Beaune is my favorite town in Burgundy, and right at the heart of this medieval village is the imposing Hôtel Dieu. Founded in the 15th century as a hospice to care for the poor and sick, the Hôtel Dieu continued to function as the town hospital until 1971. Today it has been beautifully restored to its 15th century condition and is the number one attraction in Beaune (aside from the wine).
Restaurant Le Fleury
15 Place Fleury, Beaune ✆ 03-80-22-35-50
Hours: 12:00 to 14:30 & 19:00 to 21:30, Open daily
Average Price: €40 per person All major credit cards accepted
With the outward appearance of a rather run of the mill brasserie, this is a place I had passed by on numerous occasions without much thought. Big mistake. When I finally sat down and tried it, it turned out to be one of my best meals in France.
While I looked over the menu, the waiter recommended a glass of nice rosé wine as an aperitif. I'm not normally a big rosé fan, but he gave it very high marks -- something quite exceptional were his words -- and since it was quite hot out, a chilled wine sounded nice. I gave him the go ahead and was not disappointed. It was a harbinger of things to come.
The menu has enough Burgundian classics to satisfy the first-time visitor to Burgundy, along with some foreign elements like pastas and risotto. Having eaten my fair share of Boeuf Bourguignon, I opted to go "foreign" with a starter of gazpacho, followed by risotto with spring vegetables, and tiramisu for dessert. I also ordered a glass of chablis, to follow when I was done with the rosé.
My gazpacho arrived quickly. Not just a lazy bowl of red soup with some crusty bread, it was a work of art and included a few greens dressed in olive oil and balsamic, plus a crispy wafer of baked parmesan cheese. The gazpacho was perfect. Fresh tomato taste, nice texture and just enough garlic to give it some bite without being overwhelming.
Next up was the risotto. I had by now finished off the rosé, and the glass had been cleared away, but my chablis was no where in sight. The waiter who brought the risotto was not the one who had originally taken my order -- common in European restaurants, where they're not working for tips and nobody "owns" a table. The system works wonderfully if you have a well-trained staff and diligent management, but can quickly fall apart if someone gets lazy and expects "the other guy" to pick up the slack. Pretty soon they're all lazy, and there's no "other guy" left.
After setting down the risotto the waiter spun off to another table before I could say anything about the wine, but not ten seconds later the original waiter glanced at my table from half-way across the restaurant, crinkled his brow, and then dashed out of sight. He soon appeared at my table with the glass of chablis. I hadn't needed to say a word, and Le Fleury was quickly winning my heart.
The risotto was a revelation. Creamy, with just enough tooth. Each of the vegetables, though they all would require different cooking times, were fresh and tender. Nothing mushy or over done.
Last of all the tiramisu. I fear ordering tiramisu in a restaurant I don't know, even in Italy, because so many restaurants put out a slab of semi-thawed, store bought mush on a plate, figuring most patrons are over stuffed and half drunk by this point and will never know the difference. Fortunately, this was not the case at Le Fleury. It wasn't exactly a classic tiramisu -- more of a tiramisu and berry parfait, but obviously from scratch. And it was delicious.
Everything was beautifully presented and brilliantly prepared, but the service was what really won me over. Top notch attention, without being intrusive.
The restaurant has a large indoor dining room, plus a small terrace when the weather is nice. A definite keeper.
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