Thursday, February 29, 2024

Moon - Monks - Michelin: Overnight stay and 1-star Michelin Dinner at the Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud, with Chef Thibaut Ruggeri (February 2024)

As part of the pre-trip in February 2024 for the Loire Valley Tour 2024 by ombiasy WineTours in June, Annette and I stayed a night at the hotel of the UNESCO classified Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud and had dinner at its high-end restaurant.
Richard the Lionheart and his parents Eleonore of Aquitaine and Henry II are buried here.
Michelin-starred Chef Thibaut Ruggeri changes the menu on each full moon. We had the 47th menu.
The set up is unique. The restaurant is in the cloister of the abbey. When we ate ther, there are only tables for 2 persons with the 2 chairs next to each other and all tables and guests facing the atrium - filled with an herb garden and an art work in the middle.

A very special spiritual evening with mother nature, in terms of the ambiance, food and wines.  
Unfortunately, we will not return in June. 
Hermit Cook Thibaut Ruggeri
Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud: If the stay at Fontevraud L'Ermitage offers a break of tranquility, the gastronomic table is the highlight of this beneficial experience, led by chef Thibaut Ruggeri, Bocuse d'Or, 1 Michelin star, 3 Gault&Millau toques, also awarded by the green star of sustainable gastronomy: “I see myself as a hermit cook. Deliberately away from the tumults of the world, I observe it, especially at night, to take its pulse. The moon, its rhythms and mysteries, inspire the renewal of my recipes: thus the unique Moon menu was born.” This personality is reminiscent of that of Robert d'Arbrissel, an itinerant and charismatic preacher who founded the Abbey in 1101.
Saumur in the Loire Valley (Mary Anne Evans)

... One of the must-sees in this part of the Loire Valley is the spectacular Romanesque collection of buildings around the UNESCO classified  Abbey of Fontevraud. Just a 20-minute drive from Saumur, it’s the largest collection of medieval abbey buildings in Europe.

Fontevraud was founded in the early 12th century as both a monastery and a nunnery run by an abbess which was a pretty unusual arrangement. The 12th-century buildings originally housed the nuns and monks and also the sick, the lepers and prostitutes who had given up their profession. From 1804 to 1963 it was a prison, set up by Napoleon.

Today you can see the cloisters, the chapter house with its 16th-century murals, and the huge refectory which served as the dining room. There’s an ambitious arts programme, so walk through the various buildings to see paintings both old and new, videos and sculpture. You can also walk past the kitchen garden which is growing different and old varieties of fruit and vegetables.

The main building is the abbey church, a vast, high cavernous space filled with light. At one end lie the tombstone effigies of the Plantagenet royal family, testimony to the bond between England and France. 

You see the remarkably life-like Henry II, Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy and King of England II, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the most powerful and influential women of her time who died here in 1152 having become a nun, their son Richard the Lionheart and daughter-in-law Isabelle of Angoulême, Richard’s queen. There’s a good programme of concerts and shows throughout the year.

If you want to savor the peace and quiet after the visitors have gone and have a great and unusual hotel, book at Fontevraud l’Hôtel in what was once the St-Lazaire priory. It has been spectacularly converted with the former monastic cells making up the 54 guest rooms in different parts of the priory.

The design is clean and contemporary making extensive use of beautifully designed wooden furniture. There’s a strong sense of peace and tranquillity and you get a good night’s sleep from the quiet location – and the bespoke mattresses.

The dining room follows the simple, but infinitely sophisticated feel. Opening onto the cloister and extending into the chapter house, there's banquette seating around the walls while some tables look through the glass wall into the cloister.

The attention to detail is impressive; even the ceramics are specially commissioned from Charles Hair, a Franco-American ceramist who lives nearby. The cooking is superb from young Thibaut Ruggeri, using local ingredients from the region and the area. The Ibar has a great innovation – tables which are touch screens showing the history of the Abbey which is great for children. 

Fontevraud le Restaurant  - While flipping through my Food & Wine magazine in Colorado, I came across an article entitled The Ten Best New Restaurants in France. Much to my delight, one of the restaurants happened to be situated directly on our planned cycling route. Too good to be true, I knew it was meant to be. I decided to splurge and booked a table for two at Fontevraud le Restaurant, in the Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud not far from Saumur.

Located in the cloister, and one time prison, of Europe’s largest abbey, young chef, Thibaut Ruggeri, (only 34-years-old), and winner of the 2013 Bocuse d’Or (an international gastronomic competition), serves up extremely stunning haute cuisine in an intimate and peaceful setting. The tables surround a courtyard filled with fresh and colorful herbs where the very kind and attentive wait staff trim and pick fresh ingredients for each course.

No doubt about it, Chef Ruggeri is an artist. Visually his plates are exquisite. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such beautiful and creative plating. Our dinner was like an edible trip to a fine modern art museum. In addition to the freshly picked herbs, the chef uses local ingredients, like honey from the abbey’s bees and mushrooms grown in the limestone caves surrounding the abbey. While not every plate was a homerun on the palate and flavor sometime took a back seat to art, it was an unforgettable evening.

Dinner at Fontevraud le Restaurant


Entering through the Bar Area

Only Tables for 2 Persons Sitting Side by Side and all Tables and Guests Facing the Atrium


Loire Bubbly - Domaine du Closel - Château de Villeneuve Cabernet Franc Saumur Champigny


Gustographie: photographie gustative de notre terroir

Un rituel fontevriste: De la soupe et du pain

Maquereau de Lorient, condiment safran

Saint-Jacques de plongée soufflée en galette

Dos de chevreuil, trop chou!

Fromages affinés

Pause fontevriste

Pomme, châtaigne et sauge


Back to the Hotel Room

Breakfast and Day-light Look at Fontevraud le Restaurant

Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud

Postings on Schiller-wine Related to the Upcoming 2024 Loire Trip by ombiasy WineTours
This is the 9th in a series of postings on Schiller-wine related to the 2024 Loire Valley Trip by ombiasy WineTours in June.
A Journey Through The Loire Valley - Seminar at the 2023 American Wine Society National Conference in St. Louis/ Missouri/ USA led by Annette Schiller

Plateau des Fruits de Mer and a Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie at Historic Brasserie Cigale in Nantes, Loire Valley, France (February 2024)
Announcement: Loire Valley 2024 by ombiasy WineTours (Sunday, June 09 - Thursday June 20, 2024)
Salons des Vins - all with a Focus on Natural, Organic, Biodynamic and Low-intervention Producers in the Loire Valley and elsewhere in France and Europe - in February in Angers and Samour, Loire Valley, France (February 2024)
Announcement: "The Wines of the Loire Valley" presented by Annette Schiller at the American Wine Society/ Northern Virginia Chapter on March 8, 2024
Visiting Natural Wine Producer Liv Vincendeau - Domäne Vincendeau in Rochefort sur Loire/ Anjou (February 2024)