If you should ever find yourself meandering through the sleepy lanes and rolling hills of the Vert, I suggest you pause for a few tranquil days at this haven of gastronomy and relaxation.
A short drive from the beautiful and historic town of Brantôme brings you to the village of Champagnac de Bélair, where you will find Le Moulin du Roc, a charming and tastefully converted old mill, nestled comfortably on the banks of the river Dronne.
Perhaps it’s the sound of gentle running water, or the birdsong in the background, or the friendly welcome, but the moment you step onto the riverside terrace you immediately feel a sense of serenity. The 17th century mill buildings have been sumptuously and stylishly converted to create just 15 guest bedrooms, characterful lounge areas and a romantic Michelin-starred restaurant. Leafy lamp-lit terraces and flower bordered seating areas skirt the riverbank until you reach a quaint bridge which leads you to broad tree-shaded riverside lawns, dappled arbours and an immaculate heated swimming pool.
All the rooms here have river views and are superbly furnished with period furniture, quality fabrics, super-comfortable beds and contemporary bathroom and shower fittings. The deluxe rooms and suites have private balconies overlooking the river. It’s so quiet here you can sleep with the windows wide open and listen to the sounds of the river lulling you to sleep.
With one Michelin star since 1979, the restaurant is another great reason to visit (and many non-residents choose the Moulin for those special occasion meals). With two dining areas inside, a covered terrace and an outdoor seating area near the river, you are sure to find the perfect spot to enjoy the top-notch menu. Chef Alain Gardillou and his team serve up some classic French fare but delivered with finesse and personality.
Amuses bouches and starters were delicate and suitably appetising; a ceviche of langoustine and tiger prawns, marinated with lime, tomato and basil, was mouth-watering and a simple dish of Quinoa and fine vegetables with aromatic home grown herbs, served with aubergine caviar and a pastorale salad, was a highlight. For mains the Limousin Lamb fillet with pistachio crust was exquisite and grilled Brittany lobster accompanied by fresh vegetables cooked in coconut milk was delightful.
In traditional style there is a dessert trolley and a cheeseboard with enough to satisfy even the sweetest tooth or the most ardent turophile.
The wine list at the Moulin is quite exceptional with some notable blow-the-budget trophy wines from Margaux, Pauillac and St Emilion (and even a ‘53 Petrus!). With more modest means we opted for a tasting of local wines, proposed and explained with great patience by the Moulin’s sommelier, the star of which was a Bergerac Blanc Sec Domaine de l’Ancienne Cure “l‘Extase”, a delightful honey coloured Semillon the likes of which I haven’t tasted in this region.
I only wish we could have stayed longer. The ambiance here is quite magical and the combination of serene surroundings, courteous friendly service and classy food make this a French country destination to put on your list. Highly recommended.
Dinner: Tasting menus at 79 and 115 Euros. 90 Euros for hotel guests. Lunch: Around 40 Euros. Half-board from 300 Euros per night. Le Moulin du Roc is part of Châteaux & Hôtels Collection and can be booked here: www.chateauxhotels.co.uk/Le-Moulin-du-Roc-2729
Le Moulin du Roc, 24530 Champagnac de bélair, Dordogne. Closed from November to April.