La Roque-Gageac is rightly described as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Says one travel guide: “In a stunning position on the north bank of the Dordogne River, and backed by a steep hill/cliffs, with little to suggest that much has changed there in the last 300 years, La Roque-Gageac is truly the perfect picture postcard village.” We first visited La Roque in the late summer of 1998, on our second European bicycle trip, and spent two nights in the hotel La Belle Étoile, with a room overlooking the Dordogne.
Today we visited again — for lunch — and left two hours later in a most excellent mood.
According to my 2010 Michelin Guide Rouge (“Hotels & Restaurants”), La Belle Étoile is ranked equally with Daglan’s own Le Petit Paris. Each has two couverts (out of a possible five) and each also has the Bib Gourmand designation for serving “good cooking at moderate prices.” But I’d have to give the edge, frankly, to La Belle Étoile — for more refined service, a more comprehensive menu (with food that’s also very well prepared), a somewhat more elegant room, and a terrific view. Here is one view out of the restaurant’s windows:
As we settled in at our table, we were feeling satisfied with the morning’s accomplishment: finding a well-managed place in Marminiac where we can board our two cats when we travel. (Okay, it wasn’t a huge accomplishment, but it was something.) Anyway, we decided to go all-out with the 29-euro menu (three courses) plus aperitifs plus a quite good bottle of Chablis.
My wife began with a coupe de champagne while I had a Campari with orange juice. With the drinks, we were served toasts spread with rillette (a coarse paté), followed by amuse bouches (foie gras for my wife, and velouté of cêpes for me). For entrées, my wife Jan had an egg cooked en cocotte with shrimp and morilles mushrooms, while I had shrimp tempura served with nicely cooked potato halves that were topped with a sautéed onion mixture (interesting, no?). Very nice presentation:
For our plats principal, my wife ordered the sea bass served with roasted fennel, while I chose the roast chicken studded with large pieces of black truffle, served on a mound of risotto chock-full of minced black truffle, with a tuile of parmesan cheese finishing the presentation. Here it is:
Then it was sorbet and fresh red fruits for my wife, and Brie de Meaux cheese (with bits of black truffle in the centre!) for me, followed by coffees.
If you’re planning on trying this restaurant (which is open every day except for Monday lunches and dinners, and Wednesday lunches), do make a reservation. Even today, well before the height of tourist season, the restaurant was turning away visitors with no reservation.