Le Chapeau Rouge (Red Hat) takes its name from the colour of the hats worn by the royal messengers.
We were fortunate to get in and sit at the last available table, tucked in what used to be the vestibule of the house. Very cozy, very intimate.
Karl backed onto the front door. The lighting, the dishes, the decor - everything was perfect.
The "mise en bouche" was a small bite of fish in a creamy sauce, served in a Chinese soup spoon. There was also a little oval dish with a huge prawn in a different sauce, accented with chives. It had us salivating for more...
Karl was enjoying the Loire rosé.
Karl had the Menu fixe which includes the appetizer, a main course, cheese and dessert. His appetizer was an assortment of marinated fish served with a dollop of "brandade" in the centre. This recipe has roots with la Nouvelle-France. During the days of exploration when cod was being brought back from Canadian shores, this recipe was invented, possibly in Marseilles. The only improvement Karl thought he could bring to this dish would be an accompanying glass of Aquavit.
I ordered à la carte so just expected a main dish and a dessert. But in order not to make me feel left out while my companion was eating, they brought me a miniature tureen with the absolute best asparagus soup - asperges veloutées.
Even the bread was presented in a novel way: two buns skewered together.
We both enjoyed the same main course, "Poissons sauvages du Bassin de Loire", served on a saffron sauce. So delicate and cooked to perfection.
We chose from the cheese cart and discovered a new cheese called "Petit Pont l'Évêque" which may just be our new favourite!
Dessert was a chocolate ganache on a shortbread cookie with prunes on top. The chocolate "gâteau" was a flaky chocolate wafer wrapped around (presumably) a dowel to give it its shape, then sprinkled with icing sugar. There were kumquats, figs and perhaps a mangosteen, although I couldn't positively identify that fruit. Karl's favourite was the saffron ice-cream which was more than refreshing.
And just in case we hadn't indulged enough, more sweet morsels accompanied our tea and coffee. There were white chocolate galettes with candied fruit pressed on top, but the best were the orange candied fruit strips dipped in chocolate. Our eyes popped out on those!
As we were stepping out (or should I say rolling out), chef and owner Christophe Duguin came to greet us. We complimented him on his cuisine and he told us how he loved Canadians (a distant relative connection...) He graciously accepted to have us photograph him to remember this gastronomic experience which rivals our wonderful dinner in Niort.