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sunday lunch

May 25, 2009

Mad%20Hatter%201.jpgIt was probably the best roast Sunday roast I’ve eaten - complete with Yorkshire puddings, delicious roast potatoes and homemade horseradish sauce. But who would have guessed that I’d find it in the depths of the French countryside?

On Sunday morning, I drove with friends through narrow cross country roads to The Mad Hatter’s Kitchen - a farm restaurant near Vanzay, owned by a charming young British couple, who several times a week (or by prior arrangement) open up the dining room in their home to the public; as well as serving cream teas (also by prior booking).

My friends, Anita and Kevin, discovered The Mad Hatter’s Kitchen by accident when buying a free range turkey at the farm shop last Christmas and were very impressed by the Sunday lunch, which consists of three enormous courses, including wine and coffee - all for an incredible €18. I was warned not to eat breakfast.

Pulling up in the gravel driveway, we are all instantly charmed by the big, ramshackle house with chickens of all colours and denominations wandering around the outbuildings. Inside, the decor was just delightful and straight out of French country interiors book, with cool flagstone floors, a big wooden staircase, antique mirrors, hangings and vases of fresh garden flowers thrown together in a seemingly effortless way (the owners previously had an antiques business.)

The dining room, decorated in a style best described as rustic French boho, had three tables, including a huge wooden refectory table for our group of six. (I so love simple wooden tables - so much more friendly and relaxed than what I call ‘white table cloth’ restaurants where you're scared of knocking over the crystal and everyone speaks in hushed tones.)

This was the sort of place where you feel instantly at home. The choice of starters included an excellent homemade aubergine and goats cheese tart; while the main course, which featured a delicious array of vegetables from the garden, was too enormous for me to finish (despite only having a pear for breakfast.)

Afterwards, I wanted all of the puddings on offer, which included the full rosta of British faves: lemon meringue pie, sticky toffee pudding and a cheesecake with fresh strawberries from the garden. It was a tough call, but I would say, that having sampled all of them, the sticky toffee pudding, with a hint of ginger and served with lashings of fresh cream, was the winner. I've been dreaming of it ever since.

Part of the charm of The Mad Hatter’s Kitchen is that it feels like a secret destination - the sort of place you only find out about through word-of-mouth. The owners don't advertise and there isn't even have a website yet. But that - and the fact that they only open up on an ad hoc basis (they need a minimum of six people dining to make it worth the effort) - make it seem very special. And because of the quirky ambiance and decor, it is perfect for special occasions. (I'm already looking for reasons to go back).

The owners will also cook to a theme - Indian food, for example - and for large parties. ( The previous evening they had cooked a four course meal for the local French mayor - an endorsement in itself - and forty of his friends).

It might not have any Michelin stars but The Mad Hatter’s Kitchen is on a par with my favourite (award winning) gastro pub in London -my benchmark for English cuisine. And so, loathe though I am to give this secret away, here are the details - and don't forget to phone first:

The Mad Hatter’s Kitchen, Le Logis, Le Breuillac, 79190, Caunay. Tel 05 49 27 67 29.

comments (11)

1. Posted by markyj on May 26, 2009 11:14 AM

Sounds delicious, quaint, well priced and totally do-able in every sense. I love a Sunday roast.
Only one thing nagging me slightly - it IS France, is there anything about the 'Mad Hatters' that is a little bit French - or do I have to jump through the looking glass for that?
Having said this, will look forward to trying it out.


2. Posted by mimi pompom on May 26, 2009 11:25 AM

It is TOTALLY French in ambiance, style, setting and decor. It is just the cooking that is English. But oops, maybe it does seem a little disloyal to say my favourite restaurant in the region is British. Maybe I should amend to 'favourite British-run restaurant.' But you can jump through a looking glass if you like....


3. Posted by Charlotte Chubb on May 28, 2009 8:18 PM

Hello Marky, yes are Sunday Roasts are English in style, i don't think the French have the equivalent.

However our house is French and un modernised, please define French cuisine.. at this price, a tasteless salad starter or fatty pate, Duck in a little sauce, or Beef entrecote, with small garnish, and salad,
may be one choice of vegetables , a sorbet ,a good cheese board, followed by Creme Caramel...
Our main theme is the vibrancy and quality of food cooked,and i make everything from scratch, no cheating , no pre made sauces etc, sourcing as much as we can from the garden, Coupled with the charm of the old house,Mimi Pompom has given us an outstanding review, and after all ther is nothing worse than Englsh people trying to be FRENCH!!
Of course i will cook in many different styles,just ask! The Mad Hatter.


4. Posted by Jeannie on May 29, 2009 5:54 PM

We've been here, and the atmosphere is like a house party - very friendly and relaxed. They also do cream teas in the garden now (I think it is just weekends) and you can browse in the farm shop for pies, jams, and lots of home made produce.


5. Posted by Louise Finch on June 7, 2009 8:43 AM

I, too, adore The Mad Hatter! I have been for several enormous Sunday lunches through the winter with a large group of friends and we have never been disappointed. Charlotte and her husband are unfailingly welcoming and the food and atmosphere are always exceptional. My only criticism is that perhaps they are too generous with their portions!! Lucky for me that I live about 10 minutes away from this fabulous resource - restaurant, tea room and farm shop, what could be better? I take my mad hat off to Charlotte and family.


6. Posted by Chris Hodgson on July 4, 2009 11:10 AM

Hello Charlotte I'm Cliff's cousin's wife.
Absolutely loved your place - I thought it was a hot favourite for a BBC2 of Channnel 4 programme.
Must have a meal next time we come.
Good luck with everything.


7. Posted by Helen Price on April 12, 2010 10:20 AM

Just come back from Sauze Vaussais, we have had a holiday home there for two years and are always looking for good places to eat. Mad Hatter's was recommended by a neighbour, I must say that it is outstanding, loved it and cant wait to go back in June. Prices ,food and ambiance are excellent. Sat with some other Brits , great conversation. They cater for children too, we took our 9yr old daughter.
Fantastic desserts and cheese.


8. Posted by denise nunn on July 27, 2010 6:19 PM

Hello

I have been to France with my mum for a week to stay with family, they took us to mad hatters and i must say, i have fell in love with the place. As soon as you walk in its like home full of all your friends. Oh and the food well what can i say it was that fantastic as soon as im back in England im on here to say how wonderful it was. 100 /10 its that good. The plum sauce with the duck is to die for.
I liked it when we'd finished our meal the lady who cooked it for us came to have a chat.
If ever you think of doing cooking lessons one day, il be there. Thank you Mad Hatters Denise


9. Posted by Robert Baines on December 12, 2010 1:41 AM

I and 2 others visied friends who have set up home in Le Breuillac and we were taken to Mad Hatters for an evening meal which Charlotte had willingly opened up to cater for us. I cannot extol the virtues enough, my english is not good enough but suffice it to say I believe it was the best meal I have eaten and the company, the ambiance all made for a perfect night. I thank Bob and Laurie for introducing us to Mad Hatters.
I am now looking to go back, initially to say hi to Bob and Laurie but also to sample another of their great meals.
Regards

Bob


10. Posted by Carol on March 27, 2011 1:01 PM

It's amazing what great finds you will have in a small spot. The place looked too simple to expect something really as delicious. Carol


11. Posted by merelina on May 17, 2011 12:23 AM

Can I book a table for saturday evening 28th May for 3 adults and 3 children,11 8 and 5. Do you do a kids menu?I gather you have huge helpings...is it awful to suggest the 2 younger ones share a meal???if you don't do kids portions.Can you give me an idea of your menu for a saturday eve? We've been searching for good food in the area!


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