Review Date: October 2007
By Lisa Richards
I love driving through Europe. Now that cheap airlines have squeezed every last drop of glamour from flying, the only way to do Europe is by car – preferably in the comfort of a Land Rover Discovery, with the CD player stacked with audiobooks, a cashmere blanket thrown across your lap and the heated seats turned up to 10. Travelling by car also means you get a sense of scale and region – stop off when you see homemade signs for foie gras, make a swift exit from the motorway when you see a beautiful building to your left or decide to stay an extra night when you discover that it’s the local market the next morning.
My favourite stop en route to my return Eurotunnel passage is an adorable, friendly seven-room boutique hotel in the grounds of a beautiful chateau, which most mornings is shrouded in fog, to give it an even more impressively haunting view. La Coer de Rémi is not just a great bolthole to break up the journey (the last stretch between La Rochelle and Calais is a dreadfully dull drive), but is also home to one of my favourite restaurants in the whole world.
The hotel is run by Sebastian and his wife – both of whom speak pristine English – and their team of wonderfully welcoming staff; Sebastian not only showed us to our room, but was then dressed in whites later on in the evening as he served up beautifully cooked rustic French cuisine (with a sophisticated twist) in the 50 cover restaurant which feeds both guests in the hotel and locals.
Our enormous suite – quite possibly the largest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in, which boasted two huge Kohler baths sat side-by-side – was warm and cosy with a comfy lounge seating area where we popped open a bottle of Champagne and relaxed after the long, hard drive.
After a few glasses of restorative bubbly, we headed down to dinner, which started with complimentary rustic terrine served with delicious French bread and cornichons. Divine. I could have eaten the entire thing and I have thought about it many times since. I had a homemade cauliflower soup to start, followed by a slab of slow-cooked veal in an unctuous sauce served with smooth, creamy mashed potatoes and perfectly cooked seasonal vegetables which Sebastian had quite rightly recommended. Dessert was another revelation – caramelised baked bananas served with an artisan ice cream. Sebastian treated us to an excellent wine from the Beaujoulais region – which certainly was not nouveau.
A gorgeous place, we woke up to a misty, chilly morning and were welcomed by the couple’s pet pooch as we went in for breakfast of fresh bread, homemade jams and strong coffee. Next time I’m there, I’m hoping to explore the area a little more, and with my Great Dane in tow, we’ll make the most of the surrounding countryside. The perfect spot to start or end your stay.
La Coer de Rémi,
1, Rue Baillet
Tel: +33 3 210 33 333