Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Yet another affordable place to eat

Weather-wise our Loire Valley trips have always lived up to our expectations, except perhaps once, in June 2002. Usually the weather pattern goes like follows: we arrive on a blistering hot Sunday, overnight we get a gigantic thunderstorm and on Monday morning the air is chilly and the sky overcast. By 3 p.m. the sun breaks through. From then on, the weather gets hotter and sunnier by the hour, until Thursday afternoon, when the clouds move in again. By evening, it is too cold to sit outside after dinner and when we get up on Friday morning, a light drizzle is falling. This makes the parting a lot easier and our return journey is very often a race against the clouds with us speeding up north, trying to keep well ahead of them!

2002 was different though. Sunday was as usual. Monday was more or less okay, except that the weather never cleared up completely and the temperatures hardly climbed over 20°C. There were some sunny spells, but when I look at the photos I shot that year, we’re always wearing long-sleeved sweatshirt or even an extra jacket. I can’t remember us picnicking and in fact I only found one photo of me by a picnic table on the banks of the Loire River North of Chinon.

2002: The Ussé château on a cloudy June day.

On Thursday we visited the weekly Chinon market in the morning and, as it wasn’t raining, bought a baguette, some goat’s cheese and twelve large cooked prawns for our picnic. We found a picnic spot and started to unpack our hamper when gusts of cold River wind suddenly hit us in the face. Shivering with cold we decided to sit it out, the time to eat our lovely fresh prawns, after which we packed up our things again and started looking for a little restaurant to have a meal in order to get warm again. Halfway between Chinon and Ussé, in the village of Huismes, we came across a nice country ‘auberge’, called ‘Auberge de la Lanterne’. It looked cosy, inviting and, above all, nice and warm inside.

When we walked in a few patrons were drinking at the bar and there were two tables with people having the daily special. We got a small table close to the chimney where a gas burner was spreading a lovely warm glow into the room. We settled down and asked for the daily special. I can’t remember what it was, but am quite sure that it wasn’t to our liking as we both ordered a main course from the menu, having had out prawns as starters.

My friend had an extremely tender ‘Coq au vin de Chinon’ and I had a juicy leg of rabbit with mixed vegetables and a light mustard sauce. We drank a robust Chinon with it and topped of our meal with some goat’s cheese and a small coffee.

The best place to judge a restaurant is the state of the ‘sanitary facilities’. In this case they were extremely small and narrow. A big person would have had a lot of difficulties getting in and out of them, but they we unusually clean and fresh … which is a lot more than what can be said for a lot of places in France …

If I had to rate the ‘Lanterne’, I would give it a 7/10 for food and 8/10 for service and cleanness. It’s eight years ago and I don’t know if the light in the ‘Lanterne’ is still glowing, but at the time, it was certainly a very pleasant experience. If ever you go there, don’t expect ‘grande cuisine’, but a simple, honest and well prepared meal at a very affordable price.



Jean said...

The Lanterne is definitely still glowing - or at least it was last autumn, the last time we passed through the village.

We hired a gite just outside Huismes probably about the same year you were there. It was extremely rural and we were woken at 5am by the cockerels then again at 6am by the bells of the nearby level crossing. We got used to it by the end of the week!

We ate at the Lanterne just once and remember it being an acceptable meal with local flavour. We always said we would go back but so far we haven't. Maybe this year.

That view of the château as you approach from the river is one of my favourites in all France.

ladybird said...

This view of Ussé castle is very grand indeed. Pity my photo doesn't do it justice. I'm not quite sure, but I think we had just passed the level crossing when I took it. Your gîte must have been close by.

Lynn said...

We leave on Monday for France (if British Airways is still on schedule)....and my packing list is not written yet. But I remember the last time we were in the Loire Valley, it was one week in June and I remember weather exactly as you mention. Hot and sunny, blue skies with big puffy clouds, then dark clouds and a cool wind, then rain and cold. I was constantly hanging laundry then bringing it in....

This time I plan to pack accordingly.....

ladybird said...

Lynn, Have a lovely vacation ... how envy you! If I could, I would pack my bags and head for Amboise straight away. Don't hesitate to send me an e-mail before you go if you have any specific question(s). Martine