“Perfectly reasonable price, good service, but I thought the food a little characterless.”
This is another occasion where I wish Tripadvisor would allow marks out of ten rather than five.
If it were possible, I would be ticking the seven-out-of-ten box with a song in my heart & a spring in my step. As it is, I have to choose between “average,” which I think is slightly unfair, and “very good,” which is frankly over generous.
This restaurant is above-average-to-quite-good. Nothing much wrong with it, a lot right with it, but not really in any way exceptional. I suspect very few diners will be disappointed with the place, but equally few will recall it as the venue of the best meal they ever ate.
We ended up at L’Atelier Gourmand rather by accident: the place we actually hoped to go was closed for renovation; our second choice was also closed unexpectedly for the day, so we wandered around Coulon – which is a pretty little place and popular with tourists and where a garden shed with river frontage is currently on offer for €30,000 – and just followed our noses.
The positives first. The décor and furnishing at L’Atelier is of a very high standard. OK – nice décor doesn’t do the cooking, but it is often a sign that someone is taking the business seriously.
The wine list was short, balanced & reasonably priced. We plumped for a perfectly palatable Saumur Champigny at €19. The service is efficient and civil and there were enough locals in the place to suggest that it represented fair value for money.
The food was fine. I had a terrine de campagne to start, followed by a noix de jambon (bit like a gammon steak) in a honey mustard sauce with local beans (called mogettes, which are often a sloppy mess, but these were pretty good) and finished with a chocolate tartlet. My companion had a very curious looking savoury tart – a pastry case containing two whole cooked carrots, chorizo, tomatoes & mozzarella – but which tasted fine, followed by a gateau de burre (think pound cake) and pistachio cream.
Now, I may be doing the kitchen a terrible disservice – and I apologise if I am – but I did end up wondering just how much actual cooking was going on in there.
My terrine, for example, was not described as “maison” and was probably therefore bought in. This is not to say it wasn’t good: I thought it to be of high quality, but it was a bit characterless. The sauce served with the noix de jambon had a slightly industrial flavour to it; the mogettes likewise. The puddings could have come out of a catering catalogue – mine appeared essentially to be a suspiciously perfect pastry case (which tasted, I thought, of vegetable shortening), filled with Nutella and topped with squirty cream.
As I say, I may be completely wrong and this was just the chef’s style. However, I can understand why a restaurant might want to rely heavily on chill / cook stuff, particularly in a place like Coulon which depends heavily on fickle tourist footfall, but a bit of personality would have been nice.
In terms of price, we ended up paying €48 for two including wine and coffee, which was not too painful. They do a children’s menu (ours were at school, so we had to peer at neighbouring table) which looked pretty fair value at €7. The courtyard appeared nice, but the weather was most definitely not conducive to outside dining. The view of the town from the restaurant is very pleasant.
I wouldn’t make a special trip to visit L’Atelier again, but if I found myself in Coulon at 1pm another day, I certainly wouldn’t discount it as a dining choice. Looking at what else is on offer (certainly in the price range) I think it may be just about the best the town has to offer.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.