In a quiet corner of Bergerac and just a stone’s throw from the banks of the Dordogne, Anglo-French couple Melanie Legrand and Charlie Ray, both in their thirties, have opened levinquatre restaurant, tucked away on the Rue St Clar. It is their first venture as restauranteurs and they only took over the restaurant in July 2016. Yet already they are inspiring a loyal following from the locals in an area in which, let’s face it, they are not short of gastronomic choice. The restaurant is not huge and is in the ground floor of a typical medieval house on a narrow street of half timbered houses, which makes it a particularly intimate and romantic setting.
With a menu based on seasonal local produce, Melanie and Charlie are already pulling in a crowd.
“We’re busy but we never take more than 24 covers,” says Charlie. “Otherwise you lose the quality of the food and the service. We use local produce and every two months we change the menu, so that’s important to us.”
“We try to keep everyone happy, the locals and the tourists, and the expats,” Melanie says. “We keep it as semi-gastronomic. We don’t want it too posh or formal, we want to keep it relaxed.”
While Charlie busies himself in the kitchen, Melanie offers us an aperitif of sweet wine, Monbazillac, which certainly opens up my palate, for my starter, foie gras, with strawberry compote, Monbazillac gel, pistachio and toasted brioche. It’s a great combination of flavours, the sweetness of the gel and compote the perfect companion to the delicate flavor of the foie gras. As I savour the dish, more customers arrive, greeting Melanie like an old friend, while she busies herself at the front of house.
Next — as I am in Bergerac — I have to have canard. Charlie does this with a twist, and serves lady duck breast, with watermelon, cashew nuts cucumber and coriander lime dressing. The magrette is tender and juicy while the coriander and lime set off the watermelon and nuts. It’s a striking combination that although unusual at first works very well.
By now it’s mid–evening and Melanie is working furiously to take orders, serve wine and deal with a photographer and journalist making demands. She does it is all with an efficiency and charm that clearly comes easily. “Dessert?” she asks? I study the menu and can’t resist the Nutella chocolate ganache, with hazelnut and white chocolate ice cream. Once again it’s an intriguing mix, that sets off a little explosion of flavours on my tongue.
They pose for a picture or two in the doorway and we say our goodbyes before strolling through cobbled streets down towards the river’s edge. I know that next time I am in Bergerac, I will come back to Le Vin'Quatre.
Le Vin'Quatre, 14, rue Saint Clar, 24100 Bergerac
Words: Jeremy Whittle
Photography: Chris Auld