Les Orangeries Hotel and Restaurant in Poitou-Charentes, is a French leader in sustainable accommodation and dining. It’s worth the trip to tiny Lussac-Les-Châteaux for an unforgettable meal in beautiful surroundings.
While, these days, we travel in our (motor)home so our bed is always with us, over the years, we’ve slept in hundreds of hotel beds. Some were quite glamourous, but most were simply a place to rest our weary heads. Most of the time, we choose hotels for their location in relation to our travels. Occasionally though, the hotel is the destination in and of itself. If it has a great restaurant, featuring organic, local produce, all the better. The hotel and restaurant Les Orangeries, in Poitou-Charentes is just such a place.
We were invited to spend a night at Les Orangeries, about a month into our motorhome adventure. After 30 days of adjusting to living in a tiny space, a less than comfortable bed, and 3-minute showers, we were definitely ready to enjoy the luxury of a hotel – any hotel. But Les Orangeries exceeded our expectations.
We pointed our motorhome, Amelia, in the direction of Lussac-Les-Châteaux, a small town in the Vienne department of Poitou-Charentes, to search for our home for the night. What we discovered was a charming, historic house, surrounded by gardens, in the middle of the village. Our room was comfortable and modern with an Old World charm and the common rooms felt cosy, yet well-thought out in their design and function.
But Les Orangeries rambling charm belies a hidden secret. Beneath the ancient wood beams and thick stone walls is a modern approach to sustainability. The architect behind the hotel’s restoration is passionate about sustainable development and Les Orangeries was a labour of love.
In keeping with our attempt to make our travels as environmentally sustainable as possible, we were delighted to learn that Les Orangeries is Ecolabel certified. Not only that, but it was the first hotel to attain the European Ecolabel in France.
While we couldn’t wait to dive into the huge, plush bed or soak in the deliciously long bathtub, what we were most anticipating (surprise, surprise) was the food. But before we could eat, we had a date in the garden with Chef David Royer.
Like the hotel, the Restaurant Les Orangeries has a local, sustainable ethos. In 2014, it was the first French restaurant to be named the Most Responsible Restaurant by the, UK based, Sustainable Restaurant Association, an accolade it maintained in 2015.
As we well know, great meals begin with great ingredients, and Chef Royer and his team, choose only the freshest, local produce to build their menus. Some of which, they grow themselves in a small potager (kitchen garden) behind the hotel. As we walked through the raised beds, Chef Royer excitedly plucked leaves from plants. “Taste this and tell me what you think it is…” Sometimes we were correct, sometimes we had no clue, but each time we experienced an explosion of flavour we couldn’t wait to taste on our plates.
Back in the hotel’s sunny garden, we discussed how a chef, who had worked in Scotland, Finland, and England, ends up in a tiny village in Poitou-Charentes. Like so many others we had spoken to on our travels, for Chef Royer it was all about balance. At Les Orangeries, he found people who shared his ethos of sustainability, a wealth of high-quality ingredients, and a pace of life more liveable than in a big city.
That’s not to say Chef Royer didn’t encounter some challenges. The small, agricultural village of Lussac-Les-Châteaux wasn’t necessarily open to all of his culinary experimentation, so building a menu that is both innovative and non-threatening has also been an exercise in balance.
As discussions about food always make us hungry, (who are we kidding, we’re always hungry for good food) we were more than ready to head into the dining-room and see what Les Orangeries had to offer.
The dining-room couldn’t have been more aptly situated, in the property’s former greenhouse. While the only thing growing there, these days, is an ancient wisteria vine, it’s still home to freshly grown produce, from the restaurant’s certified organic garden and nearby producers of all manner of tasty produce.
We were presented with a menu listing a who’s who of the restaurant’s suppliers. It’s hard to believe, everything from meat to saffron and truffles come from the region. With such variety, no wonder Chef Royer was eager to establish himself here.
So we could sample as much of the menu as possible, Andrew and I ordered completely different menu items. The food, speaks for itself below:
This is quite possibly one of the best things I have ever eaten, and is certainly the best foie gras ever to pass my lips (and there has been a lot of competition, let me tell you.) Just looking at the photo makes my mouth water.
This deeply smoky salmon was a close contender to the foie gras. The dish was perfectly balanced and we loved the crunch from the crispy veggies.
This was creamy, comforting and delicious. I adore asparagus and this dish was bursting with the flavour of spring.
Andrew’s choice of main-course, won the round with its heavenly, cooked-to-perfection duck. The pistachios added a touch of crunch and the potato-bacon accompaniment was a delicious addition.
I died and went to chocolate heaven. Need I say more?
The savory-sweet contrasts in Andrew’s dessert were a delicious surprise. I particularly loved the hint of tarragon.
We’ve had the good fortune to eat in a great many fantastic restaurants, on all levels of the foodie spectrum, but this is one dining experience we won’t soon forget. Knowing that the chef responsible for it shares our philosophy on sustainability was the icing on the chocolate mousse.
If there was absolutely nothing else to do in Poitou-Charentes, we would still encourage you to go, simply to stay at Les Orangeries and dine in their restaurant. But, as we discovered there is as much diversity in activities and attractions in this beautiful French region, as there is in its wonderful produce. Whether you use Les Orangeries as a base to explore all Poitou-Charentes has to offer, or simply as a decadent (yet sustainable) weekend escape, it needs to be on your must-stay (and eat) list for France.
Hotel – Restaurant Les Orangeries
12, avenue du Docteur Dupont
We’d like to thank our wonderful hosts at Les Orangeries for a lovely stay and Chef Royer and his team for an excellent meal. Thanks also go to the Région Poitou-Charentes Tourism office for hosting us in the area. As always, all opinions are our own.