Where to eat out in... Puy-de-Dôme
Enjoy robust and tasty auvergnat dishes in this land of dormant volcanoes and charming villages, says Sophie Gardner-roberts
1 Auberge la Croix de Fer
If you want to sample the best of auvergnat gastronomy, the Auberge la Croix de Fer overlooking Riom, just north of Clermont-ferrand, is the place to go. The inn opened in 1955 and was given a makeover in 2014 by the current owners Sandra and Philippe, who wanted to combine a traditional and homely atmosphere with contemporary decoration. The result is a welcoming place with charming details such as exposed wooden beams and hanging plants fitted into the wall-like paintings.
On the night we arrived, the dining room was buzzing and packed with locals, but we were quickly shown to our table and given an apple and chestnut kir as an aperitif. It was a Thursday, when the auberge offers frogs’ legs à volonté (as much as you can eat), which had attracted many hungry diners, including a merry table of ten sitting behind us.
Although I do enjoy frogs’ legs, I chose instead to try local specialities, and Sandra recommended a ‘ falette’ – rolled-up veal breast stuffed with chard leaves – as a copious and tasty starter. Dishes in Auvergne are rich and hearty, so I dismissed any thoughts of a diet as I chose as a main the beautifully cooked pork ribs served with seasonal vegetables.
After sampling some fine morsels of cheese including Fourme d’ambert, Cantal and a powerful, garlic-infused variety, I ended with a fun dessert consisting of a cookie served with apple sorbet, apple jelly and chestnut whipped cream. The diet was ruined but I was delighted.
With extremely friendly staff and an outdoor terrace providing views of Riom and the Puy volcanoes, La Croix de Fer is an obligatory gourmet stop if you are in the area. Menus from €15.90. 16 Rue de la Croix de Fer, 63200 Riom Tel: (Fr) 4 73 86 09 96 lacroixdefer.fr
2 La Chaumière
Set in the cute town of Ambert, home to the eponymous blue cheese that is the pride of Auvergne, La Chaumière is a charming family-run hotel and restaurant offering a welcoming and contemporary atmosphere.
The huge dining room is stylishly laid out and full of light thanks to the large windows. Crisp white tablecloths contrast with the deep purple walls, an old stone fireplace occupies almost an entire wall, and potted plants are scattered around. The overall atmosphere is comfortable and refined while the smiling staff make sure you have everything you need.
After sipping a sweet kir aperitif, we tucked into a satisfying foie gras served with brioche and chutney. The starter was served on a slated plate and nicely arranged, showing an attention to
detail present in all the dishes. For my main course, I chose the fillet of sea bream, which was cooked to perfection.
We were offered an extended version of the café gourmand for dessert and sampled several sweet treats off the menu including a refreshing apple sorbet, a creamy vanilla flan, and an intriguing green cake that turned out to be a kind of pistachio pudding. I particularly appreciated the wide selection of teas and infusions, and happily sat back to sip mine while watching the flames dance in the fireplace. Menus from €22. 41 Avenue Maréchal Foch, 63600 Ambert Tel: (Fr) 4 73 82 14 94 chaumiere-ambert.fr
The volcanic landscape of Auvergne