Posted on Friday, 15th August 2008
My first taste of the Alsace region of France was Eguisheim, which we approached from La Route des Crêtes (the Crest Road). This route runs through one of the oldest mountain ranges in France and gives you some amazing panoramic views, some as far as the Black Forest.
We’d come to Eguisheim in the Alsace for the sole purpose of this little restaurant that I’d discovered in the Michelin guide. I was particularly drawn to the description which mentioned that the restaurant was once the home of a former winegrower. ‘Quaint’, I thought, and I do adore quaint. So of course we had to come. See, some people choose where to travel to and then pick the restaurants, or even go with the flow. Not me. I’ve to choose which restaurants I want to eat at and then pick the route. So to Eguisheim we went. Eguisheim was probably on of those places I would’ve never thought to visit for the sheer fact that it has never registered in my radius of knowledge. However, it turned out to be wonderfully delightful. A medieval village surrounded by the mountains, there are German influences throughout given both its proximity to Germany and that for long periods in history was under German occupation. It has now been beautifully restored to resemble a kaleidoscope of colours and on the first day of real sunshine on our driving trip thus far, it was truly picture postcard perfect.
The restaurant whose description I was drawn to was Caveau D’Eguisheim, a Michelin one star. The décor was curious. There were remnants of Christmas past, with a wreath made from cork still hanging and ceiling lights shaped like a bunch of grapes, probably to reflect its tradition of once having been a winegrower’s home.
We sat for lunch in the upstairs dining room with the sunshine delightfully streaming through the windows. I chose from the set lunch menu (2 courses for €20); a finely diced tartare of tomato and melon bathed in a fine herb and melon soup proved to be wonderfully summery, the melon sweet, the tomatoes ripe, the ample fresh mix of herbs adding intense fragrance and aroma to the dish. My main of cabillaud (cod) was meaty in texture and extremely flavoursome. The garden vegetables with which it was served were cooked to crisp perfection, although it swam in a mushroom velouté which was perhaps a little too salty and a little too rich for the fish.
My friend chose the choucroute (€24), the French version of sauerkraut. In a dish like this, it is the sauerkraut that is of importance and not the meat that accompanies it, although on this occasion it was served with plump cured ham and three different types of fleshy sausages creating a meat lovers’ delight. The ham was nicely cured, deep and robust in flavour, meaty and not too salty. The white and pinkish sausages, frankfurter types, were delicate and subtle, contrasting with the slightly smoked full bodied meatiness of the red sausage. Then to the highlight ingredient: the choucroute. Compared to its German counterpart, this choucroute was much finer, softer and lighter in texture, and altogether less vinegary though more peppery. Like all things French, this too commanded a touch of refinement and to my palate was delightfully delicious for its gentleness on the tongue.
Despite all the slight oddities of the décor, the restaurant was clearly a true labour of love, demonstrated by the dexterity and wholesomeness of the cooking and in the way that throughout our sitting, the lady of the house rushed briskly from table to table, taking orders, pouring wine and serving food for the fifteen or so covers. With only mama for help in the front of the house, the strain sometimes showed, but everything seemed to run according to plan. All the touches in the dining room were undoubtedly hers. On a beautiful, bright sunny day, Caveau D’Eguisheim really did shine.
Caveau D’Eguisheim at:
3 pl. Château St-Léon
Tel: +33-(0)3-89 41 08 89