Luc reads about an amazing hotel tucked away in the Ardennes.
And not just any hotel.
Château de Vignée is a member of the Relais & Chateaux luxury hotel and restaurant chain.
And its restaurant is mentioned in the Michelin guide.
He looks up Château de Vignée online, and books a room on the spot.
Rooms at Château de Vignée are not cheap here, on the contrary.
However our wedding anniversary is almost there and we think, why not. Let’s treat ourselves to a lovely trip, a relaxing stay in a gorgeous hotel and enjoy a star quality dinner.
The drive to Château de Vignée is a breeze. As we get nearer, the landscape get more and more beautiful. Forests, small rivers, a farm here and there. A few hikers crossing the road.
It looks so quiet and peaceful here.
We reach Château de Vignée around 5pm, and leave our car on the large parking lot.
The main entrance is situated in a spotlessly renovated castle courtyard.
We get to the tiny check in desk where a young receptionist takes care of our reservation. We mention that we also requested a table for dinner at their restaurant here at Château de Vignée this evening, which was confirmed through email by the hotel.
She apologises and says that she can’t find our dinner reservation.
And that unfortunately the restaurant tonight is fully booked.
That is very frustrating, since there are hardly any restaurants nearby. A manager steps in and says that she will see what she can do. And she offers us a glass of sparking wine as well.
As we sit outside in the sun enjoying our drink, the manager comes back to say that she was able to secure a table for dinner at Château de Vignée’s restaurant.
Drinks emptied, we go up to our room.
It is a tad small but very beautiful. Large comfortable bed, fluffy pillows, quite a large walk in shower, fragrant toiletries. There is a safe in the wardrobe, and a coffee machine as well.
The floor to ceiling window faces a lovely green meadow and the river Lesse. It looks so peaceful.
We spent our morning and afternoon hiking before driving to Château de Vignée so we could use a good shower.
And before we know it, it is dinner time!
We go downstairs around 7:15pm.
The Château de Vignée restaurant is lovely, the large windows draw your attention to the outside dining area and green nature.
The weather is pleasant, we will be dining al fresco.
The tasting menu looks amazing, and so does the wine list.
You can also order à la carte.
Château de Vignée’s executive head chef Kwinten Boelen takes the time to come to each table and talk about tonight’s menu. He is proud to say that he grows his own vegetables and herbs in the chateau’s greenhouse.
We can’t wait.
After choosing a tasting menu, Luc goes for a fine 100% Syrah bottle of wine, Heluicum 2009.
The wine is a tad chilled, which is perfect to start our evening with.
The rest of the bottle is poured in a decanter to warm up gradually by the time our main course of lamb is served.
The wine list is amazing. The chef tells us that Château de Vignée was able to buy the wine cellar of another well known restaurant that recently closed.
Bread and butter
Bread, butter and olive oil is brought to our table.
And it is absolutely delicious.
We sit back and relax.
What a lovely location.
3 stunning looking appetizers arrive on our table all at once.
Chilled pea soup with grey North Sea shrimp and smoked eel.
Frog leg with fennel and puff pastry.
Artichoke with salmon.
Lip smacking good.
As we talk and enjoy our appetizers and bread, we see that all the tables around us are all fully occupied by now. Everyone gets appetizers and drinks served.
Immediately after finishing our appetizers, we receive our starter.
A colorful fillet of red mullet with grilled fennel and zucchini in a flavorful sauce.
Stunning presentation and flavors.
Perfectly executed, what a delight.
The next dish appears pretty fast after finishing our fish dish.
Veal sweetbreads with mushrooms and peas.
Again a lovely looking creation.
The sweetbread is creamy and absolutely perfect. We love sweetbreads. The earthiness of the mushrooms and then the fresh grassy flavor of the peas are a great combination.
Another beautiful plate.
The last tables finish their plates.
And then the waiting game begins. It has been almost an hour and it seems like no food is coming out of the kitchen at all.
We cautiously sip our excellent wine.
The delicious bread is gone by now.
People start to shift in their seats and make remarks about it. The sun is going down by now, it is almost 9pm. All of a sudden practically every table receives their next course all at the same time.
Empty plates cleared.
We all wait and wait.
Some guests start to ask the staff what is going on. The answer: ‘the food is coming’.
Our decanter is almost empty.
The night falls. It is pretty dark out here. Even the candles that waiters put on each table and the little faint light coming from the dimly lit restaurant don’t help. And it gets pretty cold, even though we brought an extra warm jacket and are wearing long trousers.
The waiters hand out fleece blankets.
But we are sure that we would all love to see our main courses appear instead.
Almost an hour after our previous course, the main course arrives. It is 10pm. And yes, again it is delicious. The lamb is succulent, the flavors are fantastic. Unfortunately we can hardly see a thing.
June doesn’t even bother to take a picture, it would be absolutely worthless.
What a pity.
We ask the waiter if we can go sit in the lounge for our dessert, which is not a problem at all.
The lounge is much warmer and with cozy couches and chairs. We order 2 Belgian beers because we have a faint idea that dessert might take a while again.
And we are right.
It is 10:45pm.
We finish our dessert. What was it? We have actually kind of lost interest by now. We are getting tired, and are frankly disappointed that such a fantastic meal is shredded to pieces by the slow service. And clearly we were not the only ones. Some guests are visibly disgruntled as well.
We finish our beers and go upstairs to turn in for the night.
Oh yes, we sleep very well during our night in Château de Vignée.
The bed is extremely comfortable. Our room is super quiet, overlooking the Lesse river. The walk in shower is spacious and the water pressure is fantastic. Fragrant toiletries. Soft towels. We can’t find one single thing that we don’t like about it. The decoration is modern and the room is spotlessly clean.
We paid €175 for one night, breakfast included.
Oh yes, what about breakfast!
As we get ready to go downstairs, we make ourselves a delicious cup of coffee in our room.
The sun is out and smoking hot already. It is just a little before 9am. We are happy to find a table outside. Only a couple of tables are occupied. The waiter is happy to open a parasol for us so we can sit in the shade.
Breakfast at Château de Vignée is à la carte.
We like that.
We order coffee, which arrives pretty quickly.
A pot of good coffee, good for about 3 cups. It takes a while before the waiter comes back to take our order. And we decide to order everything we want all at the same time, plus an extra pot of coffee.
Which in hindsight is a good move.
A la carte
The plates on the à la carte menu are great.
We order smoked eel, tomatoes from the chateau’s greenhouse with burrata, scrambled eggs, a charcuterie and cheese platter and a basket of bread and Danish pastries.
Our order makes it to our table quite fast.
And again everything is delicious and beautifully plated up.
Every bite is simply amazing.
All around us the tables are being taken, it is a Sunday.
However the staff seems to be hiding in the back of the Château de Vignée restaurant. Or trying very hard to appear busy with something else. It is a gift to take a few steps outside, look around you and walk back in while 3 people are trying to get your attention by putting their hand up.
And it gets worse.
The couple who sits at the table right next to us hasn’t even received any menus or coffee after half an hour. The gentleman gets up twice to find a staff member inside who is willing to listen. To no avail. And again everyone of the guests notices this, some even start to jokingly offer to bring some of their own food to the poor couple.
It is sad and unacceptable.
What a lack of service and attention.
Scandalous for a Relais & Chateaux establishment like this.
We are glad that we ordered everything all in one go. However our second coffee pot is empty after a while, and will stay empty for the remainder of our breakfast. Not one staff member seems to be interested in our requests for another pot of coffee.
Breakfast is delicious.
But it is disgraceful that we have to go up to our room to get a cup of coffee from the coffee machine.
What do we like about Château de Vignée?
Beautiful location and hotel.
The room is perfect.
The food is delicious and impeccable.
The wine list is amazing.
Would we go back to or recommend Château de Vignée?
And we are not going back to Château de Vignée until we read and hear that things have drastically changed.
We would be much happier to say that we loved it, that we had perfect night. However the extremely slow service, laziness and utter lack of interest in guests during breakfast is a deal breaker for us.
Our total bill mounts up to about €400 for one night, dinner, wine and 2 beers. And we expected to pay something to that extent. However for that amount of money you would expect everything to be absolutely perfect.
And it wasn’t.
We mention our dissatisfaction when we check out.
The receptionist asks us if we enjoyed our stay. She politely tells us that she will inform the manager about this, but also adds that the kitchen the evening before ‘might have been a bit slower’ because there was a dinner party of 10 in the wine cellar.
Which is a poor excuse.
We leave Château de Vignée with very mixed feelings.
Château de Vignée
Rue de Montainpré 27