Noyers-sur-Surein is a place in the heart of Burgundy that’s famed for its mediaeval buildings and the ruined castle high on the hill overlooking the town.
It’s a beautiful setting, a town of solid mediaeval architecture sat in the middle of the rolling Burgundy countryside.
Seemingly along with all French towns, Noyers has its incredible boulangerie, a couple of bars, a delicatessen and a few restaurants, the most celebrated of which is Les Millesimes.
Les Millesimes part of a small food empire that stretches to a delicatessen and wine cave alongside the restaurant. The restaurant spills out onto a quiet side street, that passes between the front of the restaurant and the back of the delicatessen and wine cave. Waiters and kitchen staff flit between both sides of the enterprise, carrying dishes and produce.
It’s a very picture-postcard, idyllic French scene.
We arrived and asked for a table in French, on which the waiter, noticing that us speaking French might be more of a struggle than him speaking English, graciously carried on in English, and continued to do so all night.
Now, the food is hard to describe properly, so I’ll just be straightforward about it.
It was astonishingly good.
Superb quality, superbly cooked. Plate after plate of very, very good French food.
Earlier that afternoon, I’d bought a dozen snails in the delicatessen to cook at home, mainly so that the eight-year old could go back to school and brag about having eaten snails, and I’d spotted the same ones on the restaurant menu in the window. They were excellent – large, stuffed with a wonderful herb butter, packed with garlic. Each one was stuffed and finished perfectly, and between us, we had no difficulty in finishing the lot off.
After that, I expected dinner to be quite good.
There’s a short menu…a good thing in my book. A few dishes, cooked well.
We had a torchon of fois gras and a terrine of pork to start with. The fois gras was rich and velvety, paired with brioche bread and an apple and prune chutney. The terrine was a mighty slab made up of pork and a variety of different puréed and set vegetables.
Main curse were a fillet of Barbary duck with a rich cherry sauce and a fillet of steak cooked with a belly pork and fois gras sauce and served with cauliflower and carrots.
All were well cooked and thoughtfully put together dishes.
I like cheese, so cheese for dessert.
The French know a thing or two about cheese.
That is all, but some of that apple and prune chutney rounded it all off nicely.
The service at Les Millesimes was brilliant throughout, with a couple of friendly and accommodating waiters on duty. They both chatted to us – in English – about the food, and the town, and told us that the restaurant makes its own boudin noir for the weekly market. One of the chefs sets up a stall close to the restaurant and deli and puts together a huge batch of boudins, poaching them in a huge vat before slicing them up and selling them from his stalls. The market was the following day, so we promised to go and have a look.
Now, one of the many recent culinary disasters to befall my kitchen involved an attempt to make morcella, a Spanish version of the black pudding. I spent the best part of a day tracking down a butcher who’d sell me some back fat, and then proceeded to make a complete hash of the recipe, undercooking the puddings by a good half. I watched the Les Millesimes chef do it properly, and I’ll be having another go myself.
Watch this space.
When we’d finished eating, the chef wandered through the dining room, and we managed to cobble together enough French to say that the meal was bloody marvelous.
I hope he understood.
Les Millesimes and its deli and wine cave are special…an enterprise with quality at its heart and a passion for food at its forefront.
There can’t be many restaurants as good as that in Burgundy, or in France, for that matter.