Uninterruptedly starred since 1991, the Belcastel restaurant remains viscerally attached to the fundamentals that have made it so successful.
Chanterelles from here and early potatoes, trout from the Monts d’Aubrac seasoned with citrus fruits, tart cherries and lentils from Lévezou, can of Galinier from Fadiols, salmon from Fontaine du Larzac then, to finish, apricot tacos, acacia and honey or crispy coffee cardamom…
The menu of the Vieux Pont restaurant, in Belcatel, is in itself an invitation to travel. However, chef Nicole Fagegaltier and her team favor local products, the main ones coming from Nant, Lac de Sarran, Bruéjouls, Rignac or Foissac.
A fierce desire to operate in a short circuit… and which does not date from yesterday, as the chef explains: “When I was little, we lived in autarky, the vegetables and poultry produced on the farm, which were taken care of by my father and my grandfather, were sold at the restaurant, on the other side of the bridge”.
For Nicole Fagegaltier, the adventure began in 1983. She took over the business set up by her grandmother Maria under the name “Chez Banes” (before “Fagegaltier” then “le Vieux Pont”) and managed by the followed by his mother. At the time, the house was famous for its fried gudgeons, caught in the Aveyron river, which flows a few meters from the restaurant. On weekdays, the clientele is made up of workers and, on weekends, the restaurant hosts weddings or farmers after work in the fields.
“I resumed after my studies at the hotel school, and I continued to do what my mother did, and, little by little, I incorporated dishes that I liked”remembers the chef.
In 1986, a first distinction before many others, she won the French dessert championship with an apple in the chaplain, hot and served on a plate. “It was groundbreaking in those days when desserts were served on a trolley. It’s a sincerity that I think the jury liked and is still in our DNA today”analyzes Nicole Fagegaltier.
“Recognition, customers give it to us every day”.
At the Vieux Pont, the peak of the season is between April and the end of November, knowing that the establishment closes its doors in January and February. To eat there on a weekend, count two months of delay against ten days to eat there on a weekday. A success due to the reputation of the place, which has been starred in the Michelin guide since 1991 and this without interruption. “It’s the icing on the cake, but it’s not a pressure. We have always applied ourselves to make this house work well. And it is the case today. The recognition, the customers give it to us all days”would like to point out Nicole Fagegaltier.
For her, the recipe for this success has more to do with a state of mind prevailing in the restaurant than with the fame due to the prestigious distinction of the Michelin Guide. “Here, it’s benevolence at all levels, she explains. It takes respect, give to employees so that they give to customers. The importance of the well-being of employees is paramount: they are the ones who make our establishment. Life is hard so if you can come to work with a smile, it’s still good!”.
Behind Nicole Fagegaltier, her sister Michèle and her husband Bruno Rouquier, at the head of the Vieux Pont, a team of about fifteen employees is active, including several from Aveyron (Rignac, Goutrens, Rodez, Sébazac), i.e. another way to highlight short circuits.
They are five in the dining room and nine in the kitchen, led by Second Clément Forestier, a 24-year-old Sébazacois who does not make his boss lie about his working conditions: “What I like here is that the atmosphere is family, friendly and that there is a good team. We work in a good mood”explains the young man, trained at the Aveyron Chamber of Trades, while his team is working on making strips of zucchini, stuffing and onion cream.
The dishes on the menu are systematically in tune with the seasons, currently with peas, green beans, courgette flower, duckling, brook salmon (Nant) or trout from the Aubrac mountains. “I was born here, and the seasons have always guided me, justifies the chef, who assumes the fact that at the Vieux Pont, “ the menus are without choice ” and “ as balanced as possible and with a vegetable starter “.
On the other side of the bridge, five centuries old, the farm of the ancestors has given way to a three-star hotel, which has seven rooms and a lodge. In addition to local producers, the restaurant now sources its supplies from the Rodez market, as well as from an organic market gardener in Belcastel. “We work as much as possible with Aveyron, with local products, including for meats. It’s something very important to us, and we did that long before it became fashionable”concludes Nicole Fagegaltier.
Hotel-Restaurant du Vieux Pont, 12390 Belcastel. 05 65 64 52 29, www.hotelbelcastel.com or www.fagegaltier.com