Tuesday 17 June 2008

Hostellerie La Croix Blanche, place des Plantagenets, Fontevraud L'Abbaye, Vallee de la Loire

With an enviable position opposite the majestic Abbaye de la Fontevraud, La Croix Blanche is well-placed to lure in tourists to its hotel and trio of eateries. While the facade, with its attractive cobbled archway, is enticing, the modern extensions behind have less character. In one wing, refurbished in 2008, there are ultra-modern and rather sterile white en-suite rooms (100 euros a night) with splashes of colour, small flat-screen televisions, very contemporary fittings and solid pine, featureless furniture. The old battered beams and reclaimed fireplace in the hall aren't sufficient to capture the historical ambiance of the surrounding village. The double rooms are quite tight and a more spacious family suite is available for 130 euros a night, while half-board costs an additional 36.50 euros a day for adults and 19.50 euros for children. The buffet breakfast is set up in the slightly-staid Plantagenet restaurant recently refurbished in matching tones of red and gold. On offer is a selection of good quality cold meats, cheeses, bread, walnuts, croissants, fruit juices, a couple of cereals and plenty of coffee.

Dining a la Plantagenet
You can also take dinner in the Plantagenet restaurant along with a mostly elderly, but sprightly, crowd of tourists, many of them Dutch. On the lengthy and rather pricey wine list, the Reserve des Vignerons from a local vineyard is slightly sweet, light and refreshing. Half a bottle is 11 euros and a full bottle 18 euros. To eat, you can go a la carte or choose one of the menus. On the 28 euro menu, which comes as part of the half board deal, there is a choice of three starters, such as a fibrous and tasty duck pâté or a large platter of very fresh salmon served with garlic butter, a green salad and slices of orange. To follow, there are three mains, including the dish of the day, which can be an unappealing mix of tiny prawns, mussels, clams, carrots and other vegetables. A better bet is the duck medallions with a tangy plum sauce or the white fish served with a cheesy risotto and slim French carrots, cooked and presented with precision. The cheese course is also excellent - ripe portions of goat's cheese and two other soft cheeses, one with quite a kick, are served with an unusual lettuce, a powerful walnut chutney and a sweet biscuit. Of the three deserts, the silky chocolate mousse topped with biscuit is rich, sweet and quite delicious.

Leisurely and haphazard
The 10 euros kids menu is great value. It includes rabbit on toast with lettuce and bread, a huge plate of pork and chips or a lovely fillet of white fish with ratatouille, followed by a large bowl of fine ice cream available in a wide choice of flavours, including smarties. Service is leisurely and can be haphazard, but most of the waiting staff are flexible enough to work around kids' fussiness. La Croix Blanche also has an outside terrace, a cosy bar, a bistro and even a small outdoor pool, but it isn't always well-maintained or open even in late May. All in all, the food at this hotel is much more imaginative and inspiring than the accommodation. 7/10