EAT OUT IN JURA
Small summits but big flavours – this eastern region is sure to please every gourmet, says Sophie Gardner-roberts
Enjoy big flavours in our guide to this mountainous region of eastern France.
1 Restaurant Le Lac
Spread across the three départements of Doubs, Jura and Ain, the Jura Mountains make an idyllic green getaway with a strong gastronomic heritage. Famed for its cheese, absinthe and cured meats, the area cannot be fully discovered without sampling its delicious local produce.
Why not enjoy the region’s gastronomic delights while admiring the view over one of the many lakes that dot the valleys? Hôtel Le Lac offers just that in its main restaurant. The building dates from the early 20th century when it was run as a family restaurant. During the war it was requisitioned by German soldiers, and afterwards housed refugees.
Entering the grand Louis Xiv-inspired dining room was like stepping into the past. Although I was unaware of the building’s history at the time, I felt a sense of awe while taking in the large windows, draped curtains, chandeliers, white tablecloths and plush chairs.
The excellent lunch began with ‘ ravioles’– a type of small ravioli, often served in broth – with crayfish, followed by fresh pollock served with a basil sauce ( pictured inset). Having just visited Fort Saint-antoine, where Comté is aged, I could not refuse the cheese course. A huge selection was brought on a wheeled table; I chose Comté, obviously, Morbier and Bleu de Gex, three of the four cheese AOCS of the region.
I absorbed the beautiful views over Lac Saint-point while sneaking peeks at my fellow diners; sophisticated couples enjoying a weekend dinner out, and groups of friends who were obviously regulars, as they greeted staff by name.
Open daily (annual leave 12 November to 8 December 2017). Three-course menu from €19. 65 Grande Rue, 25160 Malbuisson Tel: (Fr) 3 81 69 34 80 hotel-le-lac.fr
2 La Mainaz
You don’t have to go all the way to the French Alps to see Mont Blanc. Instead, secure a table at Brasserie Le Panorama and prepare to be enchanted by the unfolding view, which takes in Lac Léman and the city of Geneva as well as France’s highest peak in the distance.
The brasserie is part of the Hôtel la Mainaz and is located in the Faucille mountain pass near the border with Switzerland. On a clear day, like the one we enjoyed during our meal, you can watch as the setting sun catches the summit of Mont Blanc and turns the snow a fiery orange and pink.
The food is as breathtaking as the scenery. Although chef Mathieu Sagardoytho works his magic in the gastronomic and high-end La Table de la Mainaz, the hotel’s main restaurant, he also oversees dishes served at the brasserie.
My family and I enjoyed a fantastic experience, enhanced by the service from the owner and staff. I started with an ‘ oeuf Florentine’ ( pictured inset) which was revisited in a way I had never seen before: a tasty foam covered the soft-boiled egg on toast, which was topped with spinach and
3 Auberge de l’abbaye
In the heart of the Bugey wine-producing country, this Michelin-star restaurant serves only fish and seasonal vegetables. Chef Ivan Lavaux chooses not to write a menu, preferring to see what he finds in the markets to ensure his dishes use the freshest produce, while sommelier Jérôme Busset finds the best wines to match.
We arrived during a busy lunch service, and yet Jérôme was immediately by our side offering a glass of the local Cerdon sparkling rosé as an aperitif. As he poured our drinks, he announced the day’s two-course lunch menu.
A beautifully presented dish arrived: delicate monkfish placed atop wellseasoned green vegetables and herbs, and served with a basil foam; it was matched with a refreshing chardonnay. Dessert ( pictured inset) was a feast for the senses: basil ice cream served with dried Comté cheese, and finished with a delicious ham ‘ mouillette’ – the equivalent of the English ‘soldiers’ toast sticks.
My brother and I carried on the feast with a shared côte de cochon, which was barbecued with teriyaki sauce and was to die for. Though coming close to loosening our trousers, we dared not refuse dessert and enjoyed a surprisingly light creation that resembled a giant chocolate biscuit. With the window open on to the valley, we saw Mont Blanc shining like a beacon as the sun dipped behind the mountain pass, but continued to catch the snow on the faraway summit.
Open Wednesday evening to Sunday lunchtime. Mains from €23. Route du Col de la Faucille, Le Creux de la Mainaz, 01170 Gex Tel: (Fr) 4 50 41 31 10 la-mainaz.com raspberries, raspberry ‘tuile’ biscuit, pink praline, crushed granola mix and, most impressively, a confit hibiscus flower, which melted in the mouth. Coffee and tea were served with a selection of bite-size sweet treats.
As expected from a Michelin-starred establishment, service was impeccable and flavours were exact. Lavaux’s cuisine may be contemporary, but it is a wonderful tribute to the area in which he grew up and to the wholesome food that it produces.
Open Tuesday to Sunday lunchtime. Two-course menu including a glass of wine and coffee from €38. 47 Place des Anciens Combattants, 01500 Ambronay Tel: (Fr) 4 74 46 42 54 aubergedelabbaye-ambronay.com
ABOVE: The rolling landscape of the Cerdon Valley in Pays de Bugey, in the southern part of the Jura Mountains area