The Relais de Bonnezeaux changed owners in November 2012 and was taken over by a new young team. We called in for lunch yesterday with clients as it's located in a very good spot perched high amongst the hills of the Layon and with lovely views of the surrounding vineyards. Naturally quiet at this time of year, we were one of 3 tables lunching on the menu which is available from Monday to Friday. With 2 choices in each category it's good value at 15€ for entrée/plat or plat/dessert.
Service was incredibly slow bearing in mind there were so few of us eating - I dread to think how long we'd have been kept waiting if the restaurant was full. Thankfully, armed with a glass of local Crémant we were able to while away the three quarters of an hour until our entrée arrived. Unfortunately half of the party had opted for entrée plat while the other half plat dessert. This meant those choosing the dessert option were waiting for a whole hour before receiving anything to eat.
That said my entrée was really really good. A giant ravioli containing a whole egg yolk was served on a bed of intensely flavoured wild mushrooms and a moussey foie gras foam. It looked like a fried egg except the white was paper thin pasta and the yolk perfectly runny. Nigel had a soup of tiny vegetables served façon 'pot au feu'. Baby carrots, turnips and potatoes in the bowl with a broth of light but intensely flavoured stock poured over the top. So far so good despite the hunger of our co-diners.
I opted for the Merlan - whiting, which was stuffed with a confit of red onions and served with a simple creamy risotto flavoured with butter and parmesan. It was tasty. Others opted for the chicken stuffed with fromage frais and served with tagliatelle. Unfortunately one portion was completely raw in the centre so had to be returned to the kitchen. It was replaced with apologies and we continued. Desserts were good - a religieuse served with a caramel au beurre salé centre and pistachio particularly nice.
We had no time for coffee so had to rush off to our next appointment. We arrived at 12h45 and left at 14h45 - too long for a 2 course menu style lunch - the service certainly needs to speed up a lot. We were hoping to take a walk around the vineyards before our next stop with this was ruled out.
Final thoughts - nice spot, lovely location especially in the summer when they can open up the sliding doors, service slow, moments of triumph with the food but real low points too. No further apologies were given when we paid the bill for serving up raw food - the chef was too busy having a glass of wine with 2 other guests who'd been eating alongside us - clearly friends or contacts. I think they thought we were tourists.
What a shame. We take clients out to lunch on a regular basis and it's well located. Maybe some of these are just teething problems and they'll find their feet in a little while.