Caves Madeleine: where the winemakers eat in Beaune
Caves Madeleine is a casual bistro, a hole in the wall and a cosy cave du vin hidden in the cobbled maze of Medieval Beaune in Burgundy. Since there are not many tables inside, you will probably end up eating at a large community table not allowing for much privacy but for a bon vivant like camaraderie with bottles being shuffled around so you taste everyone’s bottle, of course if he is willing to share.
Forget about secrets and romantic rendezvous and share your joy from the genuine local food and wine with everyone inside the Caves Madeleine. The pleasant locals serving you as well as the cooks shrunk inside the tiny kitchen behind the bar, are all very friendly and almost blend with the guests inside. Who said all the french were frowning and disinterested? We were informed about the specialities of the house as well as the seasonal treasures on the ever-changing chalkboard menu, but we were also guided to selecting the right bottle fitting our budget and ideal for the food we chose to eat there.
Since the menu was all written in French, a puzzle for most foreigners, the waiters were essential to help with translation. If something has “assiette” in the name, then you will get a plate of something basic – like a plate of cold cut meats or assorted cheese. A “velouté” signified a warm creamy soup, while a “terrine” is usually made of meat pressed into a brick shape and served cold as a hearty starter. In October the mushroom season was in the full swing in Burgundy so the Velouté was made with the meaty cèpes mushrooms. Also known as porcini, the chunky mushrooms were generously rising above the creamy, soothing warm and hearty soup. Nicely done for such a casual eatery.
My sister went for the vegetarian main plate of Ravioles du Royans, crème aigrelette, which were thin ravioli pasta filled with vegetables in a creamy yet slightly tart sauce. The plate was sprinkled with chopped chives and toasted powdered nuts. A delicious treat balanced by the fresh greens and the thin skin of the ravioli made the cream less heavy-feeling. This dish called for a bolder white wine with a good acidity to cut through the fatty cream though.
I tried one of the signature dishes – the Quenelle de Volaille fermière, cèpes in a cream sauce, and I would order it again! This deep plate of a frothy cream with sizzling hot cep mushrooms covering a smooth pounded dumpling in a sausage shape (quenelle) made with a farm rised poultry and egg whites, poached in water or stock, is typical meal in Burgundy. Today, not many restaurants make this dish in the traditional way, meaning pounding and pressing repeatedly until an ideal smooth texture is achieved and then boiled until cooked. At Caves Madeleine they are not afraid of time-consuming traditional cooking and my satisfied taste buds appreciated the labour that went into it by finishing the last drops of the sauce. Depending on the season the dumplings can be made with fish or meat.
Pick your label at Caves Madeleine
There is nothing like a wine list to be found around. Get a local wine by the glass (you are in the heart of Burgundy so you bet it will be at least good) or pick a bottle from the display alongside the wall behind the communal table. The prices on the bottles are for take out, but adding only modest €6 corkage opens it inside. All of our dishes were rich and creamy, which is typical for authentic Burgundian cuisine, therefore we needed sufficient acidity to cut the fat and heaviness of our meals. A Chardonnay with a robust body and still slightly zesty character from Rully, the Southern part of Burgundy, offers a better value for money for its juicy crops. The Premier Cru Rully from Domaine Vincent Dureuil-Janthial 2011 was exactly what we looked for. Priced at €39 per bottle at the restaurant, it was not a bad deal either. No wonder that the locals including the winemakers and many of the winery owners love this genuine place. They can try their neighbour’s wines or bring their own and compare their sacred juices in the convivial atmosphere of Caves Madeleine.
The traditional Burgundian cuisine at Caves Madeleine in Beaune is a great value for money, and what makes it even more enjoyable are the very low margins on the wines sold in and to take away.
Daily except weekends and lunch on Wednesday.
8 Fauburg Madeleine, 21200 Beaune, France.
+33 3 80 22 93 30