Ably chosen by my husband, La Table de la Bergerie is a rising star of a restaurant located in Champ-sur-Layon, near Angers. While the 30-year-old chef, David Guitton, doesn’t have a Michelin star yet, if you give it a few years then he probably will have.

This is not exactly belied by the interiors, though: despite its rustic yet polished charm, achieved by its wooden floors, linen napkins, lack of tablecloths, exposed bricks, beams, wood and wine bottles, discreet lighting and stunning views, this is let down (albeit only a tiny bit) by the red and black chairs, which is a colour scheme I think I must have seen in at least 3 restaurants in as many months. However, the rest does make up for it, and as well as seeing the chef capitalise on local produce (a list of his producers can be found inside the menu), he also uses local slate as placemats. The French doors make excellent use of natural light and sofas on the terrace allow visitors to linger and enjoy the views of the vines for even longer after their meals.

You also get a clear view of the totally exposed, very small kitchen, proving that excellent professional cooking can take place even in a tiny space. The restaurant itself is small, too, with only 22 covers (book early!), but there are only 3 staff, and they do everything, from maître d’ and waiting on tables to the cooking and cleaning. The friendliness and attentiveness of the service we received is even more remarkable in the face of the extreme multi-tasking we witnessed. The soundtrack of Norah Jones and Katie Melua could have easily proved incongruous, but in fact it works perfectly for an idyllic Sunday setting.

The price bracket of this restaurant attracts pensioners and young families alike, although it’s arguably not an especially family-friendly environment thanks to its sophisticated menu and lack of space to manoeuvre buggies and high chairs. We paid €33 each for a four-course menu, plus a €12 supplement for four small glasses of wine, which were specially chosen by the chef to complement the food. The servings of the wine were extremely generous for the money, but is ultimately too much if you need to drive! A shame, as Jean-Marc was unable to profit fully from the glasses of wine he had paid for.

We were the first to arrive, but the restaurant was full by 1pm. The scene is further complemented by orchids, corks, and modern art, and you’d think that all of this would make such a small place seem cluttered; strangely, it doesn’t. Plants, rather than flowers, also adorn the tables. We had plenty of time to admire all of this during the languorous three-hour meal, which kicked off with coquilles St Jacques, served with a shiitake mixture inside spring-roll style confections, and a basil pistou. This was accompanied by a 2006 Savennières Croix Picaud, which was crisp, citric and lingering, cohering and smoothening more when consumed with food. Pine nuts completed the colourful, flavourful and innovative ensemble.

Our main course of hare further intensified the experience with its well-seasoned and incredibly rich flavours. Cooked to perfection, it was served on a bed of creamy polenta. The meat had a gamey flavour, which was reminiscent of both offal and pigeon at certain moments, and which was complemented perfectly by the second wine, an Anjou Villages red from 2001. This bonfirey and autumnal wine would suit any Lapsang Souchong lover down to the ground; its mature red fruits harmonised beautifully with the hare and did a great deal to make the meal a truly memorable experience.

As we have experienced in many French restaurants – surprisingly, perhaps, for the land of wine and cheese – the cheese course (served with an original red Anjou Villages from 2008) was the weakest of the four. Even though the cheeses were of high quality, it lacked innovation and attention in both choice and manner of serving – although as mentioned, with only three staff members who presumably have a lot on their plate, it’s certainly understandable that they’re not going to bring you a trolley of choices to select from.

It was a sweet white Anjou from 2009 that accompanied our desserts. In the red corner: an apple tart with caramel and sesame seeds, plus a cider sorbet (while delicious, the sorbet lamentably did not taste distinctively of cider). In the blue corner, a fig tart with grape sorbet. The dried figs were not too hard, and both tarts were warmed through, as well as being united by a puff pastry-meets-shortbread type crust.

The coffee, like the cheese, seemed to have slightly less effort put in. Nespresso coffee is good quality coffee without doubt; with this I have no issue. But at €47,50 each, no petits fours?! Still, perhaps I have just been spoilt. Nonetheless, an excellent taste experience all round, crowned with sun, vines and excellent wines. Would return.

La Table de la Bergerie
La Bergerie
49380 Champ s/Layon
Tél. 02 41 78 30 62
http://www.latable-bergerie.fr/

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