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Image 1: About an hour’s drive north of Lyon is the town of Bresse – the only place that can claim AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) status for its chicken, which explains why you start seeing statues of chicken when you exit the motorway. It’s an area that takes pride in its poultry!

Image 2: But our lunch destination lay beyond Bresse, a further 15-minutes drive into an even more remote area…

Image 3: … to the tiny town of Vonnas and into "Village Blanc"!

Image 4: It’s a village where food is definitely the focus. There’s a bakery, a chocolatier…

Image 5: …gourmand shop, bistro and more.

Image 6: In all, a very pleasant and peaceful place. And, next to the river…

Image 7: … is one of France’s 25 Michelin 3-star restaurants - Georges Blanc! It’s held this top Michelin status for an amazing 36 years, now, so perhaps it’s no wonder the village also carries the name. He’s obviously a highly respected person.

Image 8: Just in case you forget that the place is all about chicken, the entrance has a reminder…

Image 9: …As do – slightly more subtly – the door handles.

Image 10: A nice, bright reception area.

Image 11: A map of the Village. It’s definitely worth spending an afternoon here – it has a magical air to it.

Image 12: Yet another chicken. Yawn. Not sure the colours of the French flag help.

Image 13: This long, bright and airy hallway carries photos of Blanc and his famous clients, from film stars such as Tom cruise and Nicole Kidman, to top politicians like Clinton and Bush. Impressive. Blanc must be one of the most renowned chefs of his time – if not ever!

Image 14: I loved the lounge area, even though…

Image 15: …it was decorated with yet more chickens…

Image 16: … and more chickens…

Image 17: … now it’s paintings! We hadn’t even eaten any chicken yet, but already a bit “chickened out”.

Image 18: It’s not just the village and the reception area - even the dining room was dominated by these bright and fiery orangey-reds. It’s like living in a permanent sunset. Rather nice though.

Image 19: After settling down, we were handed this huge menu, with a painting of seasonal ingredients on its front. And there’s absolutely no way that you’re going to forget you’re in a George Blanc establishment, because he’s arranged for his initials to be pretty well everywhere. Ok, so maybe you expect them on the menu and serviceware, and maybe on the…

Image 20: …serviette. And putting them on the…

Image 21: …tablecloth is perhaps forgivable, too. But I couldn’t help thinking that adding them to the…

Image 22: …toiletries is going just a bit too far. You can’t escape his name even on a trip to the lavatory!

Image 23: OK, so enough with the talking already. Let’s get to the food. The amuse bouche arrived pretty quickly, consisting of scallop ravioli, salmon roll and foie gras topped with hazelnut pistachio. I enjoyed every bite. Good start.

Image 24: We were given two choices of local butter - regular and walnut - as well as...

Image 25: …a basket of bread which could hardly be criticised for being too small!

Image 27: Now the first course – Gillardeau oyster accompanied with a generous quenelle of caviar. I was pleased that the caviar wasn’t so salty that it prevented the oyster flavour to come through.

Image 28: It’s a truly amazing feeling when you experience the pure flavour of fresh ingredients! It could be one of the best treats I’ve had for a long time. Unfortunately, the citrus mousse under the oyster was much too powerful, stopping me from fully appreciating the other high-quality ingredients.

Image 29: Frog legs - hot and cold – deep fried and poached, with a few flakes of black truffle. A lovely dish, for sure, though – again - it was dominated by the acidity from the sauce. Much too strong for my taste.

Image 30: This prettily presented dish is pan-fried scallop with chestnut puree. This time I was clever - I tasted the sauce and the cabbage first. And, as I had suspected, both had strong vinaigrette overtones. So I ate the scallop without sauce, and left the cabbage untouched. It was a wise move, because the scallop was absolutely delicious. The hint of curry flavour from a dusting of curry powder blended perfectly with the sweetness from the cream chestnut.

Image 31: Every course was presented beautifully. And this - lobster served with a vin jaune, a classic yellow wine sauce – was the highlight of the meal by far.

Image 32: The lobster had been completely shelled, so it was easy to eat. It came with a black garlic ravioli and a unique cannelloni, which had been made by carefully interlacing strands of black and white spaghetti. Must have required some pretty nifty and meticulous fingerwork!

Image 33: Not only was the lobster perfectly cooked, but there were three completely different textures from different parts of the crustacean – claw, arm and tail. The vin jaune sauce had a wonderful balance – a sort of creamy version of sherry, combined with meat stock. I found it very addictive – so addictive, in fact, that I didn’t leave a single drop on the plate!

Image 34: OMG! The man himself! Chef GB emerged from the kitchen to sign a menu for us. What a nice gesture and delightful surprise! Can you believe that, at 74, and one of the world’s top Michelin 3-star chefs, he’s still working in the kitchen on a quiet weekday lunchtime? That’s what I call dedication to a profession! Truly admirable. It made me wonder what happened to this generation of chefs - people like Ramsay and Heston. The only place you see them is on TV – never in their kitchen! Shame on them!

Image 35: Now, it’s the Bresse chicken. I wasn’t a newcomer to this breed of chicken and – as I expected – it didn't wow me at all. Completely overrated. The meat wasn’t too moist (though, to be fair, this might have been due to the cooking process, not the meat itself), and the texture wasn’t particularly refined either. Basically, I came to the conclusion I almost always come to - chicken is chicken. Great sauce though!

Image 36: A small custard made with chicken liver on the side.

Image 37: A mini-sweet treat as pre-dessert: white chocolate and coconut, mini mont blanc, and vanilla and dark chocolate.

Image 38: For actual dessert, we chose two different dishes. First, coffee and peppermint. This was…

Image 39: …a sugar shell in the shape of a coffee bean…

Image 40: … filled with peppermint cream, and with a layer of coffee ganache underneath. It was an innovative combination of coffee and peppermint, that’s for sure! Great technique, but it was nice for a few bites, the portion was too much for me.

Image 41: Our second option was a chocolate and almond combination.

Image 42: It was beautiful and complex, but a bit too rich for my taste.

Image 43: The chocolate shell underneath was filled with almond cream and chocolate sorbet.

Image 44: By now, we were completely full – simply no room to try their attractive-looking petits four. It says something for their excellent service that – realising we were full - they offered to pack our petits four in a…(wait for it)…

Image 45: … bright red George Blanc box! What else? And it was a nice touch. Overall, as to the food, the lobster course was wonderful. The rest, though, could have been better – too much acidity in the first few courses, then the slightly passé and overrated classic chicken dish. Still, it was a George Blanc place. And, being the famous institution that GB is, I’m very pleased to have made the trip.

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