Riberach is a fairly new hotel, restaurant and winery located in the old wine co-op in Bélesta, in the hills between the Agly and Têt Valleys, in the Pyrenees Orientales or Roussillon - not the Ariege as TripAdvisor implied when I searched for it. The renovation work took a long time and no expense appears to have been spared. We had dinner in the restaurant, but did not stay over. The bedrooms appear to be good. The restaurant - called rather unimaginatively 'La Co-opérative'- is located in the centre of the long building and is open right up to the vast roof far above, which still retains its industrial look. This gives the restaurant a rather cavernous and echoey feel. The old co-op's concrete vats are still in situ on either side, albeit titivated with the judicious use of white and crimson paint. Such vats are made of reinforced concrete and are a nightmare to get rid of, so this is where the bedrooms (9) and suites (9) have been located.
To the meal: the wine service was, frankly very poor. I had ordered the wine, but it was offered it to my male partner to taste (ok...that does happen quite a lot, sadly), but then the bottle languished in an ice bucket somewhere out of sight and our waiter never noticed when our glasses were empty. We had to ask for more wine at least three times and the last time I asked I had to remind him yet again a few minutes later, when he came de-crumb our table. If he had been busy, fair enough, but we were the only diners in the restaurant, apart from a couple of men - presumably staff - who viewed us with disinterest as we arrived, ate some food from time to time, but spent most of the evening gazing intently at a laptop screen, to which the waitress and wine waiter also gravitated at every opportunity. We learned later that our wine waiter was not really 'the sommelier', who was 'away', but we are still not sure that excused the poor service. The waitress was not much more skilled than her colleague. She managed to be cockily casual and yet very abrupt. She did not remember who had ordered what and at the end, said airily 'who wants the bill?' waving it around and then slapping it down on the table.
To the food: there are currently (2012) menus at 30, 54 and 69 euros. We would normally have chosen a menu, but felt the à la carte options were more interesting and no more expensive. The chef and his chef pâtissier wife come with glowing references and, to be fair, there was much artistry in the presentation of the dishes and, pleasingly, seasonal produce was much in evidence, including some one sees rarely in France, such as topinambour (Jerusalem artichoke) and panais (parsnip). However, most of the starters and main dishes we ordered..and much in the menus as a whole..combined savoury and sweet ingredients. Most of the time, sadly, this just did not work, for example in my foie gras de canard. This was served with 'crème brûlée de patate douce et condiment pomme-miel'; the foie gras was delicious, but the crème brûlée was far too sweet for my liking (and I do like sweet wine with foie gras). Our fish and Coquilles Saint-Jacques, the latter 'piquées de jambon ibérique, rémoulade gourmande de panais et pommes' were, however, cooked to perfection. The chef pâtissier had done her work earlier and consigned each pudding serving to a trolley, which did not impress us much, so only one of our party ordered one - a cheesecake potiron - and pronounced it 'good, but not great...and not a cheesecake'.
We will return, if only to see if staff training has improved and the chef has moved on from his love of sweet and savoury combinations, but, overall, we were underwhelmed.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.