So a couple of days turned into over a month! I just get so swept away with all the other lovely food related activities in my kitchen, garden and on the allotment that I completely forget these other things I promise. If you’re just joining us, you can read Part 1 of my food memories in the Loire valley here.
I shall begin where I left off, which was in a beautiful little town on the banks of the Loire called Candes St Martin. This was where I ate probably the best food ever in the most lovely setting. Now don’t be expecting some Michellin starred restaurant or stunning views, this was a small, family-run affair tucked away up the back streets.
I am a big fan of all things old, vintage and love carboot sales and junk shops. N got rather fed up on this holiday as I had done my research and discovered the French word ‘brocante’ which is along the lines of a flea market/garage sale/table top sale/antiquey-junk shop.
So every where we went I was scouring the countryside and towns for signs reading ‘brocante’. I found quite a few, and N was a lovely boyfriend and turned off down winding side streets and pulled over at the side of the road numerous times in the search for lovely old French ‘things’.
So whilst wandering along the quiet streets of Candes St Martin I spotted a sign in a little shop window. Now it wasn’t really a shop, more a window displaying items sold in a shop that wasn’t on that premises. Much like if I popped a whole load of vintage items in my front window.
The sign in the window was a deep burgundy red, and mentioned a brocante and salon de thé 500m up the hill. So off we went – N encouraged by the promise of a cool drink and bit to eat.
At the top of the hill in amongst the houses, set off a sleepy little square, there it was – Table de Matiéres – La Brocante Gourmande.
Past the lovely old white stone walls, you entered a pretty little courtyard. It was full of sprawling nasturtiums and hollyhocks bobbing in the breeze. A random assortment of chairs and tables were set out, some with pretty tablecloths. In amongst them were old bedsteads with peeling pink paint and vintage fruit crates.
The courtyard was framed on one side by a huge stone wall that seemed to be holding the hillside back. The owner’s house was to one corner and built up against the side of the hill.
At the other end of the coutryard was a wooden fronted building that disappeared into the hill. This was the Brocante Gourmande. It was full of old treasures and vintage books. It went way back, with small rooms off it that were dug into the hillside.
I was instantly in love. Food and vintage finds all in one place – what a dream come true. We visited Table de Matiéres more than once, and came away with a couple of old fruit crates with lovely vintage labels on the front, and two pretty bird prints – one of swallows and one of two doves. I think that was all I was allowed…but I could have bought so much more.
Then to the food. The menu sounded delicious, it was one of those rare menus where you read it and think you would happily eat anything and everything on it. Cassolette de charcuterie…Croq d’été…Assiette de tomatoes, feta, carpaccio de canard…Tarte aux prunes…
N and I decided on a simple lunch of a shared plate of cheeses, N accompanied his with a glass of rosé and I couldn’t resist the scrumptious sounding milkshake pêche. Now this milkshake was divine. I even wrote some notes down after drinking in an attempt to pin down the flavours in it. It didn’t taste like a normal milkshake, it was more like a combination of milk and yoghurt, with fresh peaches in it. One day I shall try and recreate it.
The planche de fromages was simply presented on a wooden board. There was a selection of four cheeses and a pot of crusty baguette. I wish I had asked the owner to write down the names of the cheeses, as they were so tasty, but I didn’t, and shall forever regret it.
Now, I realise it doesn’t sound like we actually ate much, and you might ask “how on earth” can I come to the conclusion that this was the best food I’ve ever eaten, when all I ate was a plate of cheese.
Well, that’s the mystery of our memories – I simply remember this experience of eating good, simple food in the most delightful of places as heaven. I shall never forget it and it will stay imprinted on my memory in such a way that on the gloomiest of days I still conjure up that lovely eating experience.
What was also so special was that it was run by an ordinary seeming couple out of their home. When the husband took our order, he went up a flight of stone steps and into what must have been their kitchen. You could hear his wife preparing the food, you could tell the quality of the produce from the small menu they offered, and it was just such a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.
So if you’re ever in the Loire and happen upon this pretty little town of Candes St Martin, make sure you drive up the steep winding road to the top of the hill, park under the large shady tree on the square, and wander along the road to Table de Matiéres – you can’t miss it, you will see the vintage ephemera tumbling out of the gateway and its turquoise green gates beckoning you in.
Check back soon for the next part of my food memories from France