The larger area is considered by many of the French as the Gastronomic centre of France. The North may provide the wheat whilst the South provides the olive oil, but the hearty rich foods are found here. Rich hunting grounds provides boar and venison, small farms focus on duck and goose, providing the many pates and ultimately foie gras. Goats cheese is prevalent and in season, mushrooms and chestnuts are highly prized. With such a larder available, eating out can be a real pleasure, often at a very reasonable price.
The main meal of the day is lunch, and during the week, most establishments have a ‘menu de jour’, which for a set price (typically E13 to E15) one gets 3 to 4 courses of whatever the chef has prepared. Typically a starter, fish, meat and dessert, with some also providing cheese! Look for where the locals, especially the workers congregate, and generally you are assured a simple but excellent meal.
Evenings tend to be a little more formal, with different menu prices offering different choices (and usually higher prices). The food is generally richer and more refined, they offer a great way to taste the dishes of the region, cooked by generations of the same family.
We are happy to provide recommendations direct as places change hands, get better or get worse but detailed below are some of our favourites. And we are always on the lookout for new discoveries so do let us know about any gems you have discovered.
Picnics: Why not? There are loads of bakeries, patisseries and traiteurs (deli's) offering delicious food to take away. As a starting point, in Piegut, there is a wonderful traiteurs, Charlot Thierry, 25 Rue de la Libération (next to Sense de la Terre - gets very busy as the food is superb, foie gras highly recommended) and a wonderful patisserie, Vanille Chocolat, 15 Rue des Alliés (on the way up the hill, on the right side with a terrace outside - try their Trois Chocolat and/or Opera cakes). Stop off at the Cave (wine shop) and you are sorted.
Producers market: During the summer months, several of the local producers gather in several locations and cook their specialities for dinner. Duck, lamb, pork, vegetarian options, chips and more are all available and cooked to order, with cakes and ice cream to follow. Make your choices, pick a spot on the long wooden tables and benches, buy a bottle of wine from the bar and sample some of the tastes of the region. With an area for the kids to play its a great inexpensive evening out.
Mondays from 6pm at St Estephe Lake (with lovely views across)
Tuesdays from 6pm at Varaignes (set in a lovely square besides the Chateau)
Sense de la Terre, Piegut: A friendly, cosy restaurant only a 10 minute drive away. The chef is modern and innovative, providing excellent food at a reasonable price. It has a charming terrace for the warmer months. Gets busy on a Wednesday lunch time with market visitors.
Bistro Vue de Puit, Busserolles: Our own local bistro down the road in the village centre. Serving simple food including fresh fish and mussels every day. Gets very busy on Friday nights serving fish and chips to the local British and Dutch community! Hendrick is the pleasant owner/chef. Good stop off on one of the many local walks for a cold drink or more.......
L'Eloquence, Nontron: A solid dependable restaurant in the old part of Nontron serving modern French cuisine. Some seating on the pleasant terrace outside, this eatery is popular with the office workers of Nontron. Booking advised.
Le Bacchus, Nontron: Pleasant bistro at the top of Nontron serving good salads and great burgers. A useful stop if you fancy a quick and simple lunch. Friendly staff.
Hotel de France, Saint Pardoux la Riviere: Probably our favourite. A great, family run restaurant. It is full of locals and workmen for their excellent valued menu de jour, but it is their a la carte menu that is very good. Lovely terrace at the back and is welcoming to children of all ages. On a Sunday they offer a menu Gastronomic, providing tastes of the region for a very reasonable price - elasticated waste bands recommended! Good to combine with a trip to Brantome or the caves at Grotte de Villars. Bookings recommended.
Moulin de Tardoire, Montbron: Lovely location in a converted mill on the river Tardoir (if you have been canoeing in Montbron, you will have passed this restaurant). Serves very good food and wine, with prices to match. Specialises in local and seasonal produce. Highly recommended for a 'special' meal.
Moulin de Roc, near Brantome: A Michelin starred restaurant, this establishment provides superb food in a wonderful setting by the river. A little more classy than most, the food and ambience are superb. If you want to treat or impress a loved one, then this (or the La Grange de la Oies, below), is the restaurant to go to.
Frere Chabonnel, Brantome: Reserve a table on the terrace over the river and watch the world drift by as you sample some excellent food - also good fun to watch the tourists on the canoes deal with the weir. Gets busy in the Summer.
La Grange de la Oies: About 45 mins away, a fine dining experience in the grounds of a stunning chateau. Good value gastronomic lunch at E50 (this includes aperitif and half a bottle of good wine per person). A little more upmarket, it attracts the slightly better heeled French. However, we have really enjoyed the rare occasion we visit. Arrange a second mortgage if you want to go 'a la carte'.
Hostellerie Saint Jacques, St Saud: Good food, served on a lovely terrace under trees. One evening a month they serve a gastronomic menu with wine and champagne included. Check their website for the dates.
Le Moulin du Grand Etang, St Estephe: The views over St Estephe lake are great. The food can be mixed , especially on busy days.