La Capitelle – a Little Corner of Paradise

 

Chef and owner of La Capitelle, Sylvain Croce

Chef and co-owner of La Capitelle, Sylvain Croce

I first met Sylvain Croce when he was the chef at the best restaurant/hotel in my home town of Nyons, “Une Autre Maison”. With his patisserie training showing through, Sylvain’s cooking was precise, assured and beautiful to look at and Michelin thought the place worthy of inclusion in its Guide.

A couple of years ago ago Sylvain and his partner Ludivine grabbed the chance to buy what was a slightly-down-at-heel (but fundamentally lovely) hotel in the picture postcard village of Mirmande, around 25 minutes north of Montélimar. Mirmande is a collection of centuries-old buildings perched on a hilltop and is built entirely from the local honey-coloured stone. So charming is the village it has been named as one of the most beautiful in France and, as you can see from the photo, La Capitelle hotel more than does it justice.

La Capitelle

La Capitelle in the setting sun

Inside there are more stone walls, polished stone stairs and a cosy vaulted restaurant, open to all but with priority given to the hotel guests. If the bedrooms aren’t huge (what did you expect, this is 400 year-old building in France?) then they are comfortable, tastefully decorated and spotlessly clean. And Sylvain’s food is still delicious.

The menus follow the seasons and make inventive use of ingredients – I remember once eating a beetroot crème brulée that sounded bizarre but which turned out to be a highlight of a meal that wasn’t short on high points. And many of those menus and ingredients are locally-based and sourced – caillettes (a sort of spinach-laden, warm ball of pork paté), guinea fowl and quail, picodon goat’s cheese are all specialities of the Drôme hills, while olives and tapenade reflect the Nyons connection and the fact that the southern Drôme forms the border with Provence.

Looking down the cobbled streets of Mirmande towards the Ardeche hills on the other side of the Rhone.

Looking down the cobbled streets of Mirmande towards the Ardèche hills on the other side of the Rhône.

Recognition has followed pretty quickly – Gault & Millau lists the restaurant and Sylvain has even become a semi-regular on the daily cooking programme on one of the Rhône’s main radio station, France Bleu Drôme-Ardèche. (Not that that stops him being behind the stoves in the evening.)

Evening sun coming through an archway.

Evening sun coming through an archway.

As you might imagine, the wine list makes extensive use of Rhône producers. I love the fact that hotel sells the wines of the one winemaker in the village, Domaine Besson, but if you want to try wines that are truly local but absolutely world class then the Brézème reds and white of Domaine Lombard are the ones to go for.

Julien Montagnon, Domaine Lombard

Julien Montagnon, Domaine Lombard

Mirmande is worth visiting just for the sake of it – wandering round the village can be a delightful way to spend a couple of hours – but stay for a night or two and it makes a convenient mid-point if you want to visit the vineyards of the northern and southern Rhône. And if you’re staying, what better place to be than La Capitelle?

Santé,

Paul

Note: This is the blog of Rhône Wine Tours. You can also find shorter bits and pieces on Facebook (@RhoneWineTours). You may even think about booking a tour or tasting. Go on, you know you want to.

It must be pretty obvious by now that I know Sylvain and Ludivine, so you might say that this blog is biased. Well firstly I wouldn’t risk my hard-earned reputation (ahem!), especially without a payment, if I didn’t think La Capitelle merited it. Secondly, I don’t care.

Comments are closed.