My wife and I wanted to enjoy the beautiful autumn colours in the Belgian Ardennes.
We love to walk for hours during the day and taste the Belgian food in the evening. Especially; now the hunting season had started!
We booked a "Gastronomic Weekend" at Hostellerie La Claire Fontaine. The reviews were very positive and the pictures of the hotel and the food looked promising, as well.
Because we bring a dog along on our walks, we went for a medium sized room.
The reception was friendly, by a nice but very shy and timid waiter. The room was OK. Not very big, rather small actually. But, reasonybly clean. Outdated and threadbare, but that can be part of the 'charm', most of the times. The bathroom had a tiny window and two small lights of which one wasn't working. Not dancing in the dark, but showering in the (almost) dark. No shower-curtain either, so swimming was (almost) possible afterwards.
Minor detail; the folder in the room with information about the hotel itself and the aerea, showed our Dutch flag upside down... hahaha. Don't worry. That did not bother us.
Going down to the bar and restaurant we were looking very much forward to a Belgian beer. And dinner. After the walk we would have liked some salt, so we asked twice for some peanuts to accompagny our beers. But they (the peanuts), never showed up. Even though it wasn't very busy.
The amuse-geules weren't very promising. Let's leave it at that.
No menu was given to us. Just the main ingredient of the courses were mentioned.
No explenations to the dishes. Just; "Chard"..., "Eal"..., "Trout"..., "Duck". That was it. Right!
The first course was a vegetable soup of Swiss chard. It had a weird 'fishy' tone to it. After several spoonfulls I had a small fishbone in my mouth. Apperantly, the stock for the soup was made of trout, after I asked the waiter. Strange combination. It wasn't meant as fusion, though.
The second course was a piece of cooked eal (and some trout for me on my request, because I'm not very fond of cooked eal.) in a watery sauce.
The maincourse were two varieties of wild duck. A bit chewy, but definately free-range, that was for sure.
It was accompagnied by a mysterious selection of stir-fried vegetables which -in taste- didn't fit the duck meat at all. Underneath the vegetables was some sort of red watery fluid, that tasted like raspberry. I wouldn't call this a 'sauce'.
Course number four. "Warm cheese". Correct.
A thin round of puff pastry. An extremely thin piece of dry goat cheese. On top, some apple. Oven-heated. Sounds great. But it wasn't.
The whole desert was burried by rocket-salad. Why? A weird combination, again.
No dish so far was made appealing to the eye. Every course looked like a mess. No love was given. Just; "Let's put some 'green' on the dish, doesn't matter what!".
The photographs on the website looked like somebody had given real professional love to the dishes and made them appealing. The chef that evening, was not the same one, we presume.
Or, maybe he and the staff didn't feel OK.
The last course was a big glas of sabayon. Freshly made, at least we heard somebody whisking something in the kitchen by hand. But, it tasted like it came out of a packet. And maybe it did. We didn't want to know. We tasted it and left it.
As we were going to have dinner at La Claire Fontaine for two nights in a row; we chose two bottles of wine, one white, one red, which would cover both dinners we planned.
The Vouvray (2002) had gone sour. It should have been 'buttery'. The waitress agreed. A second bottle was opened. Same problem. Sour. That was the last bottle of Vouvray, the waitress mentioned. So, we tried a Riesling (2006). Also "off" by age. Or, by way of keeping? My wife and I are no major connoisseurs, but we do know some things about wine. These had not aged in the right way, as they should have.
After having rejected three bottles of wine, we went for a safe choice; a Pinot Gris from the same region (2015). We felt guilty, but that was maybe a misplaced feeling.
Service was slow, over all. Eventhough, it wasn't very busy. They seemed to avoid each other and the clients, as well. We had to wait and ask for the the red wine before we could start with the main course. The duck went cold in the meantime. Cutlery needed to be asked for several times.
Breakfast was pretty good. No comments.
But all in all, we felt so disappointed and frustrated. We would like to cancel the second night. Because the price and the quality was a complete mismatch.
To be honest; we made up an excuse that we hàd to return home.
Not the way we should have behaved.
Not giving the Claire Fontaine a second chance. But everything seemed to be beyond repair. Sorry to say so.