Autumn is the best time to visit Normandy: the apples orchards, the foie gras, the escargot, and the oysters are all perfect this time of year.
La Maison d’Horbe resides in the center square of the small village and artist haven of La Perriere in Lower Normandy, France. The restaurant, located in a townhouse, is the brainchild of three friends: Jean Noel Lorier, Julien Cendres and Laurent Loingtier.
Jean Noel — elegant, with a mischievous smile — is, an artist, a painter, and a collector of extraordinary jewelry. He runs a gallery next door to the townhouse. Julien Cendres is a writer and biographer, currently working on Raymond Radiguet’s life work, despite the fact the writer died at age 20. A tall, acetic-looking man, often enveloped in a cloud of smoke created by endless cigarettes, he is the public face of La Maison d’Horbe. Laurent Loingtier is the chef. Previously, he was a male nurse, taking care of old people. “Good to have around,” jokes Jean Noel. “When we are old, he will know how to take care of us. Meanwhile, he performs miracles in the kitchen.”
The restaurant is quite unusual. You enter through an arch and right away you are faced with a lovely old urn on a pedestal in a pool of water. Large pots filled with flowers line the staircase to the terrace. There are plants and flowers everywhere. It is like entering a magical garden.
In the summer and fall, customers lunch or dine on the terrace on old-fashioned marble tables, set on cast iron legs. Each table has a Bonsai or fresh flowers. Beautiful white and black umbrellas protect diners from the sun. In a corner near a gurgling fountain stands a statue of Venus, smiling at guests or perhaps the other headless statue that guards the entrance of the restaurant dining room.
In the corner of the terrace lies an alcove with a table for two, where lovers can hide and murmur tender words to the music of a gurgling fountain. Entering the dining rooms is like opening the doors to Ali Baba‘s cave. There are antique treasures everywhere: crystal glasses, 18th Century paintings, magnificent china, and breathtaking jewelry. The tables are set with Limoges china and while your sip your wine in a cut Cristal glass you may ponder if you will purchase it or not for everything here is for sale.
Should you pass through the pantry, you can admire an incredible collection of coffee pots, teapots, jams, and glass cake covers. Like the rest of the restaurant, this pantry is full to the ceiling.
The menu is simple: Brunch from 11;00 AM TO 1:00PM and dinner from 7:30 to “when they all leave,” the chef says. The menu is all mixed up. There is separation between appetizers and entrees. Laurent’s foie gras sautéed in a sauce of honey, mango, and grapes melts in your mouth. The same holds true for the scrambled eggs or the Steak au Poivre. Try the shrimps cooked in coconut juice with ginger and turmeric. The dish is so delicious that you will refuse to share it. Best to leave room for dessert — especially the lemon tarte with a light crumbling crust and just the right lemon taste. Or you may want to indulge and try Marquise d’Horbe: a sinful chocolate cake with almonds, pistachios, and cream.
The restaurant has an extensive tea and coffee menu, as fine as its excellent wines and champagne.