This week, we celebrated an important wedding anniversary and returned to Belcastel in Aveyron to do so in style. This plus beau village is home to a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Vieux Pont, which specialises in Aveyronnais produce and local recipes with a modern twist. The family who run the restaurant also run a small hotel in a converted barn on the other side of the River Aveyron. This means we can sample their excellent wine list without having to worry about driving the 50 km home with a police contrôle potentially around every corner.
I’ve written about Belcastel a couple of times before, and you can read those posts if you click the links at the bottom. The village huddles in a lovely valley by the stripling Aveyron, dominated by its château. Needless to say, it’s heaving with tourists in the summer, and we prefer to visit out of season.
Below is the château. If you’re wondering what the excrescence wrapped around the tallest tower is, all will be revealed below.
Normally, the late September weather is glorious. On this occasion, the drought had broken, and it rained some of the time while we were there. Even so, I was able to take photos of the village from new angles, so this post is effectively a photo shoot.
Before I start that, though, I have to tell you what we ate. Unusually, we chose the same dishes. You might think I am obsessed with food and that we eat out in Michelin-starred restaurants all the time. The former might be true, but our bank balances wouldn’t permit the latter. I did not take photos of our dinner, something that makes me squirm somewhat, although I must admit that I have very occasionally done so.
Apéritifs: I chose a glass of champagne; the SF ordered a double Ricard, which he drinks only as a treat these days.
Pre-starter: to keep their stars, restaurants have to offer these tasters. We were served two: a soup of melon topped with sesame seeds in a tiny bowl; and a small fillet of fried red mullet with beetroot and a beetroot mousse: a delicious combination.
Starter: a risotto served with a purée of butternut squash and thin slices of squid.
Main course: Aveyron veal, served slightly pink with a potato galette and various seasonal veg. Tender and perfectly cooked.
Cheese: a gigantic trolley is wheeled in, filled with Aveyron cheeses, from which you choose a selection. More than three is considered bad form.
Pre-dessert: yes, you get one of those, too. A granita of sorrel (unusual choice but very good), topped with a sweetened cream.
Dessert: normally, I go for anything with chocolate in it. We both decided this would be a bridge too far, and so we went for peaches poached with bergamot, accompanied by sorbets and walnut biscuits.
A Pessac-Léognan went with all this.
Now it’s bread and water until Christmas. But if you’re feeling flush, the village and the restaurant are certainly worth a visit. Considering the quality of the food, they do a reasonably-priced lunch menu.
A French architect, Fernand Pouillon, restored the ruined château in the 1970s. Its origins date back to the 9th century. It’s now home to several art galleries, specialising mainly in modern and contemporary art.
The excrescence? It’s the fashion these days, it seems, to use ancient buildings as backdrops for modern art installations, e.g. the yellow concentric circles on the fortress of Carcassonne last year. At Belcastel, it’s a wrap-around sculpture, which is part of an exhibition entitled Ignis Fatuus (will-o’-the-wisp). You’ll have to make up your own mind about it.
Animal shoeing device. A horse or cow would be restrained with its belly in the leather straps while it was shod. We’ve seen another one in Espinas, a village close to us.
Modern sculptures outside the Mairie.
The 15th-century church is on the other side of the river from the main part of the village.
The 15th-century bridge, with a cross in the middle. Although it can carry vehicles, it’s very narrow. I had to walk backwards in front of the car to guide the SF while he negotiated it with not very much on either side. The next morning, our roles were reversed.
If you’ve been to Belcastel, what did you think?
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