by Ian Blackshaw
A warm welcome awaits you from the chef patron, Thierry Wident,
and his charming front of house wife Christine, who ensures everything runs smoothly, at this elegant and excellent restaurant, which is housed in the former station restaurant, hence the name ‘the Buffet’, opposite Molinghem railway station, Isbergues, near Aire sur la Lys on the borders of Flanders and Artois.
The cooking reflects the local traditions and draws on local ingredients: poultry from Licques,
a village in the region which is renowned for the quality of its fowl; fresh scallops from Boulogne; fresh fish from the Cote d’Opale; vegetables from the market gardens of Saint-Omer; and wines from the Delepine cellars in Liettres.
As the Wident’s say in their ‘blurb’: ‘Why have an ordinary day when you can have a festive one?’ Indeed, why not! You will not be disappointed. My wife and I have dined at this restaurant a number of times over the past few years, having been first introduced to it by some foodie friends, and have been impressed by the consistency of the quality, inventiveness and presentation of the cooking. After all, you eat as much with your eyes as with your taste buds!
Apart from the ‘a la carte’ menu, there are several set menus to choose from, which are changed to reflect the seasons. On our last visit, Christine had the aptly named ‘flavours and surprises’ four-course menu and I had the three course ‘winter delights’ menu. Christine had turbot for her main course and I had chicken from Licques. Both dishes were served with delicious sauces and fresh seasonal vegetables, which were cooked to perfection. Generally speaking, unlike the English, the French are not usually good at cooking vegetables – or even serving them!
Christine’s menu also included a cheese course,
with a large selection of cheeses from here and there, including some local goats’ cheeses and maroilles.
The deserts were delightful: a rhubarb-based creamy one for me and Thierry Wident’s signature and award-winning desert of spiced biscuits and mousses with caramel ice cream for Christine. Following an old Spanish custom, we each tasted one another’s and declared them ‘impeccable’!
We downed a half bottle of 2007 Chablis and a bottle of 2006 Cotes de Rousillon. Le Buffet has a very fine selection of French wines to choose from to suit all tastes and, of course, all pockets. To try some of their very best wines, we really do need to win the Euro Lottery – the only problem is, we never buy any tickets!
And the bill came to €130 – remarkable value for such exquisite and refined cooking!
Rue de la Gare – Lieu-dit Molinghem