It had been two years since we enjoyed lunch at Le Petit Léon, a restaurant in the secluded village of Saint-Leon-sur-Vézère. Although the place itself is fairly casual, the food is definitely in the fine-dining category — and this past Friday, we discovered that the chef and his team have moved the dishes (and the prices) even further upscale.
My initial review of the restaurant was called “Kiwi magic in a lovely French village” (posted August 15, 2019). What makes this place particularly interesting is that the chef is from New Zealand (where he is, evidently, a well known celebrity) and he flies his entire team to France for the summer, to operate this seasonal restaurant.
When Jan and I ate at Le Petit Léon in 2019, we were offered a three-course menu, with four choices for each course, at 30 euros. When we ate there on Friday with friends Helen and Roy, we were surprised to find that the menu had changed dramatically — with a four-course lunch for 50 euros, and a seven-course meal for 65 euros. If you opted for wine pairings, your bill would go up by 35 euros for five glasses and 50 euros for seven glasses.
Four courses seemed like more than enough, and seven courses seemed a bit over the top. What was also striking was that there were virtually no choices — the dishes for the four-course lunch were all set, and it was almost impossible to choose one of the other dishes, which were destined for the seven-course lunch. (Although I did talk my way into getting one change.)
In any case, all four of us agreed that the quality of the food was exceptional, and the quantity more than sufficient. We began with a generous selection of amuse-bouches, including minced fresh oysters served on the half-shell with a tart sauce. The variety and number of the little taste treats were so stunning that I forgot to take any photos of the dishes!
With the amuse-bouches polished off, it was time for our entrées, which included small pieces of trout, a saffron sauce, a slice of smoked tomato, and pine nuts, all topped with a rice cracker — into which some sort of designs were baked, with finely powdered charcoal. Here’s my serving:
As he served the entrées, our waiter noted that the designs in the crackers had been modeled on the pre-historic animals that are painted on the famous caves at Lascaux; but he conceded that they were hard to make out because the crackers had curled while being baked. However, the animal designs on Helen’s cracker were fairly easy to see, and she kindly let me photograph it. Have a look:
Then came my first plat principal, a delicious dish of tender beef cheek with a poached langoustine, thinly sliced truffle, and a sauce périgourdine. This was the dish I was technically not supposed to have, because it was part of the seven-course menu, but I talked my way into it — finally declaring that I had an allergy to the type of fish they were serving as part of the four-course lunch! The simple fact was that I didn’t want to eat a main course of fish immediately after a trout entrée. Anyway, the beef-cheek dish was as delicious as it was visually appealing, as you can see:
Then came the second plat principal (the dish was part of the four-course menu). I have to say that it was particularly clever, because it was listed on the menu simply as pintade (guinea fowl) with black garlic and a jus. The guinea fowl consisted of two rolls of white meat, generously sauced and decorated. Behold:
The dessert on the four-course menu was listed as banoffee (traditionally, a pie made with a caramel and slices of banana), but of course this version was deconstructed. Again, I think I was too surprised by the non-traditional presentation to photograph it. However, I had regained my wits by the time our waiter brought our table a large selection of treats (as the menu described them) or mignardises. The photo below shows only a few of the choices; the “blackberries” were actually jellies, and the walnuts were not just lightly glazed with chocolate but actually had quite thick coatings of dark chocolate. Have a look:
Finally, just to give you an idea of the place, here is a photo of the front entrance; I copied it from my 2019 posting:
When we first lunched at Le Petit Léon, in 2019, rainy weather at the start of our meal meant that we had to eat indoors, and we wound up at a fairly cramped table. This time, the weather was great, and we were seated outdoors. Quite the lovely meal, all in all.