Where to Eat in France - the Lakes of the Haute Charente
So many good restaurants around the Lakes of the Haute Charente
Food is a serious business in France and the restaurants around the Lakes of the Haute Charente (at the borders of Limousin, the Charente and the Dordogne) reflect this love of good food.
The French, regardless of age or class, take food very seriously indeed. Despite all the pressures of modern commerce, the two hour lunch break remains sacred and the evening meal is still a leisurely family affair so it is not surprising that restaurants abound and that the quality of food is very high.
In the Haute Charente, north Dordogne and Limousin, restaurants tend to be small, family-run affairs and locally grown produce is used to recreate traditional recipes that have been passed down through the generations. The food embodies the nature and history of the land.
We run painting holidays and a Bed and Breakfast, Les Trois Chenes, situated in the sleepy little hamlet of Videix deep in the heart of rural France. Although we do offer dinner for our guests there are plenty of other options. After all, one of the nicest things to do on holiday is enjoy a long lunch or leisurely dinner in a local restaurant.
Despite being relatively hidden away, many of these excellent restaurants offering great value and all within easy reach of us. I would like to take this opportunity to share them with you.
So where exactly is Videix and the Lakes of the Haute Charente?
Where are the Lakes of the Haute Charente?
These two lakes, le Lac de Mas Chaban and Le Lac de Lavaud, lie on the borders of The Charente and Limousin in south west France. The area is little-known, even in France, even though it lies only twenty minutes north of the more renown Dordogne and because it is as yet undiscovered it has retained its authentic character and remains very much unspoilt.
Recently a large area of land has been designated as The Périgord-Limousin Natural Park (Parc naturel région Périgord-Limousin) and much of this area has been included. The area is beautiful, quiet and clean. There is little traffic, crime or pollution. Every village is tidy and litter-free. The gardens are full of flowers and the public spaces cared for an nurtured. The public planting is particularly noteworthy, and the use of vegetables within the town and village flower beds reflects the rural nature of the region and the fact that Limousin and the Charente are great food production areas. The Charente grows grains, and the Limousin is famous for its Limousine beef cattle.
The Lakes of the Haute Charente are situated between Anouleme and Limoges
The satellite shows the two lakes of The Haute Charente clearly. The one on the left, Lac de Mas Chaban, doesn't appear on the road map.
Restaurants in order of distance from Les Trois Chenes
I've organised the restaurants into two groups. Family style restaurants roughly in order of distance from our B&B, and then a number of restaurants with a touuch of luxury for those special moments.
The Gibson Bar Saint Gervais
This bar is the closest eating place to us. About five minutes by car or thirty minutes walk along a pretty footpath (or the road), the Gibson bar offers food, drinks at the bar, French TV (a life-saver for a keen French football supporter) and pool tables.
The restaurant at our side of the lake
Do you know I'm not sure what they call it these days? About five minutes drive or half an hour's walk along quiet lanes and a footpath, this restaurant has struggled to find an owner who can make a go of it. The latest news is that it is open and serving lunch, snacks and dinner.
I haven't been this season but the reports have been good.
Le Soleil Couchant (English bar at the 'other side of the lake')
Opposite the Cotes de Boeuf restaurant, on the other side of the lake, is a friendly English-owned bar, Le Soleil Couchant, so you can get a curry if you feel like it.
While you may think that when in France you should eat French food, you might just find that if you miss the 2.30 pm deadline when the French stop serving food, or you can't wait for the 7.30 evening meals to begin then the Soleil Couchant (Setting Sun) is the place to be. You might have kids (they can run around outside or play on the trampoline and swings).
You might just get fed up of French restaurant food and fancy fish and chips and a pint. You can also get pizza, steak and chips, pies etc. They have books that you can borrow and a pool table. My son loves it and many of my B&B guest (including the French) love it.
Parquei Pai Rochechouart
One of the closest restaurants to us is Parquei Pai, which I have been told is 'Why Not' in the old Limousine language. It produces what it describes as 'Cuisine Créative' - interesting food presented beautifully. You can see from the photographs how exquisite their food is and it tastes as good as it looks.
Parquei Pai is run by a young couple. The husband is a chef and the wife an interior designer. The building that houses the restaurant is situated on the Road to Rochechouart and is nothing much to look at, but when you step inside you enter a different world: contemporary, colourful and welcoming. The decoration is minimal and the furniture simple but there are many nice touches, including a wood-burning stove and original art on the walls.
The restaurant opens onto a patio where you can eat in summer, looking over the pleasant Limousin countryside. Next to the building there is a vegetable garden as much of the fruit and vegetables used to prepare the dishes are home-grown.
Tel: 05 55 71 48 55
Open 12 - 3pm and 7 - 10pm Wednesday - Saturday and Sunday lunchtime.
Closed Sunday evening, Monday and Tuesday. Open Christmas Day
A meal costs about 28 euros (2010 prices), with wine and coffee on top.
The restaurant is about 5 minutes from Les Trois Chenes
La Cote de Boeuf Pressignac
Less than ten minutes from Videix in the opposite direction, over looking the lake is La Cote du Boeuf. The beautiful setting, pleasant interior and excellent food make it one of my first choices. There are a range of menus to suit every taste and pocket.
This glass-fronted restaurant is right next to a swimming beach and opposite the nautical centre where you can hire kayaks, windsurfs and boats. So after you have worked up an appetite swimming and sailing, what better way to round off the day than to sit outside on the terrace with a cold glass of white wine in the evening sunshine. You can then move into the restaurant and enjoy a first class meal at a very reasonable rate.
La Cote de Boeuf (No Website) Plage La Guerlie 16150 Pressignac Tel : 05 45 89 35 97
Open Wednesday - Sunday Lunch time in winter but it opens more often in the summer. It is advisable to phone in advance to check opening days and times. Closed Christmas day
Price: Menus from 18 euros although you can also choose dishes individually from the menu.
The restaurant is less than 10 minutes from Les Trois Chenes
P M Bistro Rochechouart
The PM Bistro overlooks the lake at Rochechouart and is just this side of the town. It is about ten minutes from us. Although I've never eaten there friends and guests have told me that it's very good.
Restaurants in Rochechouart
Ten minutes away from Les Trois Chenes are several excellent restaurant in the medieval town of Rochechouart. Here are just a few.
The Hotel de France
Situated right in the centre of Rochechouart next to the Post Office, the attractive stone building has seating inside and outside on the pavement. The food is attractive and very reasonably priced, the service is good and the restaurant attractive.
Special Christmas Day price of 33 euros for a four course dinner and 38 euros for a five course dinner 2010
7,place du Docteur Octave Marquet 87600 ROCHECHOUART
Tel : 05 55 03 77 40
This restaurant is on the other side of the Post Office. It's name is a reference to the meteorite that fell in this part of France and provides much of the stone that has been used in the buildings in Rochechouart. The locals call it 'Moonstone'. There is an attractive outdoor seating area off the pavement and the whole of the building, inside and outside has been recently restored. (It was the builders who restored the exterior of this hotel who taught me how to remove the old rending and repoint the stonework on our house - many thanks.)
The restaurant is open every day and serves good food at sensible prices.
La Météorite (no web-site)
1 Place 0ctave Marquet 87600 Rochechouart
Tel: 05 55 02 86 80
Le Roc du Boeuf Rochechouart
This restaurant nestles into the rocks at the foot of Rochechouart Castle and overlooks the river Graine. It is built at the point that the river is crossed by an ancient bridge and faces another rocky outcrop on the other side. It is from these rocks that the Roc du Boeuf, or Rock of the bullock, gets its name. On old photographs you can clearly see a rock that is shaped like the head and shoulders of a young cow.
The setting is magical and you can sit outside on the river bank, shaded by trees, or inside the restaurant where you'll find many points of interest. There are paintings on the walls and pieces of art dotted about. The décor is original and the whole (yet again) unpretentious and informal. The food is excellent and well-priced (are you seeing a pattern here?) and the service professional.
Open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 12.00 - 1.30 and 7.15 - 8.45pm
Saturday eveing 7.15 - 9.00
Sunday 12.15 - 1.30pm
Tel: 05 55 03 61 75
It is best to reserve a table
Closed all day Wednesday and Sunday evening.
Closed Christmas Day
Chateau de La Redoritiere Lessignac-Durand
This is one of my other favourites. A delightful mini-chateau set in its own grounds amid the rolling hills and lakes of the Haute Charente and run by Marie-Paule and Nathalie. It was built around 1880 by François Henrotte, a Parisien Banker and you can still see his initials over the door. Within the 200 ha of land attached to the chateau are three farms. I buy my cheese and yoghurts for the bed and breakfast from the farm nearest to the chateau, Javernac and these are also served at the restaurant.
Inside the castle has an old-world charm but the atmosphere is informal and friendly. The meals are set and when I was there we began with soup, then had quiche, then poultry served with vegetables, cheese and dessert. All for about 18 euros. That was a while ago and in 2010 the tarifs are 18.50 - 24 euros, still excellent value.
The meals are reservation only and you have to book at least a day in advance. When you call to reserve a table you will be asked to choose your main dish. Normally you are given a choice of chicken, duck or guinea fowl. The service is very 'French' and family-like so leave plenty of time. There is lots of grass and a swing so that if the children get bored they can go outside for a run around.
16310 Lésignac Durand
TEL: 05 45 65 07 62
Open Tuesday - Sunday for lunch and dinner.
Chateau de La Redoritiere is about twenty minutes from Les Trois Chenes on the other side of the lakes
For that special occasion
There are no less than four exceptional restaurants between twenty and fifty minutes away from Les Trois Chenes are excellent venues for those very special occasions.
Le Domaine des Etang
Le Domaine des Etangs at Massignac is the closest and the most spectacular. As you arrive you willl be greeted with a view of a magnificent Chateau set in open countryside overlooking a lake. The restaurant itself is a little way from the chateau in converted farm buildings and looks out over green fields and the lake. Inside it is a haven of natural beauty and good taste. It has been beautifully converted to retain the wood, stone and original features and is now quietly but elegantly decorated with glass, wood, natural materials and flowers.
The food is a visual treat as well! Exquistely presented and beautifully cooked, a meal at the Domaine des Etangs will be night to remember.
Closed Christmas day
Looking for a wedding venue in S W France? Domaine des Etangs is the perfect place for a Romantic Weddings in France
See the Domaine des Etangs from the sky
I must get around to seeing these three!
I haven't eaten at these restaurants yet, more's the pity as everyone I know who has been speaks very highly of them. Have a look at their sites for more information and pictures.
Domaine des Chapelles
Chemin de la Côte
87150 Oradour sur Vayres
Tel: 0033 555 78 29 91
Closed for the winter
Le Granges aux Oies
Château de Nieuil, La Charente
Restaurant La Grange aux Oies - Château de Nieuil - 16270 NIEUIL
Tél: 05 45 71 81 24 - Fax : 05 45 71 81 25
Bois Au Boeuf
87200 Saint Junien
Tel: 08 99 78 85 62
This list is long but not exhaustive
There are many other restaurants to choose from and they are varied in type and price. In the village next to Videix, St Gervais is Gibson bar, and there is a restaurant in Massignac, about 15 minutes away.
In Rochechouart you'll also find the Pizza restaurant, La Vénétie and Le Petite Loco is situated opposite the old Railway Station which is now a Library. Cussac and Oradour-sur-Vayres also have excellent restaurants.
A thirty minute drive from us will bring you to St Junien where you can enjoy French food, but also Moroccan, Chinese and Asian food. At the Nouvelle Asie Tel: 05 55 78 68 68 a splendid as-much-as-you-can-eat lunch buffet costs only 11 euros. The Carrefour self-serve supermarket Restaurant, La Toquenelle, is fast and the food is surprisingly good.
And what about the restaurant at the local golf course at St Junien? I have some serious eating to do!
There are so many wonderful places to eat and drink in Limousin. Not only the restaurants and hotels, but cafés, bars, markets and the superb communal meals held in all the towns and villages. You can buy locally produced food in shops but also at the farms and orchards, and you can taste the regions specialities at local fairs and festivals. Come to the Limousin and the Charente and enjoy our traditional foods and drinks. We are also just twenty minutes from the Dordogne where truffles are a speciality. To whet your appetite, I've included some local recipes below. Bon Apetit!
Traditional Limousin Recipes
- Limousin Recipes Nettle Soup
At our B&B near Rochechouart in Limousin France, we like to explore traditional foods and recipes. Nettle soup is a local dish, cheap, easy to make, readily available and delicious. Wild food is also said to be more nutritious than modern selecti
- Flognarde - Traditional Limousin Recipe
Clafoutis and Flognarde are specialities of the Limousin and Auvergne region, and we serve this dish, along with other regional food and wine, at Les Trois Chenes chambres d'hotes, Limousin, France.
- Clafouti with Cherries: a Traditional French Dessert Recipe
Sometimes life really does seem to be a bowl of cherries in Limousin, this hidden corner of rural France! It's June, the sun is shining, wild flowers line the country lanes, the woodlands and fields are green...
- Wild Mushroom Soup
It is the end of October, Halloween, All Saints Day, (or Toussaint) and the weather here in France is warm and wet - perfect for mushrooms! Les Trois Chenes bed and breakfast is set in the rolling hills, oak...
- Apple Cake - a Limousin Speciality
A regional speciality of the Limousin, France, you can make this moist cake using either apples or pears. An apple cake is easy to make and very economical so we often serve it in our chambres d'hotes as a dessert. It looks pretty as a picture on our
Thinking of a winter holiday? The lakes are lovely then too.
© 2010 Les Trois Chenes