Unexpectedly Wonderful Meal at Chez Robert in Saint Jean de Cole

We loved Périgord so much the first time around, we returned this summer with my dad, brother and his family, renting out part of a picturesque château in Chalais. During what was the first of a series of very concerning heat waves this year, we splished and splashed with water guns at the pool, hunted frogs and lizard with my niece, visited the (air-conditioned) Lascaux exhibition and the (un-air-conditions) villages of Sarlat and Brantôme. On the final night of our trip, before the drive back to Bordeaux, we decided to have one last dinner together and, after quite a bit of last-minute fussing, managed to find a restaurant open on a Sunday night at 9pm in the peaceful little town of Saint Jean de Cole.

That restaurant is called Chez Robert and it is run by an English guy named Robert. He wasn’t too happy with us from the beginning, as we arrived from the road behind his place and marched straight through his kitchen, thinking it was the front entrance. We further annoyed him by asking for a table outside, despite his warnings that it will probably rain, and then moving everything inside when it inevitably did rain. Despite everything, he attended to us kindly. The vibe in the dining room was cozy and rustic, and his food was absolutely delicious, made from scratch to order, even if that meant a bit of a wait. (This is not the spot for those in a rush). The only drawback is the cash-only policy, especially as the bill usually comes out to more than what most people have in their pocket in this cash-free world and as the closest ATM is in another town some 10-minute drive away.

We took one of each choice of two entrées. One was a salty, nutty cheese soufflé sprinkled with grated parmesan and sat in a velvety, warm cheese sauce. The texture was nice, although more similar to an eggy choux pastry than any other soufflé I’ve had. The soft tower of dough whistling out warm, cheese-scented air when sliced into.

The second entrée featured plenty of plump, fresh crayfish and some local trout piled over a tower of chilled seafood salad. The salad was drizzled with some tangy yoghurt sauce and good olive oil and decorated with a few sprigs of fresh dill. Perfect on a steamy 40°C day (which would nevertheless drop to 18°C that evening…)

My main dish was a slow-roasted lamb cutlet toped with some roasted eggplant wrapped around a kind of roasted tomato filling and served with sweet caramelized onions and deliciously creamy dauphinoise potatoes. The lamb was perfectly moist and tender, with an extra bit of hydration from the flavorful meat jus at the base of the plate. The slightly irony taste of the lamb went nicely with the roasty-toasty flavors of the roasted eggplant, while the potato gratin added a great nuttiness and a sweet cream flavor to the ensemble.

We spent a wonderfully convivial and intimate moment together at Chez Robert before the big goodbye and hitting the road back home. Fantastic food, a homey vibe and kind service at this little gem in Saint Jean de Cole, a very lucky find indeed, especially for a late Sunday evening.

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