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RESTAURANTS - CHEFS - HOTELS - REVIEWS & STORIES

 

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Marc Meneau - L'Espérance*****, St. Père-en-Vézelay, Burgundy

A Gastronomic Jewel Tucked In The Hill Country of Burgundy

Peter and Linda D'Aprix

LEspérance, in the lovely country side of Bourgogne (Burgundy), is home to one of France's most creative and innovative chefs, M. Marc Meneau. It is first and foremost his restaurant around which he has developed a luxury hotel filled with Burgundian country ambiance. As his fame has grown, so has his establishment. It seems that he has bought up half the village in which he was born! He has his own winery as he is in the heart of the Vézelay wine district.

The main and original building is an old mill with two millstreams that pass under it and provide a charming watery ambiance to the back garden as they flank an alley of trees and provide an excuse for half a dozen white painted Japanese style bridges heavy with wild roses and climbing vines. The same streams connect the rest of the Meneau estate across the road. He has two annexes that were also mills as well as a motel and more modest restaurant for those wanting either more budget conscious meals or just a break from the haute cuisine of L'Espérance.

photo carrot dish
Photo M. Meneau

Marc Meneau testing herbs in his kitchen garden.

Photo Bedroom

Bedroom filled with antique country ambiance but modern facilities.

Carrots in cumin scented honey sauce

Click photos with blue borders to see larger version.
Peter D'Aprix © 2000

M. Meneau has a culinary philosophy of combing on a plate something that grows in the "air" with something that grows in the earth. It is his "yin and yang". This is a novel and interesting approach. He will not serve, for example, two root vegetables together. Instead he pairs, say carrots with green beans. In 1999, Monsieur Meneau lost one of his 3 Michelin stars taken away from him. Personally, I believe this is unjust and undeserved. However, he earned it back in 2004. One can loose a Michelin star in France from a flaw in the walls, one too few coat hooks or an entrance way that no longer conforms to width demands. Who knows why they stole away a star but it could not be for the quality of the cuisine or the service or the lovely grounds and rooms.

Photo Dinging Room

Light drenched dining room of L'Espérance

Photo Olive & Truffle dish

Remarkable olive and black truffle dish

If you have the pleasure of a meal at L'Espérance, you will find this creative alchemist's food superb. Although at times a but rich for our California tastes, all the dishes we sampled were executed superbly and perfectly served. Like many of France's finest chefs, he grows many of his own vegetable and herbs in a garden hidden from view behind ancient ten foot high walls. He established the "potager" in the mid '80's but it looks as though it has been there for centuries.

The lovely, airy dining room overlooks the garden and since it is built as green house with walls of glass plate, it is a pleasure rain or shine. Which is just as well since Burgundy gets it plentiful share of rain year round. But whether you are blessed with sun to wander the gardens with their complement of statuary or just get to view it from inside, you will do so with some of the most excellent service we have encountered. A perfect balance of professionalism and friendly cheerfulness, it makes the old, trite myth of the arrogant snobbery of French service firmly in the history books where it belongs.

All the rooms are pleasant and perfectly equipped but the most wonderful ones are in the old mill annexes across the road from the main building. They are tranquil, serene with polished antiques and crisp delightful country fabrics. With the old open beamed ceilings and centuries old terra cotta tiles on the floor, it is difficult to leave this enchanting spot.

Annex Bedroom Window

Exterior of bedroom window in annex, a former mill.

Photo delectible "amuse bouch"

Amuse Bouche - melon sautéed in walnut oil with bitter green

Photo bedroom window

Interior of same window.

Statue at end of avenue of trees

Statue at end of avenue of trees

Photo one of many bridges in the garden

One of many bridges over the parallel mill streams that flank the avenue of trees in the garden

photo

Another of the many statues in the garden

Recently, 2005, M. Meneau has widened his horizons and purchased a delightful new propertly only an hour's drive away, closer to Paris, that he has designed to be very different from l'Esperance. It is called Château and Domaine de Roncemay. It is an interesting departure but no less interesting. It has an 18 hole golf course, spa, charming hotel and excellent restaurant offering high quality cuisine but neither in the league of l'Esperane for 3 star ambitions nor the resulting impact on the purse. He situation one of his talented young chefs from l'Esperance in the kitchens and together they developed a lighter, faster cuisine served in a light and airy dining room that overlooks the golf course.

With 325 acres of park and wood land to explore, tennis, pétanque, couple of "Hamman" style Morocan steam rooms, massage and body and skin treatments, this is a place that is easy and fast to get to from Paris and is perfect for men and women alike. Dogs welcome! more >>

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L'Espérance
89450 St-Père-en-Vézelay
Phone : (33) 03 86 33 39 10
Fax : (33) 03 86 33 26 15
E-mail: esperance@relaischateaux.fr
Web Site URL: www.marc-meneau-esperance.com
Or
http://www.receptionfrance.com (Marc Meneau / Region Bourgogne)

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From Paris take the A 6 to
exit Nitry, D 944 - D 32
towards Vézelay ; at
Voutenay take the N 6.

Weekly closing:
Restaurant: Tuesday and
Wednesday noon (off-season)

Annual closing:
February

Auxerre 50 km
Orly 180 km

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All rights reserved peter d'aprix ©1985-2017.
No copying, reuse or partial reproduction permitted without written permission by the authors, Peter and Linda D'Aprix.


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