Monday, July 27, 2009

Café Brasserie Les Arènes in Saintes

Saintes - Eating & Drinking - Pubs & Bars - Bars

If you find yourself in Saintes, either shopping or on a tour of the historic sites of the town, and need a bite to eat at lunchtime then you could do worse than call to the Cafe Brasserie Les Arenes.
There is ample free parking across the street that you may use for shopping or sightseeing. We had been down at the Roman arena (see and took the path back to the town and came across this bar.
On the boards outside, it advertised a three course lunch for €10.50, four course for €13.00.
We took the smaller menu. My main course was a beef brochette with salad and chips; dessert was a fine slice of lemon tart and we finished off with a decent cup of coffee, all for €10.50!
Service was efficient and friendly and there are toilets in the back. It was the first of a few calls.

Check out my review of Café Brasserie Les Arènes - I am cork - on Qype - see also:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Tesco Taste Northern Ireland will take place on 11th & 12th September in Belfast’s Custom House Square.
It will be FREE entrance to the public and is the brainchild of Tesco’s Northern Ireland Office, the show aims to showcase and celebrate the fantastic breadth and quality of Northern Ireland’s produce to a wider audience.
The event will host some fantastic local exhibitors, and visitors can literally take a culinary tour around the region, sampling and meeting the people who grow and produce much of Northern Ireland’s food and drink.
A Celebrity Cookery Theatre will be one of the highlights of the show and will host demonstrations from the region’s leading chefs.

PR is Rachael Gasiorowski ( and she'll let us have updates in the run-up to the event.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Marche Rue Gambetta in Saintes


We’re in Saintes for the market, walking up Rue Gambetta with small groups of locals and tourists. And then we’re in the thick of it. Two facing rows of stalls turn into another street and the space is crowded.

Like Royan, this is mainly a food market. We’re already well stocked but pick up a few bits and pieces, like some very tasty Saigon rolls (some with shellfish and veg, others with poultry and veg), some cod (not the salted morue) but the fresh cabillaud and a chunk of Munster cheese, the Munster a valley in Alsace.
We are parked near the Arc Germanicus Take a few pics there and head back to the gite for lunch.
If you have a choice, the market in Royan is better, just as the Le Clerc in Royan is much better than the one in Saintes

Check out my review of Marche Rue Gambetta - I am cork - on Qype

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Domaine de la Mothe in Thézac

Thezac, Charente Maritime, France

One of the highlights of a trip to the French countryside is a visit to the local vineyard.

There are a few in the Thezac area, each with its own coloured signs. We followed the yellow of Domaine de la Mothe.

There we met Madame Masse who was born in the farm where we are staying! We also met a couple of very courteous locals in the middle of their purchases.

Madame gave us a generous tasting of Pineau, both white and rose. We bought some and also some of her lovely whites (columbard) and reds (merlot), each at 2.60 a bottle.

At the end of the friendly transaction – where we managed to have a long rambling conversation, even though she didn’t use a word of English – she threw in a bottle of rose for free!

It was the first of three visits to the Domaine and each was very enjoyable. We met her hard working daughter on the final visit and our purchase was rewarded with a smashing bottle of very old Pineau!

Check out my review of Domaine de la Mothe - I am cork - on Qype

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Guy Laurent Traiteur

Restaurants line edge of Royan Marina

Our favourite traiteur in the Royan area is Guy Laurent. Here we bought a prepared meal €7.73 for two and two sets of tartes (Clafoutis and Apple) for €6.30. Then, with two bags full and a loaf under the arm, back to the car and then to the gite.

The Greek style tomato (bought in large indoor market there) fits the bill for lunch and after that we head to St Georges de Didonne, paddle in the sea, walk along beach and enter the town where we stroll to the centre and the pleasant square, noting the restaurants (the search for food never stops) and so on.

For dinner at the Gite, we have the traiteur’s Turkey in Tomato sauce, having started with some smoked salmon. Dessert is the gorgeous apple tart and all that, along with bottle of Rose from local producer Madame Masse (Domaine de la Mothe), makes for a cheap but lovely meal.

Check out my review of Guy Laurent Traiteur - I am cork - on Qype

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hennessy Distillery in Cognac

€6,400 a bottle!!!

COGNAC 09/06/09
On the brandy trail today, following the footsteps of Richard Hennessy from Killavullen. First though we needed lunch on arrival in Cognac. Called to a small cafe near the Martell distillery. For €16.00, we got one plate each, one packed with shredded kebab meat plus chips and salad, one packed with Merguez sausages plus chips and salad, along with 2 waters. Quite a feed.

Then walked down to the banks of the Charente to pick up our reserved tickets for the Hennessey tour. Crossed the river by Hennessy boat to a storage area to begin tour and then back again to the main admin. area, all the time accompanied by an English speaking guide.

Finished up in the shop (Boutique) of course for a tasting. The amount of tastes you had depended on how much you paid for your tour. The plebs got just the ordinary Hennessey available in Ireland but we paid €12 instead of €9 and got two tastings, the second a Fine de Cognac. The Fine was really much better and we ended up buying a bottle for about €38.00 – the ordinaire cost €30.00.

Interesting tour, though we felt that the one we made a few years back to Henri Martin was the better of the two. Being a Corkman, I’m letting the side down but at the Martin distillery, you get a tour on a little train and you also see the barrels being made on site.

Check out my review of Les Quais Hennessy - I am cork - on Qype

Monday, July 6, 2009


St Georges de Didonne - Eating & Drinking - Restaurants

In Royan (or more accurately its joined on neighbour St Georges de Didonne) on Sunday night, we struck it lucky. Many establishments were closed, having done great business earlier for Mother’s Day lunches.
L’Escapade though was open and we were among their first evening customers. Having eaten various bits and pieces on the 600km journey down, we didn’t need a whole pile so when we spied Moules Frites on the menu, we went for it.
We didn’t spot the word gross, the one they really meant. We got at least kilo of mussels each, all in a beautiful cream and onion sauce and a basket full of chips each.
We got stuck in and the shells piled up. Kept going until the very end and then used a spoon to sample further the wonderful cream and onion sauce and, despite the highish €16 tag for a half bottle of Entre Deux Mer Sauvignon blanc, promised to come back soon.

Check out my review of Restaurant L'Escapade - I am cork - on Qype

Saturday, July 4, 2009



Royan is popular with the Irish, among others, and the Michelin recommended La Foret is not too far out on the east, on the road to Talmont. It is easy to find.
Started, aside from a few small appetisers, with a massive Goats Cheese and Tomato plateful, containing several slices of a tart that had the cheese and tomato, several rings of another cheese at the four corners of the plate, various bits of fruit and crudités and topped with a “sail”, made up of two rashers on two skewers.
The other starter was also huge, a Carpaccio of various fruits: several slices each of melon, grapefruit, watermelon, pineapple, and grapes, along with a plentiful supply of sorbet. The centre point here was a glass of the local Pineau which you couldn’t really free until you ate most of the fruit.
Main course was Bauvette, a top class beef dish with parsley butter and caramelised onion, served with a few chips. Quite an amount of beat filled the long dish but there was bowl of salad on the side and also more chips. Massive and it went down well.

Then came the cheese course. I forget the first one on offer as we each went for the second which was a white cheese with cream and cognac. Beat that!
Then on to the desserts, all this remember in the €26.00 euro menu. Picked the classic Ile Flottante – melt in the mouth decadence. The other dessert at the table was a Terraro: a sorbet type combination of very fruity boules of frozen fruit (including blackcurrant, strawberry etc) all surrounded by sliced strawberries.
It was an unbelievable meal at quite a busy restaurant and the price was of house wine (red, white or rose) was, believe it or not, €6.00 for a 70 cl carafe.
There are a couple of set menus but the a la carte is huge, opens out like a broadsheet. There is no English version so you could struggle to get though it unless you have very good French. But take a chance. It is worth it!
The cooking, the presentation, the service, the location of La Foret and its ambiance is excellent. But be warned about those huge portions!

Check out my review of La Foret - I am cork - on Qype