I feel disloyal for saying so, but whenever friends visit, it is always a struggle to think of a decent local restaurant to take them to. But finally, I have found somewhere that excells on every level - food, decor, ambiance and service - and that is good enough to compete with the best in Paris and London.
It's called L'Auberge de L'Ecurie and the astonishing thing is that it has been sitting on my doorstep unnoticed for a year and a half. The first I heard of it was when Travis very generously took me to dinner there last week (he in turn, discovered it through his friend Michelle.) Even before I stepped inside, I knew I would love it, thanks to the glowing red-orange lamps visible through the window, creating an ambiance tres chaleureuse.
We were seated by the log fire and, unusually for rural France on a weekday night - where often you can find yourself the only diners in an over-lit, otherwise empty restaurant - five other tables were occupied. We were served the house cocktail - a mix of champagne and apricot brandy in an old-fashioned champagne coupe - and then three delicious courses for €25.
I had snails in a garlic sauce as a starter and a main course, cooked perfectly saignant, that I won't elaborate on here for fear of offending my vegetarian friends. For dessert, I had a chocolate mousse that was unlike any other chocolate mousse that I've ever tasted in France - as light as silk charmeuse, overlaid with lychee (which actually tasted like Turkish Delight.)
The service was warm and efficient, without being bombastic or overbearing, while the music, the lighting and the ambiance, were all perfectly pitched. This was a rural French restaurant at it's best. I wasn't surprised when the owners Fréderic and Frank (pronounced 'Fronc' in French) told me that it is usually filled to capacity at lunchtime. I will most definitely be going back.
Auberge de L'Ecurie, La Font d'Usson, Usson de Poitou, 05 49 59 53 84