Appetising Return to Belcastel

Belcastel

Belcastel

Last time, I wrote about a ghostly story linked to the château de Belcastel. This week, we had the opportunity to make a return visit to this plus beau village in Aveyron. Not only does it occupy a delightful setting beside the River Aveyron and boast a well-restored château, but it also has a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Vieux Pont. Since the SF had an important birthday, we felt this was sufficient justification.

In fact, this was our first visit to the restaurant in more than nine years. The last time, we were a little disappointed and felt they were having a difficult evening. This time, I’m pleased to say, they more than redeemed themselves.

A family concern

Restaurant du Vieux Pont

Restaurant du Vieux Pont

The Fagegaltier sisters grew up in this house. One now runs the kitchen with her husband; the other runs the front of house. They also own a small hotel on the opposite bank of the Aveyron, housed in a converted barn. We decided to stay the night, since Belcastel is a good hour’s drive from us. That meant we could enjoy the wine without worrying about breathalysers.

In summer, Belcastel is heaving, like all these places. In autumn, it’s almost empty, so the SF’s birthday in November does have some advantages. Even on a Wednesday at this time of year, the restaurant was almost full.

Delicious but light

The restaurant offers several menus but we went for the four-course one, including cheese. And it’s pretty good value at 53€ a head. Now, prepare to have your taste buds tickled. Someone at the next table was taking pictures of their food with a mobile phone. Beautifully presented as the dishes were, I didn’t feel this was quite comme il faut, so you’ll have to imagine them.

First up, the appetisers. A tiny bowl of fishy-tasting soup and some conical savoury nibbles. Every Michelin-starred restaurant worth its salt feels it has to offer several freebie courses, and so we were served an extra starter of smoked salmon rolled around a creamy filling in a light broth.

Next, the starters. We both had carpaccio de Saint-Jacques, thinly-sliced scallops on a duxelles of mushrooms, with a tea-flavoured broth, served with a wafer-thin piece of wholemeal bread topped with winter veg. Light, but delicious.

Main course: venison from the Aubrac. I’m a big fan of game but you don’t find it much in the shops in France, except around Christmas. This is surprising for a country where hunting is almost a religion. The meat was perfectly cooked and pink in the middle and served with purées of pumpkin and apple.

Cheese: you choose from a selection of local and regional cheeses, including Laguiole, Roquefort and a variety of goat’s and ewe’s milk cheeses. We remarked that there seemed to be fewer cheeses than last time. A sign of the times, maybe? Or perhaps just an indication that the season has finished.

Palate cleanser: a shot glass of an unidentified green granita, which I guessed to be parsley, topped with lightly-whipped cream.

Desserts: three types were on offer: chocolate, chestnut, or pineapple and orange in various forms. Knowing that we would regret it if we pigged out on the first two, we chose the fruity one and it was absolutely the right choice.

All this was washed down with a bottle of Château Figeac, a Saint-Emilion.

Picturesque spot

Being November, the weather was gloomy and damp, but this couldn’t lessen the charm of the village or dim the autumn colours. Belcastel is set in a steep-sided valley, clothed with beech and chestnut trees and they were at their resplendent best.

And not a ghost in sight.

River Aveyron at Belcastel

River Aveyron at Belcastel

Main street running alongside the Aveyron

Main street running alongside the Aveyron

Rive gauche

Rive gauche

View from the hotel

View from the hotel

Le vieux pont

Le vieux pont – taken on a September day

Le Restaurant du Vieux Pont

You might also like:

Every Château Tells a Story: #10 Le Château de Belcastel
Belcastel Revisited
Belcastel: one of the most beautiful villages in France

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
This entry was posted in Aveyron, Food/drink/recipes, Places and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Appetising Return to Belcastel

  1. The food sounds tantalising – what a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday!! Missed food pictures, but that way I had to use my imagination a bit, which is not a bad thing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alastair says:

    Belated Happy Birthday to the SF! Your description of the food is mouth-watering and the photos equally so. Your description of the cheeses reminded me that I was once told by a French person that it was polite to take a maximum of three cheeses when the board was offered and I have always followed this. However I have noticed restaurants often press you to take more and my greed is then tempted to take over. Is there a point of etiquette here?

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      It’s considered polite to take no more than three cheeses and I don’t usually need more than that. The SF would have the lot if he had his way. I have found that restaurants normally stop offering after you’ve chosen three – although sometimes they offer men more!

      Like

  3. paul diamond says:

    Love the photos, I can truly imagine standing there myself, the faint whiff of wood smoke in the air, the breeze coming down the valley…miss it all terribly too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One should always have a treat on a big birthday. From what i’ve gleaned about the sf, he will have an exact record of his birthday weather over the years! Happy birthday to him….

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      We don’t need many excuses for a treat! Yes, he’ll have the weather recorded for his birthday over about 19 years. It would be interesting to look back and see how it has varied. I’ll suggest it to him.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Elly Wright says:

    This all sounds so positive. Have been to Belcastel a couple of times but not for a meal. Friends tell me it is a must, so, maybe next time. Your starter sounded delicious and unusual Vanessa. You have certainly whetted my appetite.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      We’ve eaten at the restaurant four times now and three of the meals (including last week’s visit) were excellent. I can certainly recommend it next time you’re in that area – but you might have to book some time in advance, depending on the time of year.

      Like

  6. How funny, R did the same thing for my birthday in October. It was all a surprise and he said he’d take me out for a birthday drink. Since I was in the middle of getting ready to take my paintings to London, I had my old filthy jeans on and a paint-splashed jumper. I was getting ready to walk to our nearby bar, when he said, “No, let’s go in the car”. Mystery; in the dark down into the Aveyron valley to Belcastel. “????”, on my part.

    He strides ahead and walks into the restaurant! I was mortfied by my state of dress, but they kindly turned a blind eye and once I’d had my delicious aperitivo, I began to feel better about this first visit of ours to dine there. The meal was superb, very delicious and the hosts couldn’t have been nicer! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • nessafrance says:

      What a lovely surprise! Although, like you, I would prefer to be dressed a little more elegantly! But one feels relaxed there – and people don’t dress up, judging by the other customers. I suspect you’re not terribly far from Belcastel. It’s a bit over an hour from us, hence the decision to stay over.

      Like

  7. Osyth says:

    I took my youngest daughter to stay the night in the hotel last year. We ate in the restaurant and it was her first experience of a higher end French meal. She still talks about it. It was a wonderful evening and I am so glad they managed to do the same for you. Belcastel is a place that i really must take husband too …. he would love it from Chateau to riverbank I am certain!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I love the hotel over the little humpback bridge, although I must admit driving over it to get to the hotel is a bit hairy! Not much room either side of the car. It is a special place and I’m pleased it was a success for my husband’s special birthday.

      Like

  8. MarinaSofia says:

    How pretty, even in November light! God, I miss France…

    Liked by 1 person

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