Grand at Grasmere

A short review of the Grand hotel Grasmere

Years ago we had many enjoyable visits to a family run hotel at Grasmere called the Gold Rill, which was excellent in every respect. The hotel is set in a quiet part of the village, with very well kept gardens and has some beautiful views of the fells and lake nearby. I’m informed it changed hands in 2015 and is now called The Grand.

We were greeted on arrival and my initial impressions were of a well run hotel with recently refurbished public rooms, an improvement to the old layout. However the hotel is cashless which I really don’t like, an errosion of freedom and one that shouldn’t be happening. On the way to our room I noticed three surveillance cameras, is that really neccessary? If you must record every guests movement then please be more discreet.

Our room was modern and our initial impression favourable, but several things just not right. Firstly, a dressing table with no natural light with the bed positioned in front. However, I kept accidentally knocking my elbow on the low partition that stuck out whilst thats no big deal, it served a constant reminder to the thoughtless design and probably made the room awkward for anyone less able. The bathroom looked modern enough but like a fridge with a slate floor, very cold on the feet and no bath. We were informed there were complimentary slippers however, you can’t wear them in the shower. The room also had air con, a fridge, decent sized TV, plenty of storage and a tea/coffee maker with the wireless network connection available. My verdict: Very good lake view and well equipped room although layout not so good, but no bath?

We’d booked for dinner the first night as the receptionist had informed us most places were shut and the restaurant would be busy. Like the public rooms the restaurant is modern with tables well spaced. However, I can’t say I was too impressed with my game casserole which was very salty. Unfortunately, even in 2019 some one saw fit to treat my meal like an icy road. The meal was also in a bowl – why? This made it difficult to eat and I should have requested it on a plate, as per the previous 61 years. Whilst the game casserole came with a small portion of brocolli and mashed potato, it appeared in general anything additional such as chips or vegetables were extra to the main dish. therefore, your fairly expensive meal gets dearer if with chips, vegetables or both. My verdict: Overpriced, a lot less salt please.

I then browsed through the wine list to discover it was nothing but corporate theft. There was no provenance, I prefer a little explanation of what I’m about to buy, for example: ‘Muscadet: A crisp dry white perfect with fish‘ will do. We opted for a mundane Australian Syrah (Shiraz) at £26 but wanting a Cote de Rhone Villages or Gigondas to go with the game, an Argentinian Malbec was £50 a bottle? Come on, that is robbery. The next day I found our humble Shiraz in the Co-op for £8.25 ending any further wine purchases! For an £8 wine, I fully expect a hotel will charge double plus a bit say £18 to £20. I am no stranger to paying for good wine, but this was over three times what it could be bought for. My verdict: The wine is way overpriced, my meal ruined with far too much salt.

Afterwards the bar menu revealled equally excessive prices: Gin & Tonic £12, Cognac and Armanac cheapest around £9 following which, I diddnt recognise any of the other drinks. Sadly, high prices resulted in public areas being near deserted removing the jolly atmosphere that once prevailed. Back in the days of the Gold Rill, a selection of fine single malts were available from the bar without needing a second mortgage, sadly not anymore.

Heres what they really miss: I will happily pay around £5-6 for a G&T and there were three of us, so every night spent £15 to £18 over the bar and at that price the profit is still at least 100%. Instead they got nothing for being downright greedy. My verdict: don’t bother – guests we spoke to agreed it was over priced and staff also confirmed their dislike for high prices stunting bar sales.

Later on we turned in. After a 10 minute search I eventually found the light switch under the dressing table. God only knows why the numpties put it there, only to discover we were sleeping in something that resembled the end of the runway at Gatwick airport. A smoke detector almost directly over our bed had two very bright green LEDs flashing about every 20 seconds, visible with my eyes shut. The televisions red LED shone like a searchlight. The air conditioning system also sported a selection of green lights whilst an eirie glow in the hallway contributed to the unwanted display. Sleep did not come easily. The next day we bought some Blu Tak to deal with the offensive, unwanted illuminations. My verdict: Too knackered to state anything constructive, but the Blu Tak worked a treat.

The next morning, breakfast was a revalation with a fine selection of just about everything and good coffee followed by the full English. Finally, something positive to talk about. We did joke about taking an extra slice of bread may be spotted on CCTV automatically adding a fiver to our bill. My verdict: Breakfast was very good and by far the best experience of our stay.

Overall verdict: The public rooms are nice but excessive bar prices mean they are sparsely populated to deserted in the evening, the jolly atmosphere that once prevailled long gone. The restaurant was sort of OK, but expensive evening meals once the cost of vegatables is added made them poor value. Breakfast by far the best meal for me. After Mondays experience, we diddn’t want to chance another dissapointing meal so we ate elsewhere for the rest of the week. The over priced wine and bar prices served a fine deterrent to any alcholic refreshments. The room was well equipped with a comfortable bed but illuminations at night meant disturbed sleep and it was just not very well laid out. Our view of the lake very good.

So would I stay again? Well, I won’t exactly hurry back, so in a word: No.

Le Moulin Rocheservière

Should you ever visit Daheron for some classic Loire valley wine tasting then Rocheservière is just a few kilometres away and Le Moulin is well worth a visit for lunch. Don’t let their web site discourage you as many French web sites are to be honest, utterly terrible. Poor layout, awful fonts and no telephone number on the ‘contact’ page! Anyway it’s: 02 51 48 92 78

Thankfully, everything else including it’s picturesque location is really very good. Set near the river Boulogne in the village with an outside terrace overlooking the weir, it’s a popular spot in summer. The interior is nicely restored with a modern extension and additional tables upstairs. It gets very busy at lunchtimes so booking is essential.

There are several menu options of which we chose the three courses for 13 euros (June 2019) with three choices of plat de jour. What followed was excellent and along with some wine, a coffee afterwards bought the total to less than 19 euros per person which we considered very good value. Its worthy to note that despite being busy with every table occupied, service remained excellent. This was our fourth or fifth visit, for yet another very enjoyable lunch. The price remains very good value and the quality has improved steadily, Le Moulin is thus highly recommended and well worth a visit.

Restaurant Le Moulin Tel: 02 51 48 92 78

1, Rue de la Malcoute, 85620 Rocheservière

A grand day out

Very few things will get me up early, but the prospect of visiting two chateaux in Graves with lunch is one of them. So there we were at 06.45 waiting for our coach to transport our party to Cérons then Cadillac which lies just to the north of the Sauternes/Barsac region. An opportunity to sample the regions wines lay ahead, I’m a great fan of Graves and Sauternes and the weather looked very promising.

Our first stop was Clos Bourgelat in Cérons where we tasted a selection of Graves rouge and blancs under the enthusiastic guidance of Dominique Lafosse whose family have produced wine on the estate for generations since 1889. All the wines were very good, with some varied opinions on which white was the better of three offered.
Production of Sauternes styled wine is a tricky and expensive affair. The autumn mists from the river, encourage the growth of a mushroom which in turn create the conditions for Botyritis which in turn, infects the grapes with the fungus which starts noble rot. This delicate process reduces the acidity of the grape whilst increasing sweetness and aroma. To me, it’s0 just pure alchemy along with the skill of the producteur who must pick four times the amount of grapes than what goes into an ordinary bottle of wine, making your 20 euro bottle of Sauternes a real wine bargain!

So, our next wine – Clos Bourgelat AOC Cérons was a complete surprise. First taste I considered it a good Sauternes around the 18 euro mark which is entry level. A truly excellent wine at a very reasonable 11.90 euros (2019) and what a find. The Cérons AOC is an appellation for sweet white wines produced in a similar style to Sauternes, picking late to encourage noble rot. As there are no classified estates this makes it well priced and highly reccomended.

Next up was their Vignobeles de Sanches Sauternes, which really was something special, a kaleidoscope of flavour in every sip and what’s more it displayed all the attributes of a wine that should age beautifully – in my opinion that is which proved correct when next tasted in 2020 showing very promising development.

Clos Bourgelat: 4, Caulet Sud, 33720 Cérons
Tel: 05 56 27 01 73

Following that we crossed the Garonne to Cadillac for lunch on the terrace at the Château de la Tour hotel and restaurant for an exceptional meal accompanied by Dominique with a further opportunity to enjoy the excellent selection his wines with our meal, he even had one that went well with the chocolate desert.

After lunch we had an extremely nice walk along the cliffs with stunning views of Sauternes and the very prestigious estate, Château d’Yquem champion of Sauternes stood out with its majestic buildings.

It’s worthy to note that Château d’Yquem is the only estate ranked Premier Cru Supérieur by the 1855 classification a level above that of the first growths of the Medoc.

So, next stop was Château Bardins in Pessac-Léognan formerly Graves with another tasting following an interesting explanation on the difficulties of cultivating vines under the biologique certification. They are currently five years in to the seven year process but their wine didn’t convince me. However a fair few others thought otherwise buying several cases and before too long we were on a way back accompanied by the satisfying chink of bottles from the back.

Château BARDINS – Chemin de la Matole – 33140 Cadaujac
GPS : 44°44.O.N.– 0°34.72.

Tél: 05 56 30 78 01

Finally, thank you for the invitation, a fantastic day and very much appreciated.

Les Viviers de L’Ocean

The quality of the seafood here is exceptional, I particularly like oysters and the ones I had recently were probably the best I’ve ever tasted.

The restaurant is located right next to the seafront at Esnandes, ignore your satnav, who needs one anyway? turn right at the lights then follow the road to the sea in about 1 km. Continue although high tide infrequently obstructs the road which turns left uphill then keep going to discover the restaurant on your left. The sea views at sunset are stunning so don’t forget your camera. It’s very popular and frequently gains 5 star reviews on Trip Advisor so a reservation is essential to be sure of a table. Rest assured, you won’t be dissapointed.

There’s a nice vibe here, the menu is very good along with a well priced formulae of entree, main, desert and a glass of wine for 23.50 euros. The owners are Cuban so offer a selection of cigars. Despite being a non smoker, It would be good if restraunts were permitted a smoking room, allowing clients to enjoy these fine Havana cigars that await in the humidor.

Highly recommended and our favourite restaurant for sea food.

Rue de la Pree de Sion, Zone Conchylicole-Front de mer, 17137 Esnandes
Tel: 05 46 01 33 12

D750 20mm @f16 1/2500

D750 Tamron G2 24-70mm @ f14 62mm 1/40

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D750 Tamron G2 15-30mm @ f9 19mm 1/60

Hotel de Vendee

The Hotel de Vendee is located at the end of Rue de la Republique in Fontenay le Comte here and is officially one of my favourite restaurants.
Please do not be discouraged by the exterior and whilst the interior is not lavishly decorated, their friendly atmosphere, menu and service is exceptional along with an excellent wine list which also offers a selection of the better regional Vendeen wines. It is the only restaurant where I trust their judgement in selecting the correct wine.

Update 13/02/2020 A superb meal again, exceptional thank you! Im sure Rick Stein would love it.

24/01/2020: A superb meal for two, with excellent presentation and a beautiful meal of three courses with 2 glasses of wine each for 62 euros confirms Hotel de Vendee is maintaining a very high standard and perhaps improving.

The lunchtime menu is extremely reasonable so book in advance and expect them to be busy. There are additional tables in a small courtyard which is very nice in summer.

Hotel de Vendee is our favourite restaurant in Fontenay & well worth a visit. It’s exceptionally good value for money, the menu does change around due to availability of fresh local produce, but you wont be dissapointed and it’s advisable to reserve a table.

However one thing I would change, it’s trivial but important to me: They read out the menu – aaagh. Now my French is fine, but I like to contemplate a menu, select the main, the entree and then the wine. I don’t care for it being read out because I like to consider what may go with what. Now I know they use locally sourced produce and the menu changes, but it really wouldn’t hurt to print them out or have a chalk board, because I would visit more often if they did.

Trip Advisor reviews.

Address: 126 rue de la Republique, 85200 Fontenay-le-Comte.
Tel: 02 51 69 76 11

Le Chene Vert

Le Chene Vert is a traditional family run French restaurant and one of my favourites in Fontenay le Comte. Theres a three course plat de jour for around 12 euros with wine too and the food is very good value.

Theres a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and its usually busy but there are two dining rooms with plenty of tables.

They open for lunch every week day, but closed weekends unless by special arrangement.

27 Rue Kleber, 85200 Fontenay-le-Comte, France – see map
Tél: 02 51 50 02 30

A plaque outside honours the local Resistance and other special forces groups who met there during WW2.