We were taken to Poulpette for lunch during our Trip to Maison Hine Cognac (read about our trip here) and were shocked to find such a thoroughly modern urban bistro in historic Jarnac.
Located on a quiet street corner, away from the hustle and bustle (as much as there ever is in Jarnac) of the tourists taking selfies by the Charente River, is a faux rusted metal sign, announcing the entrance to Poulpette. Inside, the décor is lightly industrial and reminiscent of the sort of restaurant you’d find on the backstreets of Shoreditch. An open kitchen with a relaxed yet industrious solo chef covers one end of the venue, flanked by counter seating. Wooden topped tables and chairs for around 30 makes up the rest of the covers.
We take our seats and are brought a tiny “no choice” menu that is changed weekly and which boasts local and seasonal produce. Everything looks incredible and we eagerly await our starters.
As one might expect of a restaurant in Cognac, there is an impressive selection of local spirits, however, we elect instead to save ourselves for Hine and try Kupela Sagardoa – a French Basque Country cider. Filled with funky natural smells and with a very dry palate, it couldn’t be further from your standard English tap pour. The carbonation is light and the deliciously juicy apples are crisp and bright, proving to be the perfect way to ready ourselves for what’s to come.
In spite of the busy venue and single chef, the food arrives promptly and without fuss. Fresh Brousse cheese is wonderfully light with an interesting, grainy texture that sinks into the fresh lovage soup it sits in. Grilled sweet red peppers and sprinklings of sunflower seeds add a light, earthy smokiness to the dish that finishes it off perfectly.
The other starter of Foie Gras in Duck Consommé is outstanding. Shitake mushrooms suck up the rich and robust flavours of the duck. The foie gras melts into the soup and crunchy nuts introduce a fun textural play as well as a woody bite that compliments the rest of the dish.
We move leisurely on to the mains where we are met with a sizeable portion of Confit Pork with Beet, Mint Sauce and Courgettes. The meat is pull-apart tender and so flavourful! Its jus mingles with the mint, keeping the dish from overpowering the senses. Puréed beet provides a sugar kick that pairs with the natural sweetness of the pork whilst crunchy courgettes tie the work together.
Entirely gobsmacked by the quality and precision of what we’re bearing witness too, we longingly await our dessert of Cardamoms, Cacao, Coffee and Macadamia and are far from disappointed. Whilst the rest of the meal has been faultless, this dessert is a phenomenon of its own. Chocolate with a similar consistency to Gianjuda is all creaminess and sweet-salty perfection. Roasted cacao nibs top it off, bringing bitter and earthy qualities to the forefront. If that weren’t enough to have us eulogising, caramalised macadamia nuts add a rich, buttery toffee popcorn-like element whilst the robing cardamom sauce wraps the entire dessert in a spiced and velvety mouth-feel that proves the ideal end to a beautiful lunch.
Whilst French cuisine is known around the world for being rich and exquisite, Poulpette really surprised us and exceeded all expectations. This was not the traditional, full of butter and cream, expected dishes of a small restaurant in a small town in France. Poulpette pulls something entirely new and unexpected out of the bag, delivering knock-out dish one after another. What’s more, the entire three-course menu only costs 26 Euros a head! This for us, sealed the deal and left us without doubt that, whenever we find ourselves in Cognac, we’ll be eating at Poulpette.
Poulpette, 46 Avenue de Lattre de Tassigny, 16100 Cognac, France