So as you know, we had an amazing time at Gilles Goujon‘s restaurant, l’Auberge du Vieux Puits, since I wrote a very long post about it.
Something I didn’t mention is that we actually had an introduction to him from someone we happen to know. We mentioned it in passing on the first evening, but being the Chef and it being the dinner service, he was much too busy to give it much thought at the time, and we didn’t bring it up again. I say this now because it will become relevant a little further down the page…
The next morning they brought breakfast to the terrace outside the bedroom, in front of the swimming pool. Breakfast was really nice.
A waitress showed up at precisely 10am, when we asked for the breakfast, and she was wearing a woven wicker basket on her back. These baskets were traditionally used by grape pickers in the vineyards to carry the grapes they picked. In this case it contained our breakfast. She set it down on one of the chairs so we could take a picture.
The breakfast contained two different homemade jams, croissants, pain au chocolat (called “chocolatines” in the southwest of France), local butter, excellent bread, organic locally-produced yoghurt, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and enough coffee to satisfy even fizandato.
This was laid out on the table as though we were in a restaurant – tablecloth, napkins, cutlery, glassware, everything carefully set out with the same care and attention we had experienced the night before during the meal.
It was a really windy day but the terrace was sheltered so we could just look at the trees swaying in the wind while enjoying the sunshine. Unfortunately, the wind made the swimming pool less appealing that it otherwise would have been.
Of course after an hour or so of eating and writing my last blog post, it was creeping up on check-out time, so we went back inside, packed our bags, put them in the car and drove around to the other side of the building to pay the bill in the restaurant reception.
Here, a surprise was waiting for us.
Gifts and Surprises
As we checked out, the receptionist pulled out a paper bag with two signed copies of the chef’s coffee table book for us to bring to the people that had given us the introduction to him. Then the chef himself came out of the kitchens because he had asked to be told when we were coming to check out.
As it happens, coincidentally, we know a retired chef who used to run a Michelin 3-star restaurant in the southeast of France. Many years ago, Gilles Goujon worked in this chef’s kitchen and he hadn’t seen him in years. We were going to see him two weeks later, so he asked us to bring his friend a couple of books.
When he found out that we were going to see him so soon, he asked us if we had some time before we had to leave, and when we replied that we did, he asked us to follow him. He led us through the restaurant and into the kitchen where he sat us down at a table to one side. We could see all of the chefs working at the lunch meal, with the waiters coming in and out and the chef shouting orders from slips of paper he was handed. I had never been in a working kitchen on this level, and it was amazing to see the food we had eaten the night before (along with a lot of other dishes) being prepared right in front of us.
He sat us down, served us both a glass of wine, and then put in an order for a starter and one of his signature dishes that we hadn’t tried the night before.
Broth of polypody presented as a scallop shell, truffled artichoke puree
The plate that was put before us was a little strange. It contained a sea shell. It really didn’t look edible and so we were a little concerned. There didn’t seem to be anything else in the plate. I assumed that something would be placed on the shell for us to eat. The waiter then brought out a glass teapot with lobster broth which he poured onto the shell and into the bottom of the plate.
The waiter pours the broth over the shell, and the black marks and other patterns on the shell are washed away, leaving a very clean, very white shell behind while the broth gathers in the bottom of the plate. Then the shell itself starts to melt, because it’s actually lobster-flavoured butter, and the whole lot disintegrates into the bottom of the plate.
Underneath the broth, which is really very delicious, is a perfectly cooked prawn. You might think you’ve had prawns cooked well before, but I’ve never eaten a prawn that had its consistency and taste so elevated.
Hommage to Roger Vergé – “Le Poupeton”
This dish is a hommage to Gilles Goujon’s mentor, Roger Vergé, a reinvention of one of Vergé’s signature dishes.
We are presented with a crystallized zucchini flower garnished with a lobster sorbet, a marinade of mango and citrus fruits with the “elbows” of the lobster, with a pan-fried lobster claw on the side. It was, obviously, absolutely amazing. The courgette (zucchini) flower is perfectly preserved and incredibly delicate. The lobster claw is barely seared and incredibly tender.
The little flower is a pansy, which in French is called a pensée. This is a play on words, because the word also means “thought”, and so the flower represents the fact that he was thinking of his mentor when he made the dish. A real hommage to a man who clearly had a huge influence on Goujon.
We were basically offered lunch in the restaurant kitchen so that we could tell his former mentor about all of his signature dishes. The chef regularly came to ask us what we thought, and when we left, he signed two more books that we bought from reception, and offered us a small loaf of his local bread so that we could eat it with our supper that evening. We were treated with such singular kindness that it turned the entire experience into a memory I will remember for a very long time.
How lucky am I? I don’t think I stopped smiling for the rest of the week.