13 April 2012

Lunch in a Loire Valley auberge (1)

The restaurant where we had lunch on Wednesday is called L'Auberge du Val de Vienne. That means the Vienne Valley Inn — it's an old roadhouse where in other times travelers could get meals and rent sleeping accommodations. The auberge is in the village called Sazilly, on the south (or left) bank of the river, not far from Chinon (pop. 8,000).

The Vienne is a river that flows into the Loire from the area south of Tours, passing through the town of Chinon and the Chinon wine production area. The Vienne valley is very wide and fairly deep. Some of the most prestigious Chinon vineyards are on the up-slope on the north (right) bank of the river, facing south so that the vines benefit from good sun and warmth.

A nice sign on the façade of the Auberge du Val de Vienne

I knew about the Auberge du Val de Vienne but had never had a meal there. Nick and Jean knew it too, from personal experience, and recommended it as our meeting place. The daily lunch menu is priced at 18 euros, or just less than $25 U.S., with an extra charge for pre-lunch drinks, wine, and coffee. The meal for 18 euros includes a starter course, a main course, and dessert, with two choices in each category.

L'Auberge du Val de Vienne in Sazilly, near Chinon

Before the first course was brought out, we were served a tray of little appetizers called amuse-bouche or amuse-gueule — "mouth amusers" and in this case, four crevettes (shrimp, prawns) stuck on little metal fork-stands and bathed in an herby, spicy sauce, along with four little shot glasses filled with chopped fresh tomato topped with a puree of cauliflower.

Les amuse-bouche

Most restaurants in the area have this kind of daily special menu, and many price it at 11 or 12 euros. Some even include a glass of wine for that price. The Val de Vienne is definitely more upscale than the little restaurants that cater to a working crowd at lunch all around the Loire Valley area. With our extras, including wine and coffee, we ended up paying 65 euros per couple, or about $85 U.S. That's fairly expensive, but not comparable to prices you might pay in Paris or even in other cities like Tours or Orléans.

We arrived just before 12:30 for lunch, and were the only customers in the dining room for nearly an hour. Between 1:00 and 1:30, several other groups came in, and the place was bustling when we left. There was only one young waiter to take care of all the tables, and he did a good job.

More about the food tomorrow...


  1. Isn't it strange how one day you've never heard of something and the next it crops up in several contexts. Sazilly hadn't crossed my orbit until Monday this week as far as I know, then I encountered it on your blog and during my research into some industrial heritage we showed a client.

  2. Susan, that happens with French words. You'll hear one you don't know and look it up. And then you'll hear it repeatedly over the next few days or weeks. I always wonder whether I'd heard but not focused on such terms for months or years without ever noticing.

  3. I love the sign... Jean described it to us yesterday... it looks as good as she described. Nick is now feeling a little better... got to the bread and butter stage by 4pm. And was talking about some pasta...
    and look out for the Rum and Prune cake recipe on Jean's "Baking in Franglais" blog... it was absolutely scrummy!!

  4. Ken, I think we filter automatically... ear and eye... that was why Walt was having trouble getting his woodland shot to look like what he saw at the time.
    You get a car that you think looks a fair bit individual... only to find that thousands of other people thought the same way!!

  5. That sign is wonderful :) I can't wait to read more!

  6. I, too, was immediately attracted to the restaurant sign! Could be, we can each imagine having that copper pan with the implements in our own kitchen.

    When I studied advertising, I recall our prof telling us that when one really needs something, like a vacuum cleaner, for instance, that's when we notice the ads for vacuums in the paper. Otherwise, we'd missed them... History has proven his comments to me, for sure! Sazilly and the car are examples of this.

    Mary in Oregon

  7. The amuse bouche looks so yummy. Those shrimp fourchettes are chouette! I'm glad you are letting us savor your meal course by course...miam, maim!

  8. Ken. I hope you all enjoyed your meal.

    Yes it is more expensive than many 'basic' restaurants in the Loire but it has higher ambitions – an amuse bouche before the meal etc.. I would suggest that if you compare it to similar restaurants it probably isn't expensive.

    It also has an extensive wine list, particularly of Chinons.

    Incidentally there is also a good basic restaurant in Sazilly very close by but very different in style.

  9. Hello Jim Budd, thanks for the comment. Yes, we did enjoy the meal and the wines.

    Mary, Evelyn, Judy, Tim, Susan, I can definitely recommend the Auberge du Val de Vienne.

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