Price band **
On the square of a quiet country town with one foot in Burgundy, the other in Bresse, the Poste offers honest hospitality, as you like it: hotel, bar, brasserie, restaurant; regional specialities. A big dining room where locals go en masse for Sunday lunches and family get-togethers. Half a dozen simple bedrooms. All is as it should be, always has been, and ever shall be, Amen. The owner/chef wipes a hand on his apron before extending it in welcome. He apologises – bit of a hurry – there is work to do. Hotels like this used to be at the heart of the pleasure of exploring France. If only there were more of them left.
The small town of Pierre-de-Bresse is not somewhere I would ever have expected to visit, but we arrived in time to tour the château and its local ‘ecomuseum’ gave us insight in to life in this quiet corner of la France profonde. Facing the château, the Hotel de la Poste fitted the bill exactly: decoratively challenged and not exactly the last word in luxury, but friendly, cheap, and run by every member of a busy family, with a good chef among them who turned out an excellent poulet aux girolles.
There is something reassuringly traditional and grounded about Raphaël et Anouck Petitjean’s journey. They met at the Château d’Igé, near Mâcon (Relais & Châteaux, Michelin star) where he was Maître Fromager/Caviste and she was receptionist. After two years as Maître d’Hôtel at Les Templiers in Dole, he cooked at Chez Morillon (Michelin star) then at L’Auberge Bourguignonne, both in Beaune. Now they have their own place and after five years of hard work, their efforts have been rewarded with … one fork in the 2012 Guide Michelin.
Raphaël’s jubilation when the Guide came out, as recorded by the Journal de Saone et Loire, knew no bounds. “It’s been five difficult years,” he declared, “but we have persevered and overcome all difficulties.”
‘Raphaël n’est pas un passionné,’ (the article continues): ‘c’est un fou de cuisine.’
When he started in the profession at 17, he set himself two goals: to have his own restaurant and an entry in the Guide Michelin. Now that those goals are accomplished is no time to relax. “This is just a step on the ladder,” says Raphael Petitjean. Next step, a Michelin star. Don’t bet against him.