Saturday, 27 June 2009

Dominique's Table d'Hote & the Restaurant l'Alloru

One of the reasons I don’t need a television in Corsica is because I often have the chance to visit places like Olmi Cappella which is like a total immersion soap opera. Think the League of Gentlemen (you’re not from round here are you?) crossed with a Mediterranean Coronation Street with all the gossip and intrigue that involves, and you’re sort of half way there!

Whether it’s a feud with the lady from the biscuit factory, a dustman who turns up to a medical emergency and does a superman style change of clothes in the bathroom to become the local paramedic, or Antonia serving breakfast to her guests in her curlers, there is always something to keep me entertained.

The first time we went to stay at Antonia’s chambre d’hote was a real experience. We were given a wonderful welcome by Antonia and shown to our rooms, where the shutters were thrown open to reveal breathtaking views of the mountains and village. We arrived early evening and Antonia suggested that we have dinner at Dominique’s Table d’Hote in the village. She sent us off with sketchy directions so I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place as we seemed to have arrived in someone’s living room! Luckily Dominique was so welcoming and charming, and the food was just to die for.

We’d chosen the Corsican Menu, not realising quite how many courses there were or how huge the portions would be, but it was absolutely delicious. We started with a little homemade aperitif followed by charcuterie (cured meats) while Dominique explained that she only uses local produce and knows all the suppliers personally, but luckily the beignets arrived before I started having flashbacks to the film ‘babe’.

I absolutely adore beignets and those made with courgettes are my favourite. Beignets can be sweet (doughnuts) or savory (fritters), and you find them all over Corsica. The best I have tasted have been the cheese beignets at La Tornadia many years ago when Antonia was the chef, the leek beignets at l’Oliveraie in Corte and the ones at Dominique’s! The alternative was a salad of tomato and Mozzarella which arrived looking like a lobster which was slightly surprising!

Unfortunately they are VERY filling so I was already stuffed before main course even arrived. Being in the mountains, the main course on the set menu is always meat rather than fish, and varies according to the season. We were lucky enough to visit towards the end of the year and were treated to a creative dish of Figatelli (a special type of pork liver sausage) with filet mignon in a wild mushroom sauce and roasted potatoes. It’s not a combination I would immediately have thought of, but it was one of the most delicious dinners I have ever eaten.

I really wasn’t sure that I could manage anything more, but we still had two more courses to go! The cheeses were again all locally produced and served with fig jam (another favourite). I particularly liked the Tomme which is a hard cheese with a creamy texture and quite a strong taste. For dessert there was a choice and I plumped for the Fiadone which is made with brocciu cheese and lemons and has the consistency of a sponge cake, although I was seriously tempted by the fondant au chocolat and in fact all the other choices. Fiadone is usually served with eau de vie – a very strong liqueur which I am sure has its roots in moonshine! We were feeling slightly uncomfortably full by the time the coffee and fruit based digestifs/liqueurs arrived, but what great value for money at 25€ a head.

Unsurprisingly, there has been such demand that Dominique has now taken over the Restaurant L’Alloru in the village itself, behind the Bar des Amis, and does a roaring trade during the summer (Table d’Hote on request out of season). They have a nice terrace at the back overlooking the mountains, but I prefer to sit in the little vaulted dining room inside which has been decorated with Antonia’s water colours and oil paintings.

Fortunately, I have learned my lesson so the last time I went I had just a starter, main course and dessert but still came home stuffed!!

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