The land of hearty dishes such as baeck­e­offe and chou­croute also of­fers re­fined dining with­out com­pro­mis­ing on flavour, says Peter Stewart

France - - Contents -

A re­gion known for its hearty cook­ing can of­fer re­fined dining as well.

Set in one of the many tra­di­tional Al­sa­tian build­ings in the town of Ober­nai, south-west of Stras­bourg, this pop­u­lar restau­rant com­bines hearty re­gional cui­sine with a warm and invit­ing decor to at­tract din­ers from far and wide.

Owner-chef Thierry Schwartz cre­ates dishes with a slight twist, us­ing the best pro­duce from Al­sace and beyond. The chest­nut ta­bles, ex­posed beams and large fire­place make it feel like a home from home; the per­fect set­ting to en­joy a quiet meal with friends and fam­ily.

After tak­ing a cor­ner seat mid­way be­tween the main entrance and the busy kitchen, I de­cided not to go à la carte but to try my luck with the menu sur­prise. It turned out that nearly all the din­ers had made the same de­ci­sion.

The range of dishes was im­pres­sive and all were equally de­li­cious and flavour­some. The first ( pic­tured) re­sem­bled a large poached egg, but had been clev­erly filled with veg­eta­bles, and topped with grated sum­mer truf­fles, finely chopped spring onions and a zingy cit­rus dress­ing. Next up came a gi­ant souf­flé, filled with creamy Mun­ster cheese and coated in a beet­root glaze. The main course con­sisted of a gen­er­ous fil­let of sole, driz­zled with fresh lemon and ac­com­pa­nied by green veg­eta­bles, paired un­usu­ally with an earthy red bordeaux that complemented the flavours well.

My ap­petite had al­ready been sat­is­fied, but I still found room for dessert, a tarte crémeuse au choco­lat with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream, to round off an ex­cep­tional meal.

Open Tues-sat for lunch and din­ner. Menus from €75. 35 Rue de Séle­stat, 67210 Ober­nai Tel: (Fr) 3 88 49 90 41

2 Restau­rant Philippe Bohrer

For a taste of fine dining set against a back­drop of Al­sa­tian vineyards, look no fur­ther than this gourmet restau­rant in the small town of Rouf­fach, which lies on the Route des Vins south of Col­mar.

The restau­rant is at­tached to a ho­tel in a for­mer coach­ing inn and re­tains many pe­riod fea­tures in­clud­ing a sculpted wooden fa­cade. In the kitchens, Philippe Bohrer has an im­pres­sive culi­nary pedi­gree; he was a pupil of the leg­endary Lyon-based chef Paul Bo­cuse, and was a pri­vate chef to Pres­i­dents Valéry Gis­card d’es­taing and François Mit­ter­rand.

After book­ing into the ho­tel, I came down for din­ner, hav­ing worked up an ap­petite dur­ing a long day’s cy­cling. It was a muggy sum­mer’s evening, so I asked for a ta­ble on the ter­rasse, which looks over rows of vineyards be­long­ing to Château d’isen­bourg. Against such a back­ground, it seemed only fit­ting to choose a sparkling Cré­mant d’al­sace as an aper­i­tif while I pe­rused the à la carte menu.

3 La Pom­meraie Gas­tronomique

Just a few min­utes’ walk from the his­toric cen­tre of Séle­stat, the or­nate Hostel­lerie de la Pom­meraie has a re­fined restau­rant where din­ers can en­joy a fine meal in peace­ful sur­round­ings.

The ho­tel occupies a manor house that once be­longed to a colonel in Napoléon’s army, and in­cludes a spa­cious dining room dec­o­rated in yel­low and cream that is el­e­gant with­out be­ing pre­ten­tious.

Al­sace-born chef Jérôme Meyer draws on his love of the re­gion’s cui­sine and that of the Nether­lands, Morocco and Cor­sica – places that he en­joys vis­it­ing – to cre­ate dishes burst­ing with dif­fer­ent flavours.

I had din­ner here one sum­mer evening, with the sooth­ing sound of a pi­ano be­ing played in the far cor­ner of the dining room. I be­gan with ril­lettes de pois­son topped with sun-blushed toma­toes and a but­tery sauce. This was To be­gin, I chose a salade de légumes de la sai­son, which was a mix­ture of thinly sliced veg­eta­bles arranged on top of a plump salmon cake. Next, I en­joyed a suc­cu­lent fil­let of sea bass ( pic­tured), dec­o­rated with fen­nel and bathed in a creamy white wine sauce.

For dessert, I re­sisted the tempt­ing sur­prise au choco­lat in favour of the dé­cli­nai­son au­tour de la mangue et du fruit de la pas­sion, a re­fresh­ing an­ti­dote to the mid-sum­mer heat.

Open Mon and Wed for din­ner; Tues, Thurs-sat for lunch and din­ner. Menus from €31. 1 Rue Ray­mond Poin­caré 68250 Rouf­fach Tel: (Fr) 3 89 49 62 49 alav­illede­ fol­lowed by a sum­mer veg­etable risotto, a re­fresh­ing mix of car­rot, aubergine and ar­ti­choke, soaked in lemon and topped off with fen­nel.

I fin­ished with a mod­ern take on a straw­berry dessert: a choco­late and vanilla mousse lay­ered with crushed straw­ber­ries and a mint sor­bet glaze.

Open Mon-sat 7-9pm for din­ner. Menus from €49. 8 Boule­vard du Maréchal Foch, 67600 Séle­stat Tel: (Fr) 3 88 92 07 84­gions-chateaux/ Hostel­lerie-de-la-pom­meraie

Rue du Général de Gaulle, the main street in the wine vil­lage of Riquewihr in the Haut-rhin dé­parte­ment ABOVE:

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