Sunday lunch in the Jura
It might have been a communication breakdown, absent-mindedness or something else, but here we were at CHATEAU DE GERMIGNEY, a classy country restaurant & hotel on the edge of the Jura - without a booking.
Ignoring the advice we give everyone else, we hadn’t reserved a table for Sunday lunch, the meal more French people eat in a restaurant than any other. Embarrassed and contrite, we made feeble excuses, and threw ourselves on the mercy of the maitre d'. He did still have a tiny table, as it happened, and we were very lucky. It really was the last table; over the next half hour the others were steadily filled by parties with reservations. Most of the diners were French family groups, with a smattering of Swiss, the odd Anglais, and us, by the skin of our teeth.
We were in the smaller of the two dining rooms, a model of restrained elegance swagged in white, grey & black. The larger space was a leafy garden room overlooking the grounds.
The 195ff menu began with an amuse bouche - a demi-tasse of mussel & mushroom soup. It’s one of the ironies of French dining that in order to get all the delicious little extras before and after a meal, you have to order a fairly hefty menu, which doesn’t leave you room to do them justice, but they are too fragile to take away for later and too delicious to leave untouched.
Robert began the proper courses with a rustic slice of fatty bacon with haricot and fava beans and sweet onion jam. Bacon & beans is a classic combination that always works and the onion compote added good flavour and texture to make a satisfying dish.
I went for the more delicate marinated salmon with watercress jelly, and dill flavoured cream, garnished with golden trout eggs, which was a beautifully subtle mixture of flavours and textures.
Staying with hearty country style, Robert then had the beef braised in Arbois wine, with carrots and forest mushrooms. Meat & two veg of a fairly high order; the carrots were embellished with cumin, which did them a lot of good, and the mushrooms were the black and beautiful trompettes de la morte. The meat was on the dry side, but the flavours were deep and good.
I maintained the fish theme with cod on aubergine puree, baked tomato and Chips de Morteau, crisp fried rounds of local sausage. (Morteau also featured in some of the introductory rolls.) The fish was perfect, given some oomph by the tomato and sausage, and a creamy contrast from the eggplant puree.
When it came to pudding, we felt that we’d had enough chocolate pudds to be going on with, so, with a mixture of trepidation and excitement, we chose the Omelette Jurassienne; a version of the baked ice cream & meringue paradox called Baked Alaska that was the celebration pudding of 1960s and into the 1970s. Well, it was big round our way. The trepidation was a response to the phrase “flambée a votre table”. Remember that? Crepes suzettes, fruit flambée, steak Diane, wheeled to your table on a special flambé cart, with a spirit burner, maybe two, copper pans, and bottles of spirits. This wasn’t just dinner, this was entertainment - everyone stopped talking and turned to watch your table, sometimes there was even applause. Fun when you were eight, excruciating at 15.
Thankfully, at Chateau de Germigney, flaming is a very discreet business, even at Sunday lunch. The Omelette Jurassienne was a great end to a very good lunch - a log of creamy vanilla icecream beside one of grainy quince sorbet on a thin sponge liberally impregnated with the heady spirit marc de Jura, meringue piped thickly over everything, then the briefest of blasts in a hot oven and whizzed to our table to be flamed with another shot of marc. Served with a little jug of clear quince sauce, it was festive and delicious, with the same thoughtful flavour and texture combining that was a feature of the Chateau de Germigney’s cuisine.
Service was smooth, courteous and unobtrusive. A large, well managed staff glided around the busy room, pouring, serving, clearing, explaining where necessary, occasionally setting fire to a pudding, but never telling us that their name was Shane, or interrupting a conversation to ask if we were enjoying our meal.
Germigney makes a feature of local produce, traditional dishes and seasonal food; Chicken in Chateau-Chalon, a local wine, was a star dish, brought to the table in a huge casserole, and the menu was full of game and mushrooms. The big wine list features a good range of Jura wines, though there are plenty of others for the unconverted, the distinctive Jura wines being something of an acquired taste.
With good, distinctive food in a stylish setting, formal but friendly service, this is one of the best restaurants in the area.
Chateau de Germigney, Port-Lesney - 2024 the restaurant has a different chef, Francesco di Marzio, who continues to "highlight the local produce of the Jura with almost 90% of his supplies coming from the region."