A Gastronomic Tour of Champagne

 

A long weekend in the Champagne region involved a couple of delicious lunches at Champagne Houses. Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls had the pleasure of dining at Champagne Gremillet and Champagne François Oudard.

Our first gastronomic stop was at Champagne Gremillet where we saw for the first time the resources and love that went into making their eight champagne varieties. Having learnt how they make their champagnes and a whistle stop tour of the grounds – stunning – we were taken for lunch on site.

This trip taught me a few things, above all, that champagne can be drank with any meal course as long as you get the right grape variety and blend for the dish and course. It was also the first time I had tried a Blanc de Blancs and a Blanc de Noirs one after the other, to compare the differences.

We were seated and given an aperitif of their Vintage Brut Selection (70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonay), as we savoured the views from the glass windows from the dining area. We were then served a glass of the Blanc de Blancs with a cute appetiser shot of beetroot, crème fraîche & smoked salmon, as well as a shot of egg, cream cheese and tuna. Just perfect.

Next up was a glass of Blanc de Noirs, served with cold ham & chicken terrines selection (homemade), a creamy potato salad and charcuterie board.

Adjusting our belts, we were given a glass of their non-Champagne red wine Coteaux Champenois, served alongside three strong cheeses.

Desert consisted of a tarte tatin – a classic – served with a glass of our favourite champagne we had tried. Mine was the Blanc de Noirs, as it was just perfect with food – oaky and complex.

 

Champagne Gremillet is beautiful and located in the hills of the champagne region. They cater for individual as well as groups (up to 180 in their large room) and is the perfect place to stay to while away the day with good food, good company and excellent Champagne. You’ll struggle to find a better afternoon out.

We stayed in Troyes a wonderful little town that has medieval listed buildings and looks like it came out of a chocolate box. We had dinner there, it was nice but you must be aware that there are a few tourist traps. Avoid the ones that look like Swiss chalets or French old world bistros. Look around the narrow streets and see where the locals really are. Troyes traditional dish is a sausage made from tripe, try it if you dare (I didn’t dare for the record).

Next day we headed off to Champagne François Oudard. We were surprised how suburban this place was, that was until we were greeted by the Oudard family who took us down to their huge underground wine cellar. We were shown the family ways of making the champagne. Before heading to the restaurant, we were taken on a little guided tour in the town of Villenauxe La Grande, whose treasure is a 15th century church with beautifully modern stained-glass windows made by the famous British artist, David Tremlett.

 

Lunch, was out of this world. If you had said that it was a Michelin restaurant, I would have believed you. But no, this restaurant –  Le Flaubert –  named after the famous 19th century French writer Gustave Flaubert – is headed up by the youngest Oudart son, Kevin, who unbelievably, by the age of 17 ran the restaurant based on his aptitude. Look at the photos below if you don’t believe me.

As we entered the restaurant we were greeted to an open fire which was more than welcome, considering that it was -2 degrees outside and came unprepared (they say champagne region has the same climate and altitude as S. England but it was a good 10 degrees when I left the UK – just saying). We were served the vintage champagne while we waited for our table to be finished.

Seated we were given a glass of their special Blanc de Noirs. We had the option of scallops or foie gras for starters, and we ordered both. The generous portion scallops were cooked to perfect and were served in a creamy sauce. The foie gras melted in the mouth and was served with a lychee puree and on a nutty bread.

The next champagne was the Blanc de Blancs and it was a delight, very easy to drink. I had cod with roasted vegetables, while others ordered the veal pancreas (I am sure there is a nicer term for this but that’s what was translated) and that looked divine.

Dessert was a vanilla sponge and macaroons – that resembled Enid Blyton’s fairy tale mushrooms and a deep chocolate dessert. Stunning. I have not had such an impressive and delicious, may I add, dessert in a very long time. Seriously, it was that good.

 

This place is a must if you are in the Champagne region – they also have a 4-star hotel close to the restaurant with a swimming pool. The champagne from this house was by far the best value that I have had the pleasure of tasting, and I am kicking myself for not buying a few cases – oh well next time. Just perfect.

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