No one puts his garden on a plate with the style of Patrice Taravella. His garden is the Prieuré de Notre Dame d’Orsan Prieuré d’Orsan, already a destination for gardeners travelling in the centre of France. It is hard to believe that this fantasy monastic estate, its perfectly gardened crops, its vineyard, orchards and oak-fringed meadows are barely 20 years old. Its ultra-chic eight-room hotel is part of the attraction. There are not many places as nice as this to stay in the profondeur of the Cher.
But Tara’s food (he cooks it himself) must be some of the most original and beautiful in France. The potager and verger supply the ingredients. He combines them as his genius suggests. If Michelin’s inspectors have the wit to understand it he will get a star, or even two – but I’m not holding my breath.
The dish in my photograph is typical of his hors d’oeuvre, ‘starters’ as we call them these days. Simply poached (but still firm) vegetables, beguilingly displayed and full of their flavours. A long black carrot supports the cast of (from left to right) red pepper, asparagus, aubergine, squash, turnip, carrot, fennel, asparagus, squash, red pepper, asparagus, a parmesan wafer, onion, asparagus. Those are fennel flowers, with olive oil and saffron.
After this came a veal chop with a gratin dauphinois, then soft goat’s cheese with herbs, then fruit (peach, apricot, plum, pineapple, orange) fried in butter. You drink fresh Loire wines, and feel at one with deepest France.