Wining and Dining

Now where should we start – with the food or with the wine? Actually let’s start with the wine – every French meal (well, apart from breakfast) starts with an aperitif to sharpen the palate and we’re not the sort of Francophiles to break with tradition.

Our favourite wine quote is from Madam Lilli Bollinger, head of the eponymous champagne house, who famously said of her family’s famous tipple:

“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it when I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it. Unless, that is, I’m thirsty.”

Naturally we can’t exactly have a cellar on our barges, but we take enormous pride in the wine we serve and lovingly store every bottle in our carefully organised wine racks in the cool hold below the waterline. We buy an enormous variety of top quality wines, mostly from vineyards unknown outside the local regions. We match these to every meal to serve you throughout your stay with us.

Burgundy Food and Wine

We have our personal ‘quaffing house wine’ in the bar for everyday drinking in the saloon or on deck. We also make sure we have a bottle or two of our house champagne or an interesting limited-edition fizz we’re excited about. When it comes to meal times however, we pride ourselves on the fact that we will never offer you the same wine twice. Quite simply there is such an amazing variety of incredible wine in France we don’t need to. In Burgundy our list includes:

  • Brilliant, big and buttery fill-your-mouth-with-flavour chilled Burgundian chardonnays of classic proportions and delight
  • Sumptuous and stunning properly grown-up red Burgundy Pinot Noirs from some of the very best villages and producers of the area
  • Some odd slightly off-piste Burgundian delights that we’ve discovered on our travels

In the Loire where the ‘terroir’ is different the predominant grape varieties are Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, Malbec, locally called Cot and the red Cabernet Franc. This gives us a list including:

  • The latest wine to obtain Appelation Controlée status,Touraine Chenonceaux, a classic Sauvignon complement to seafood
  • Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé – you have never truly tasted Sauvignon Blanc until you’ve let these two delights slip across your palate
  • Sparkling, or smooth rich Vouvrays
  • Little heard of, but amazingly good, Chinon red wines
Papillon Wine

Finally we’ll also offer you great wines from Northern Burgundy, the Cote du Rhone, Maconnais and elsewhere. Best of all we’re always finding new winemakers and new wines to add. A week on one of our canal boats is a veritable masterclass in great wines.

As for menus our Chef de Cuisine takes great pride in ensuring your dining experience on board will not only be a feast of the senses but also support our local farmers and growers. This is in the great tradition of French gourmet cuisine. You will be absolutely amazed at the quality of the food that comes from such a small galley kitchen.

We focus on organic and artisan products, and our menus are created according to what’s seasonally available. We take the time and attentiveness to select ingredients at markets, directly from producers, and often from the lock-keepers who supply us with eggs, cheese or a basket of ‘trompette’ mushrooms.

Talk about cheese and you’re immediately plunged into a national passion – when in France eat what the French eat and that means cheese. Cheese boards and cheese stall throughout France are beyond legend. Cruise with us for a week and you’ll get at least three cheeses on offer every day and never the same one twice. Actually you could cruise with us for a month and every cheese would still be unique.

We’re also great foragers – so much in fashion today – so we follow the seasons along the banks and fields and, depending on what time of the year it is, we’ll serve you fresh elderberry cordial, wild asparagus, black berry jelly or warm walnut tart. Feel free to join on us on any of our culinary excursions into the hedgerows!

We can’t not mention French bread. Of course you can buy ‘French bread’ the world over but only when you buy from the village boulangerie will you get a real ‘baguette’ or ‘ficelle’. Legend dictates that the baguette was invented by Napoleon for his soldiers – they were given one every morning and it was long and thin so they could carry it in a special pocket in their trousers.

When it comes to mealtimes we serve our gourmet cuisine in the formal dining room. After dinner why not take a digestif upstairs on the front deck and watch for shooting stars?

Be sure to let us know if there is a traditional dish you have always wanted to try or, if you have any dietary requests, we are always happy to try and accommodate your needs.