I’m adding them up in my head: thirteen, I think. Thirteen restaurants explored since we’ve arrived here in the French countryside, none with too much success. Some were too confusing (Louise mistakenly ordered redundant courses of sausage at one, and she speaks the language); some were too loud, or too unsavory, or too expensive. Many were all those things.
No, that’s not right. There is one, the most recent one, the one to which we’ve vowed to return.
But I’m ahead of myself. To begin: around here, Sunday, it seems, is The Day of the Hunt. We live within a huge (650 square miles) regional park named La Brenne (the green area on the map), which is densely populated by bird species of all kinds. For six days a week the birds are protected (which is why there are so many of them) but, inexplicably, on Sundays it’s open season. Hunters with Mossberg shotguns and Cabela’s jodhpurs roam the woods by the hundreds, hunting quail and duck. From our apartment, it seems that a shotgun report is heard every minute. The birds of La Brenne certainly don’t consider Sunday a day of rest.
In the heart of La Brenne is a Fourteenth-Century settlement named Le Bouchet en Brenne, as charming as one can imagine a seven-hundred-year-old French settlement to be. Inside Le Bouchet is the Maison du Parc—the park headquarters, with offices, gift shop, and gallery; and inside the maison is the delightful La Boutique du Parc restaurant, catering especially (but, fortunately, not exclusively) to the families with the Mossbergs and jodhpurs. One must reserve a table in advance to get into this place, and that’s what we did, hoping that the hunters checked their Mossbergs at the door.
(Click any image for captions and enlargements)
It is at La Boutique du Parc that we have found a restaurant to love. The menu is unpretentious enough that even I can read it, the food is delicious and plentiful, it’s quiet enough to hold a conversation, there’s a huge wood-burning fireplace, and the prices encourage return visits. We shared a half bottle of local wine, a salad of fresh greens, a tartine forestière (a tart with mushrooms, onions, bacon, squash, and a poached egg—all sourced from the surrounding forest), frites de carpe (fish fritters, sourced from the many lakes in the park), a ramekin of brennou (goat cheese bordering on cream), two desserts and coffee, all for less than $45 US. The dessert menu alone offered eleven crêpes and six ice-cream dishes in fourteen flavors. It required more than two hours to devour it all, but devour it we did, and we will again.
To be fair, many of the restaurants around here are closed at this time of the year. Some of those may be worthy of our allegiance, but that just makes us appreciate those that are open all the more. Especially La Boutique du Parc.
Credit for the map of La Brenne and the image of the Chateau: destination.voyage.free.fr