Wining, Dining and Sleeping in the Loire

Côte Roannaise


Among the vines

Chambres d’Hôtes – Domaine du Fontenay
Isabelle & Simon Hawkins


T: + 33 4 77 63 12 22

F: + 33 4 77 63 15 95


Fellow Brit, Simon Hawkins and his French wife, Isabelle, bought this neglected domaine in 1991 and restored the cellar and vineyards. In July 2002, they renovated an old barn just across the courtyard from the main house and established this gîte cum bed and breakfast. There are four very well appointed en-suite rooms, each named after a grape variety all feeding onto a central communal kitchen. The kitchen and adjoining terrace has excellent views over the plain of Roanne towards the city and the Loire . On the opposite side of the valley the sun rises over the hills of the Beaujolais . This is a great place to use as a base for exploring the region and Simon and Isabelle are a very useful and helpful source of local knowledge. Prices are very modest given the quality of the rooms. Very highly recommended.
(Last stayed: 01/09)  

Hotel-Restaurant – Central
Arlette & Pascal Girardon
8 Rue du 10 Août 1944
T: + 33 4 77 64 25 39
F: + 33 4 77 62 13 09
Renaison is the town found at the centre of the appellations vineyards. It is a small, compact place with a good indoor market, Les Halles’ just off the main square. On the opposite side, you’ll find the Central. This modest eatery is decked out in a distinctly provençal style. The food is competent rather than exciting, but is fine for a quick lunch. There are eight rooms, decorated in a similar theme.
(Last dined: 08/06)

Restaurant – Côte et Vignes
Sandrine Froilland & Stéphane Subrin
La Barre
T: + 33 4 77 62 25 87
Recently opened, this former barn was inherited by Stéphane Subrin, who set about restoring the building and opening this informal restaurant on the edge of the village. The menu is mainly modern French, combined with some bistro classics. The food has a sense of freshness and portions are generous. His chatty partner, Sandrine, runs the front of house. There is a small but well selected wine list. Recommended.
(Last dined: 02/09)


Côte et Vignes

Restaurant – Au Natur’elles
T: + 33 4 77 62 12 01
Saint-Haon-le-Châtel is a small, very pretty fortified village at the centre of the wine region. This little auberge is situated on the road that winds its way up the central square and run by a couple of girls. The menu is short, but offers an interesting selection, including generous salads and their very garlicy frogs legs starter comes highly recommended. There is a small wine list that doesn’t really do the producers of the Côte Roannaise justice. However, they do offer a broad selection of other regions by the glass and carafe. Good quality food and not particularly expensive. Recommended.
(Last dined: 01/09) 

Retail Opportunity – Pralus
Les Halles
Apart from wine, Roanne’s most famous culinary export is the Praluline. Created by Auguste Pralus, Meilleur Ouvrier de France, in 1955, this praline encrusted brioche is the speciality of the Pralus empire. They have shops in the centre of Roanne and as well as a new venture in Paris . They also run a modest stall in the covered market in Renaison.

Roanne, like most towns, has its own ‘golden mile’ of restaurants in close proximity to its station, although here it is distinguished by the likes of Troisgros, Le Central and L’Astrée. However, alongside you’ll find the habitual dodgy bars, kebab houses and dubious Lebanese eateries.

Restaurant-Hotel – Troisgros
Place Jean-Troisgros
T: + 33 4 77 71 66 97
F: + 33 4 77 70 39 77

A visit to the vineyards of the Côte Roannaise would be incomplete without a pilgrimage to Maison Troisgros. Situated opposite the railway station, the two generations of Toisgros have held three Michelin stars since 1968. Whilst I generally hold a very cynical view of the Michelin Guide and its ratings, there is no doubting that Troisgros is completely worthy of its Stars and upholds its reputation as one of the finest dining experiences in France, and therefore the world. Dinner at Troisgros is a life enhancing experience, and every gourmet should make it their objective to eat here at least once in their life. The current tasting menu costs €195 per person, but booking a table at Troisgros is not the moment for considering finances. If one is planning to dine there, it may as well be done properly.  
Petit Fours à la Troisgros

A pre-dinner tour of the cellar is recommended as something to drool over and whet the appetite. There are, of course, grand bottles here with verticals of many blue chip wines to choose from. Burgundy , which is where the family originates, feature strongly and the Loire selection has some well chosen and interesting options, and as usual, this is where some of the best buys can be found. The Côte Roannaise is represented solely by Robert Sérol with whom the Troisgros have a vineyard investment.

For those who have an afternoon to waste, then the lunch menu is apparently considered by those in the know as something of a bargain. In terms of the cuisine, anyone entering Troisgros expecting the French classics will leave disappointed; plated service was apparently invented here. There is a delicacy and simplicity in the food, with international influences bought in from their other ventures across the globe, notably in Japan . Service is serene, as is the ambience in kitchen where the brigade appears to work in silence. In the words of the Michelin Man, it’s ‘worth a detour’.
(Last dined: 01/09)

Restaurant – Le Central
20 Cours de la République
T: + 33 4 77 67 72 72
F: + 33 4 77 72 57 67
This upmarket bar, café, brasserie is literally next door to Troisgros and is under their ownership. It is set in an old 1920s railway hotel and offers classic French bistro food interspersed with international influences. There is also a shop selling a range of gourmet foods from around the world.

Restaurant – L’Astrée
Simon Falcoz
17 bis, Cours de la République
T: + 33 4 77 72 74 22
F: + 33 4 77 72 72 23
L’Astrée takes its name from a legendary local heroine. It’s a contemporary looking place with
quite formal and severe service and beset by too many challenging pre-dishes; pre-starters,
pre-desserts… The food too is formal with a limited menu and they carry a pretty average range of wines for a restaurant with such pretention.
(Last dined: 01/09)

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