

Cod Risotto with Truffle Flavoured Olive Oil

Fillet of Charolais Beef with Oyster Mushrooms, Veal Jus and Fresh Spinach

Fillet of Charolais Beef with an Epoisse Sauce

Cheese Trolley

Giboulee of Fougerolles Griottine Cherries with Vanilla Ice Cream

We love Caveau des Arches for a number of reasons - the food is consistently excellent; the wine list is enormous but with many affordable choices even of Premier Cru Burgundies; the service is impeccable and the atmosphere is always lively and buzzing. Highly recommended.

10 Boulevard de Perpreuil
21200 Beaune
Tel: 03 80 22 10 37

What We Did

A few years ago Dr G and I took a week off to drive along the Route de Grands Vins de Bourgogne that runs from Dijon to Santenay, stopping two thirds of the way through in Beaune.  We stopped in some of the villages and visited many of its vineyards en route. We had a fantastic time and stocked up our car boot with a few bottles.

Whenever we return to Beaune, we try to schedule at least one or two vineyard visits and tastings. For this trip we were welcomed by Maison Louis Jadot’s managing director  M. Dominique Mounier for a visit to its cellars followed by a comprehensive barrel tasting.

Dominique was a charming and knowledgeable host, explaining in great detail about the different types of terroir in Burgundy, the Appellation Controlee (AC) classification in the region and patiently answering all our questions.  As a negotiant, Louis Jadot has examples of wines from almost every village in Burgundy in their cellar, as well as Beaujolais.  This contrasts with the usual experience of visiting a single vineyard and tasting what they produce on site.

Louis Jadot bottles are easily recognisable as nearly all bear the same yellow label with the head of Bacchus in a decorative frieze. The vineyards belonging to Louis Jadot are scattered across 154 hectares from Cote d’Or to Beaujolais, giving the Maison a varied range of wine styles of different AC classification and price.

I have been to many vineyard visits in France, Italy and Spain but this was my first barrel tasting. We spent a good few hours in the company of Dominique, sampling a large variety of top wines straight from the barrel.

Some of these included a number of 1er Cru wines like the 2004 Grèves Blanc and the 2002 Boucherottes Rouge, and a couple of Corton Grand Cru wines, the 2000 Charlemagne Grand Cru Blanc and the 1998 Pougets Rouge which were both magnificent.

I was very impressed by the quality of Louis Jadot's top of the range wines which are rarely found in the UK where they are more known for their budget wines. Many thanks to M. Dominique Mounier for hosting such a wonderful tasting. For more information on Louis Jadot's wines, visit their website here.

The London Foodie was a guest of Hotel Le Cep and Maison Louis Jadot.


  1. What a beautiful post. The food looks beautifully French and I want to be let loose on that cheese trolley! I'm thinking Champagne and Burgundy for my big birthday in a few years. I'm taking notes.

  2. Great post, Luiz. So fun to share the Louis Jadot epic tasting day with you. TPG and I ate at Loiseau des Vignes when we were in Beaune too - one of the most memorable meals of our lives (in a good way - we loved it!).

  3. One of our favourite types of holiday is self-driving in France, particularly in the wine regions. We loved the Burgundy region when we visited a few years ago and hope to get back soon. The Hotel Le Cep and its restaurant look very lovely indeed.

  4. Looks like alot of fun with delicious food. France is just one dream place for vacation with fantastic food.

  5. aaahhhhh....France, food and wine! My favourite time was vineyard-hopping and camping, bliss : )

  6. Oh good food and wine in France everything looks stunning! L, I love the way Dr. G blends in with the locals. x

  7. @ Vintagemacaroon - Hey Debbie, that cheese trolley was one of the most sumptuous I have seen in France, I cannot recommend Loiseau des Vignes highly enough!

    @ Greedy Diva - we had a lovely time at Louis Jadot Carly, I am going to miss you when you are gone!

    @ Kavey - Hotel Le Cep is superb and having Loiseau des Vignes in its premises makes it a perfect stop in Beaune. Love self-driving in France...

    @ John Lewis Sales - thanks, France is a foodie's paradise (and a wino's too!).

    @ SisterBatik - thanks for stopping by Phuong, lovely to see you at Lebanese London Cooking Club.

    @ Rosana - I know Dr G is the mystery diner... love getting in my pics.


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