The porce­lain city has more than empty dishes to of­fer in this culi­nary guide.

France - - Bienvenue -

1 Les Petits Ven­tres

Li­mo­ges is a city red in tooth and claw, and Rue de la Boucherie is its spir­i­tual heart, still tim­bered and pic­turesque but no longer thick with the gore and reek of butch­ery. Halfway down, op­po­site the butch­ers’ chapel, Les Petits Ven­tres is a typ­i­cal tall and nar­row build­ing with cosy din­ing spa­ces on three lev­els, an eclec­tic jumble of art, and ta­bles on the street to tempt the pass­ing trade.

The colour­ful Stéphanie – Cuq by name, a cook by train­ing – wel­comes guests with a smile and a li­mousin aper­i­tif of ch­est­nut syrup and cider. When her hus­band left two years ago, for­mer sous-chef Adrien Hof­fele from Col­mar stepped up to the plate. He con­tin­ues to of­fer meaty clas­sics in­clud­ing tartare de boeuf and filet de boeuf Rossini as well as re­gional sta­ples: char­cu­terie cuts from cul noir (black­bot­tomed) pigs from Saint-yrieix, or, for the full ex­pe­ri­ence, l’assi­ette des petits ven­tres com­pris­ing calf’s head, tongue, caul and tes­ti­cles with a sauce gribiche. Of­fal is not com­pul­sory, how­ever. “We also sell lots of fish,” Stephanie says. “Peo­ple’s habits have changed, and you have to adapt.”

Le pe­tit ven­tre it­self – sheep’s trot­ters wrapped in its stom­ach – has not been on the menu since the BSE out­break. But if you are in­ter­ested, join the tens of thou­sands of of­fal devo­tees who de­scend on Li­mo­ges’ boucherie quar­ter on the third Fri­day of Oc­to­ber

for an out­door tast­ing fair, the Frairie des Petits Ven­tres.

Af­ter lunch, look in on the chapel across the street, with its 15th-cen­tury sculp­ture of Saint-anne, the Vir­gin and Child, who is munch­ing on a raw kid­ney.

Open Tues-sat noon-2pm, 7.30pm9.30pm. Three-course menus from €27.50 in­clud­ing aper­i­tif, mains from €16. 20 Rue de la Boucherie, 87000 Li­mo­ges Tel: (Fr) 5 64 28 58 32 www.les-petits-ven­

2 La Cui­sine du Cloître

“I had a restau­rant on the other side of town for 17 years be­fore this, so the limougeauds knew me al­ready,” says Guy Queroix, the con­vivial owner-chef of this new restau­rant in the cob­bled pedes­trian zone near the cathe­dral.

Trust in the chef is im­por­tant for a restau­rant that op­er­ates on the prin­ci­ple that he knows bet­ter than you do, what you want to eat and drink. You choose how many cour­ses – three, four or five – and how many glasses of wine, and Queroix does the rest. As he says on the so-called menu: ‘ Merci de votre con­fi­ance et lais­sez vous guider’ - the idea be­ing “to re­fo­cus on sea­son­al­ity. Peo­ple are too used to eat­ing toma­toes in Jan­uary.”

Given no­tice, al­lowance is made for al­lergy and aver­sion, and choice of wine is not en­tirely in­flex­i­ble. Even so, this is not the place for the fussy eater, or one for whom noth­ing but tur­bot and chablis will do. Queroix de­scribes his style as ‘more gas­tro than bistro’ and this is no idle boast. Food came beau­ti­fully pre­pared and pre­sented: ar­ti­choke hearts with Ser­rano ham in a wine re­duc­tion, slow-cooked veal on a cour­gette risotto, and in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter wines from Puglia in south­ern Italy.

The for­mer con­vent’s in­door spa­ces are dec­o­rated in a fit­tingly spare style with the op­tion of din­ing on the ter­race, look­ing out over the Ir­ish Pub and other haunts on Rue de la Haute Cité, a lively evening hub.

Menus from €35, €12 for two glasses of wine; lunch menus from €15 in­clud­ing cof­fee.

Open Tues evening to Sun lunch noon-1.45pm and 8pm-9.45pm. 6 Rue des Al­lois, 87000 Li­mo­ges Tel: (Fr) 5 55102829 la-cui­

3 Chez Alphonse

Af­ter stock­ing up with pro­vi­sions or sharp­en­ing the ap­petite on a tour of the cen­tral market, there is nowhere more pleas­ant (and con­ve­nient) to rest the legs and re­fuel than Chez Alphonse, a re­as­sur­ingly tra­di­tional place with red and white check table­cloths, advertising posters for aper­i­tifs that no one drinks any more, pig-themed ash­trays (‘ chez moi tout est bon’) and the busy hum of a suc­cess­ful bistro: if you have not booked, be sure to ar­rive early for lunch.

The ele­gant pa­tron Christophe Buteau dis­likes the term bistronomie, pre­fer­ring to speak of cui­sine de can­tine, ter­roir and ‘no cheat­ing with the prod­uct’, much of which comes through his sis­ter busi­ness Tripes & Com­pag­nie. Por­tions are gen­er­ous: ter­rine mai­son comes in the pot – help your­self – and tra­di­tional sta­ples such as stuffed cab­bage may be enough for two. The ‘ in­con­tourn­ables’ board in­cludes of­fal clas­sics: ris de veau, tête de veau à la façon d’alphonse, tripes à volonté, pied de co­chon. For a lighter lunch, M Buteau might sug­gest a plate of raw tuna with a per­fect vinai­grette, fin­ished off with a clafoutis or a café gour­mand.

Open Mon-sat noon-2pm and 7.30pm-10.30pm (11pm Thurs, Fri and Sat); lunch menu €15.95, mains around €15. 5 Place de la Motte, 87000 Li­mo­ges Tel: (Fr) 5 55 34 34 14

ABOVE: Bars and restau­rants do­ing a roar­ing trade in the lively Rue de la Haute Cité in the his­toric quar­ter of Li­mo­ges

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