Manoir de Troezel Vras, Brittany
Strawberries, squash, lemon verbena and lettuce come from Françoise Maynier’s immaculately kept gardens just inland from Brittany’s Pink Granite Coast. She also keeps a couple of donkeys, three cats and six hens who overlook the sculptures and ancient rose bushes in the five gardens, separate cottage and ponds. The manor has four rooms and an apartment, all done out in Breton stripes and nautical chic. The table d’hôtes set dinner, which Françoise prepares herself, usually involves fish and seafood, such as thick slabs of cod, prawns and crab. As the local fishermen don’t go out on Sundays, a typical Monday evening meal might be melon and mint soup, then chicken in cider followed by roast peach with gingerbread. Françoise also does an exceptional far breton, a custard-based sponge cake with prunes.
• Doubles €90, dinner €25, +33 2 96 22 89 68, troezel-vras.com
La Cour de Lise, Alsace
Chef Jean-Paul Bossée and his wife Isabelle opened their maison d’hôtes in Willgottheim, 20km north-east of Strasbourg, in 2010 – having already created a restaurant on their ground floor. In fine weather, guests eat outside in an open-sided, beamed barn, and in winter, they sit in a dining room in front of an open fire. Isabelle describes her husband’s creations as “refined, authentic, simple haute cuisine”. All products are sourced the local Kochersberg region, and emerge from the kitchen with inventive élan: blue ling and smoked salmon with Elodie potatoes, herbs and horseradish cream to start, followed by veal filet mignon with pleurotes (oyster mushrooms) d’Alsace, and for dessert, chocolate mousse or peach melba “revisited”. Jean-Paul even makes spätzles (egg noodles) for the children’s menu.
• Doubles from €125 B&B, half-board an extra €25, +33 3 88 64 93 36, lacourdelise.fr
Le Manoir de la Rivière, Normandy
Isabelle and Gérard Leharivel have been running their guesthouse in Calvados for 32 years. Isabelle buys fish direct from the boats as they arrive at Grandcamp port, while Gérard tends his vegetable garden and discusses Brexit with British guests over breakfast. On the table is homemade bread, fruit from their orchard and rhubarb and blackcurrant compote. Dinner, served in the vaulted medieval dining room, might be a fish stew, ham cooked in cider, orange segments in fennel and a splash of the local Calvados apple brandy in the sauce. Isabelle reserves her andouilles (chitterlings sausage) for French clients: “The English aren’t so keen!” The house has three bedrooms and two gîtes for rent near where William the Conqueror set sail.
• Doubles from €65 B&B, dinner €26pp, +33 2 31 22 64 45, lemanoirdelariviere.net
Château des Allues, Savoie
Owner Stéphane Vandeville talks lovingly about what he has prepared for tonight’s meal: a tomato confit with crumble made from pine nuts, rosemary, parmesan and local goat’s cheese, followed by a chicken soufflé, cheeseboard and poached peach with lemon verbena and sherbet. His five-bedroom guesthouse is majestic but it’s the garden with its 88 wood-framed squares of organic fruits and vegetables that is the most inspiring feature. Each 1.2-metre square is filled with a mix of herbs and rare-variety vegetables, “The squares are that size so you can reach the middle without stepping on the soil,” says Stéphane. “We have nine varieties in each square and use rotation techniques to develop healthy produce.” The fruits of that knowledge – tomatoes planted with basil to protect them from insects – arrive on the plates that evening.
• Doubles €140 B&B, evening meal with apéritif and drinks €48pp, +33 6 75 38 61 56, chateaudesallues.com
St Victor La Grand’ Maison, Loire Valley
While St Victor is the perfect base for visiting the chateaux of the Loire, the prospect of a riverside picnic under the 400-year-old oak tree makes it hard to leave the manor’s garden. The area is known for its fish and fruit, and both are combined to create intriguing dishes. If you take one of the gîtes, owner Marie Grandclément prepares a welcome basket of local produce including potato cakes, smoked fish, and macaroons. Guests can sip rosé from Anjou and the best of nearby Sancerre, Pouilly and Reuilly while gazing out across the grounds, stroll alongside the Anglin river or spend the afternoon playing the grand piano in the library. Marie bought the manor house more than 30 years ago after falling in love with it and has restored it gradually to ivy-clad, slate-roofed and turreted splendour.
• Doubles from €125, evening meal from €20pp, +33 2 54 37 46 55, saintvictorlagrandmaison.com
Tomlins Vegetarian Guesthouse, near La Rochelle
Having run a veggie restaurant in Penarth, Wales, for eight years, David and Lorraine Tomlinson moved their family to the hamlet of Chambon, in Poitou-Charentes, in 2003 and converted a rambling old farmhouse into one of France’s few vegetarian guesthouses. The cowsheds are now two apartments. “The French see us as something different, although they tend to be vegetarian for health rather than environmental reasons,” says David, who prepares the food and runs the cooking school. The basics – courgettes, potatoes, garlic and onions – come from their garden, the rest comes from La Rochelle’s organic shops and a nearby farmers’ cooperative. A typical meal might include ginger squash salad with steamed bok choi, edamame beans, crispy weed, wonton and orange soy dressing followed by carrot and feta rösti stacks, poached egg and tarragon hollandaise and, to finish, a custard tart with baked cognac figs. David also caters for vegans and those on raw-food diets.
• Doubles from €75 B&B, +33 5 46 35 65 42, tomlinsinfrance.com
Le Mas des Grès, Provence
Ideally placed for a visit to the antiques markets of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and the “perched villages” of the Luberon, Nina and Thierry Crovara’s Provencal mas is the epitome of rural Provence. The couple met at hotel school in Switzerland and Thierry later trained under Anton Mosimann at the Dorchester in London. The meals Thierry cooks depend on what catches his eye at the market each day. Often appearing in pink braces over a pink shirt, he chats to guests before disappearing into the kitchen to prepare dishes such as red snapper and basil, Mediterranean meatballs, fried courgette flowers, rabbit with garlic and thyme or sea bass with ratatouille. Their cat, Rokey, spends most of the day sunning himself on the terrace, where two huge trees acts as giant parasols for outdoor meals. The mas is in the heart of peach, melon and honey country, so buffet breakfasts are delicious and there is always a fridge full of drinks beside the pool. The couple also run cooking courses in March and October.
• Doubles from €120, +33 4 90 20 32 85, masdesgres.com
La Ferme des Prades, Auvergne
For a couple born and bred in the Volcanoes natural park, Philippe and Françoise Vauché are surprisingly calm. The local cantal cheese forms a big part of their farmhouse cooking but they also specialise in truffades (potato pancakes) nettle soup, aligot (cheese and mashed potato) and pounti – a sweet-savoury loaf made from cured pork, spinach and prunes. Guests sit together at a single table in the evening while Philippe grills meat on the open fire, or prepares ham cooked in hay in the 15th-century bread-oven outside (currently being repaired after a tree fell on it). The grey-stone, red-shuttered house, built at the beginning of the 19th century, has five bedrooms and there is also a brightly painted old freight wagon in the wooded grounds with its own kitchen and hot tub (€110 a night).
• Doubles from €75 B&B, dinner €25pp and picnic lunch €12pp, +33 4 71 20 48 17, fermedesprades.com
La Bergerie, Bearn region
Of the hundreds of places all over France called La Bergerie, this one in the rolling green Basque Country really does live up to its pastoral name, with seats covered in sheepskin, a leg of lamb slow-roasting in front of the fire and sheep’s cheese on the menu. Hosts Sabine and Didier Meyer’s other gourmet specialities include beef rib with hot béarnaise sauce, cream of cèpe soup, wild boar, venison, wood pigeon and home-cured ham. He uses the local red-hot Espelette peppers to spice up his gazpacho and pork terrine, as well as pipérade (spicy scrambled eggs and thick garbure (cabbage soup). Didier describes his cuisine as “hearty, authentic, countryside cooking” with large joints and big flavours. Guests can chose a gastronomic version of the evening meal which includes foie gras. There are green fields all around, views of the Pyrenees and a salt-water pool for early-evening dips.
• Doubles from €78 B&B, evening meal €29pp (menu gastronomique €38.50pp), +33 5 59 38 63 76, labergeriebearn.com
Les Hautes Claires, Dordogne
Jean-Pierre Caggini-Fournau is Basque and looks after the main courses while Tania – who is Italian – makes the ice-creams, sorbets and desserts. In a region known for its foie gras, duck and sweet wines, the couple always serve a typical Périgord meal for guests on their first night. “If they stay longer, we branch out a bit,” says Jean-Pierre. Foie gras with mango in a bittersweet sauce is followed by Dordogne duckling or guinea fowl and brie with truffles. Jean-Pierre offers classes in preparingfoie gras or enchaud (pork confit), and fishing trips, while painter Tania hosts exhibitions and art workshops. Chiara, their eight-year-old dog, accompanies guests on truffle hunting weekends and has already sniffed out seven kilos of truffles this year. Rooms in the thick-walled, 18th-century manor are decorated in a “countryside baroque” style and each has a private terrace – or leads directly into the garden. Breakfast jams and juices are made with fruit from the property’s orchard.
• Doubles from €95 B&B, evening meal €28pp including sweet Rosette wine from Bergerac. +33 6 73 22 32 44, leshautesclaires.fr
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