Eating Out

This is a rural area so opening hours are not the same as in town. Quite a number of cafes and small restaurants serve lunch but not dinner. Even if they open at lunchtime and evening they will usually be closed in the afternoon, so don't expect to be able to pick up a pizza at 5pm! Some are seasonal and others open all year round but only certain days, so it is always best to phone for a reservation. (I can do that for you if your French is rusty)

At great personal sacrifice I have tried out some of the local restaurants and have written my comments!!! Bear in mind that I may only have been there once and that my experience may not be typical.

Closest

L'Etoile L'Absie At the top of the main square. 05 49 95 80 27
Popular place, buffet entrée which makes it easy for vegetarians to fill up their plates with suitable choices. Well cooked food. Friendly atmosphere. Only open lunchtimes.

La Promenade (Chez Chantal) L'Absie (on the right on the Niort road). 05 49 95 89 63
Lorry drivers' and workers restaurant but pleasantly furnished and not intimidating for non-workers! Their low-cost menu is a 5 course lunch with wine. (couldn't stand by the end!) Salad, starter, 2 choices of main, good choice on the cheeseboard, large selection of desserts. The day we visited the main choices were venison in red wine or spare-ribs in mustard sauce, both delicious. Drawback is that it closes for August.

O'Bistrot L'Absie Just off the main square. 05 49 80 02 61
This has recently been refurbished and we were pleasantly surprised by the inside. Good value menu had 2 choices for each course but the owner was prepared to offer alternatives for the same price when asked. Very nice food and friendly owner.

Good Value

L'Ecu de France Secondigny, on the corner at the traffic lights 05 49 63 29 94
Easily overlooked as it has only a small frontage but big when you get inside. Go through the bar to the restaurant or out onto the sheltered terrace on a nice day. The € 11 menu has a buffet starter, chargrilled main course (steak, ham, kebab or andouillette) with chips and salad, self-service cheese and little home-made puddings (thank goodness they were little!) You also get a glass of wine, but the coffee is extra. They also do 18 different pizzas (10% less if take-away), a more expensive menu and an à la carte menu. Closed Sunday evenings and you have to book if you want an evening meal on weekdays or Sunday lunch.

Le Relais des Saveurs Neuvy Bouin, across the road from the church 05 49 63 76 22
Weekday lunchtimes this restaurant with a talented chef (see the à la carte menu in the evenings) offers a 3 course meal for under € 11. No choice of starter, a meat or a fish dish for main and 2 choices of dessert. Wine, cheese, coffee are extras. Excellent food, pleasant room, friendly staff.

O'Rest'O Place Hôtel de Ville, Moncoutant
This started off as a snack bar but has now developed into a proper restaurant with a range of choices as well as the pizzas and croque monsieurs. Food was good, nicely presented, waiter helpful. We were able to sit out in the sun in the little square but there are inside tables for cooler days.

Best Quality

A La Bonne Vie Le Beugnon, next to the church 05 49 95 91 60
Lunch is reasonably priced for the quality. The food is beautifully prepared and presented. You can eat inside or on the balcony where you get a stunning view over the countryside. The owners are English, so handy for those with no French. Evening menus are more expensive. Recommended by the Rogers family "a stunning spot, exceptional cuisine" and the Moore family "lunch menu is good value". Open from 12 noon for lunch, right through the afternoon for snacks and last orders for evening meals at 8.30pm. Shut on Tuesdays.

Auberge de la Terrasse 7 Rue Beauregard, La Chataigneraie 02 51 69 68 68
Up-market decor and presentation. Free 'amuse-bouche' served while you make your menu choices. A la carte menu is pricy but the food warrants it. There is also a 3 course fixed price menu which is good value with 4 or 5 choices of starter and main and then various desserts or cheeses. Wine and coffee are extra. One friend chose Crêpes Suzette from the à la carte menu and they were cooked with great flair at the table! They bring a sparkly firework to your table and sing a song if it is your birthday (no idea if they charge for this). Staff speak English.

Speciality

La Truffade Parthenay, at the top of Place 11 Novembre 05 49 64 02 26
Specialises in traditional Auvergne recipes including a braised potato dish from which it derives its name. Closed all winter. Very popular so always need to book. Indoor seating rather squashed together which is OK if you fancy making new friends! More room on the terrace in nice weather. Car park straight in front.

Le Pic Vert on the other side of the river from the main town of Vouvant 02 51 00 88 49
Crêpes, salads or grills at reasonable prices. Lovely position on the riverbank. Seating on the terrace or inside. Pedalos for hire so ideal for a family lunch followed by activity on the water. Does a children's menu but does not do smaller portions of main menu items. Shut on Wednesdays. Closed in Dec, Jan, Feb.

Le Stelvio Antigny (just off the La Chataigneraie bypass) 02 51 51 62 62
Italian restaurant where the pizzas are made while you wait. You need a good appetite because the pizzas are huge with lots of topping. The children's version is not much smaller, so for younger kids it might be best to order one to share. Desserts are from a commercial ice-cream menu. They also do take-away.

Restaurant les Mines Well signposted in Faymoreau 02 51 00 59 59
Somewhere to eat after you have visited the mining museum, or just as a drive out. Proper restaurant with tablecloths, flowers and deferential waiters. Menu includes a good range of choices for adults and children. Salad buffet option available for entrée. There are tables outside for those just wanting a snack or a drink in summer.

Others

La Petit Auberge La Chapelle St Laurent 05 49 72 02 15
4 course meal (cheaper options at lunchtime) very well cooked and presented. No children's menu but when asked, the patron was happy to suggest dishes he could cook for them, and the children loved what they were offered. No-one speaks any English so brush up your French before you go!

L'Auberge du Cheval Blanc on the main road through La Forêt sur Sèvre 05 49 80 86 35
Delicious food and beautifully presented. We chose the middle range menu with 3 courses but could have had cheese for a supplement (noone had room!) We were all very pleased with our choices. The dining room is clean and the tables attractively laid. They also have a private room for large parties with a wonderful old fire-place.

Hotel de la Poste opposite the Post Office in La Chataigneraie 02 51 69 67 38
Go down a long corridor from the tiny frontage to formal dining rooms, or you can eat at tables out in a little courtyard. Food is good quality and helpings generous. The fixed price 3 course menu on weekdays is good value and has 4 choices for each course.

Le Chaudron on the bend at Chantemerle 05 49 72 63 47
Routier type accommodation (the dining tables are at the other end of the main room from the bar) One fixed menu but buffet entrée. Ample portions. Nothing fancy but well cooked and tasty. Very good value. Closed Sat, Sun, Mon.

Obviously if you decide to visit any of the big towns (Niort, Parthenay, Bressuire, Fontenay-le- Compte, Chantonnay) then you have plenty of restaurants to choose from, though some of these are also seasonal.

Coastal resorts (La Rochelle, Rochefort, La Tranche, etc) are choc-a-bloc with eating choices in summer, less so in winter.

If you visit Puy du Fou or Futuroscope both have restaurants and snack bars on site.

The French like to picnic and so there are 'aires' scattered around and at most tourist sites you will find picnic benches and sometimes a BBQ pit.