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Le Petit Comptoir

40 rue David d'Angers, 49000 Angers, France
Tel: +33 (0) 2 41 88 81 57

February 2009

Le Petit Comptoir is just around the corner from the Hotel du Mail, where I was staying, and so made a very convenient stop for dinner when in Angers recently. I dined there with Jim Budd, who specialises in the wines of the Loire and uncovering wine fraud, Tom King of RSJ restaurant and Neil Irvine of HG Wines. The four of us didn't quite fill the restaurant, but this is certainly a tiny establishment, run by Laetitia Cosnier, who works front of house with one assistant, and her husband Stephane, a graduate of Taillevent no less, who runs the kitchen, again with just one assistant I think. Downstairs there are three or four tables, upstairs - accessed by an unusual spiral staircase which seems, unless my eyes deceived me, to keep going right into the ceiling - there are a similar number. This being the night before the 2009 Salon it was a busy night, even though it was Sunday; there was one well-known Loire courtier upstairs, dining alone, and on another table Vincent & Catherine Ogereau.

As they were eating on their expense accounts, both Tom and Neil were very frugal and ate nothing but bread and water all night, but fortunately Jim and I were free to eat a more varied meal. There is one menu at Le Petit Comptoir, usually €30 but on this night a special pre-Salon menu, for €45. A little amuse bouche started the proceedings, a mousse of prawns underneath a light, soft and slightly smoky shellfish gelatine. I must admit I wasn't sure about this at first, but the prawn mousse was in truth delicious, and mixed with a little of the highly flavoured shellfish topping it was actually very good indeed. And I'm glad to say things only got better, certainly for the next two courses anyway. Next was a chaud-froid of gambas, diced prawns in a cold cauliflower soup with a single, hot, pastry-wrapped prawn atop it all. It's the sort of dish that usually wouldn't appeal, so I was glad I ate it here, because it was - like the teaser we started with - delicious.

Next up was what I think was the high point of the meal, scallops in a truffle jus, with a celery and potato mash. This was divine; perfectly cooked scallops, a delightfully flavoured jus, slightly meaty, certainly truffly, working well with the scallops, and alongside a small lozenge of mash, spiked with a bright celery flavour. Suddenly, celery has a purpose in life. I would have been happy eating this all night.

For the main course, rolled and braised veal, with citrus fruits and quinoa, was very good but not quite what I was expecting. Being brutal, the quinoa did nothing that was memorable, the citrus fruits seemed out of place, and the veal, although braised, still required a lot of work with the knife and fork. I guess I just like my braised meats to be falling apart on the plate, which isn't everybody's cup of tea I am sure. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed eating this; the flavours were generally fresh and the portion filling; I think it just paled in comparison to the first two courses, which were of supreme quality. It left me ready for the dessert, a pistachio biscuit with pineapple and pina colada sauce. The biscuit was in truth more like frangipane, only firmer and crumbly, and displaying the bright green of pistachios rather than almonds. The flavour was good, and overall this was an interesting dessert. Like the prawn chaud-froid it was not a dish I would usually choose, and so I was glad for not having any choice; I enjoyed this.

We tried two wines with our meal:

Richard Leroy Anjou Clos des Rouliers 2006: This wine was first up; it started off with a very rich nose, all dried fruit, although with time in the glass it took on a more delineated, finer style. It never showed a huge or heady character, but lots of good acidity, good grip, with a slightly bitter note to the finish, which I liked. With more time, a much more open and accessible style was evident, with a more autumnal character to the fruit on the nose. Overall, this is very good. 16.5+/20 (February 2009)

Bruno Dubois Saumur-Champigny Cuvée des Coin 2005: A combined Irvine/Kissack selection, a wine of very dark hue. Plenty of dark and spicy fruit on the nose, but also lots of good stony character. Bright, a touch floral, a touch perfumed, but with minerally blackcurrant and even some little notes of coffee. A great texture on the palate, minerally-stony fruit but with substance also. Lots of grip and character, good acids, overall a very firm style with a grippy finish. A good wine; I resolved to visit the Bruno Dubois stand at the ensuing Salon, but time was too short. What a shame. 16+/20 (February 2009)

Price: As above, usually €30 but on this night a special pre-Salon menu for €45 was our choice. After two bottles of wine divided between four, the total bill came to €61 each. Compared to UK dining prices, for this sort of quality, an absolute bargain. (13/2/09)

Postscript: In early 2012 I was made aware that Le Petit Comptoir is now under new management. I haven't had the opportunity to revisit. (24/2/12)