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Auberge de la Riviere
Rue Fouarn, Velluire. Tel. 02 51 52 32 15

Sud Vendee.. Haut Bocage.. Coastal Region.. Marais Poitevin.. Marais Breton.. Bas Bocage.. Plaine.. Marais Olonne..
The Auberge de la Riviere has long been fabled by Trevor and I, Trevor had eaten there once before as someone’s guest and has always told me that it was expensive and was a place that you only visited if someone else was paying, and as a consequence we had never eaten there. Recently he had however discovered that they had menus priced at 22, 38 and 50 and as a treat for a significant birthday he decided to take me there.

The first thing to say is that it is in a beautiful setting, the lovely old building is beside the river and the entrance has a covered terrace with the building being clad in Virginia Creeper or something of the same ilk. The entrance hall has a lovely old staircase winding up from it to the accommodation which Trevor said is favoured by the higher end of the travelling community. By that he didn’t mean those dread-locked people so often seen begging with their dogs in the towns and cities of England, or for that matter those colourful Gypsies in their horse drawn caravans, no he meant travelling salesmen and their like who have a slightly larger expense account, with rooms starting from
50. The hallway leads into the dining room through twin glazed doors and the room is open and airy with windows all along the outside wall giving excellent views of the river. There were about a dozen tables all of which could seat at least four but many of which were set for two with the extra chairs having been removed. An old beamed ceiling with light walls gave the room a welcoming feel, as did the attentive staff.

We were sat in the centre at the far end of the dining room affording us a commanding view, there were only a few diners when we arrived but as the evening progressed the tables filled up, and one table even had a second sitting, this is unusual as we are more accustomed to restaurants emptying when we arrive. We ordered aperitifs and scanned the menu deciding on the meal for
38, there was not a great deal of choice even on this menu which offered Snails, Salmon or Oysters as an entrée, Lamb or Monkfish as a main course, and Chocolate Fondant or Melon as a dessert. Before our entrées arrived we were served with “Mis en Bouche” it was a plate containing a triple of delights cod roe on a slice of toast, a sector of garlic bread and a puffball that I can only describe as a soft cheese straw in the round. Each mouthful was a delight and augured well for what was to come. I had ordered a half bottle of Mercury as Trevor doesn’t drink, at 15, it was amongst the least expensive wine on a wine list that was both extensive and expensive, there was little under 25 a bottle and there was a Mouton Rothchild which was 375 a bottle. The Mercury was good enough, but I find it hard to justify spending the equivalent of 30 a bottle for an average wine. It would have been easy to spend a considerable amount more on a decent bottle. We were awaiting our entrées when another little delight arrived, it was a glass full of orange beads with four long sticks protruding, two of these contained a cube of Melon from Vix and the other two contained a cube of local cheese called Mizotte, yet again we were surprised and delighted. Still the “Mis en Bouche” arrived this time it was a glass of creamed lentils and yet again it tasted superb.

As it was my birthday I had first choice of the menu and when my entrée of Wok des Perles et Escargos de Vendeé (Agriculture Biologique) Cremeuse de Persil et Ail Confit, arrived it was like eating a little bit of heaven. The snails were ‘melt in your mouth’ tender and very tasty, and the cream broth was filled with extremely finely chopped vegetables, it was a fantastic beginning. Trevor had chosen Ballotine de Saumon Sauvage Mariné, Farci au Langostines, Meti-Meto des Legumes Cru. This was raw marinated salmon wrapped around raw vegetables and finely chopped langostines, I tasted the salmon and it was very good and Trevor was delighted by the whole dish, unusually there was a long test tube like glass file with a stopper which contained a chive cream sauce which like everything we ate was subtle and balanced the dish perfectly. Unlike the last time Trevor had eaten at the Auberge there was no Maitre D’ but there were extra waiting staff and the service had benefitted from it, being swift without being rushed and attentive without being pressurising. Our main courses arrived with me having chosen L’Agneau en Trois Facons : Navarine au Tandoor, Cote Roti et Noisette Croustilliante, this was lamb cooked three ways, a small dish of lamb stew, which was absolutely delicious, a lamb cutlet and a lamb noisette, it was served with pureed potato in a light tempura style batter an onion gravy, a roasted red pepper stuffed with lentils and a cooked salad onion, the whole thing was fabulous, the lamb was perfectly cooked and there was no doubt that this was cooking of the highest quality. Trevor’s main course was Lotte en Croute de Sel, Reduction de Vin de Vix et son emulsion de Beurre Echiré (a speciality butter from Echiré in Deux Sevres, which is found in top class restaurants the world over). The monkfish steak had been cooked in a salt crust, it was served on a bed of mushrooms with semolina topped with a roasted red pepper and a squash puree. Trevor was delighted and agreed that the dish was simply a delight to eat with all of the flavours being in perfect harmony with one another. With every course we had been offered a choice of white or brown home cooked bread, it was in itself a trifle but the bread was symptomatic of everything we had eaten it was fresh, it was home baked and it tasted great. The cheese board was copious and contained fourteen different cheeses, some that I had never seen before, I rarely eat cheese not because I don’t like it, I like it a lot, but because it is high in fat and calories, both of which I normally try to avoid
, but I made this cheese board an exception. I had a small amount of three different cheeses and I was very glad I did as the cheeses that I ate were excellent.

The light was fading outside and I was enthralled to see how as the artificial lighting took over it subtly changed the feeling of the dining room, making it more intimate. Our desserts arrived, mine was Choco Framboise Chaud et Froide, I am always in search of the perfect chocolate fondant and unknowingly, I had just ordered it. The cake was perfect, soft and light, (and) inside was a hot gooey liquid raspberry and chocolate centre, it was unctuous and was served with fresh raspberries. The whole thing was so scrummy that it didn’t need cream, in fact it didn’t need anything else, but the single fresh strawberry was a nice touch. Trevor had Declinaison de Melon de Vix : Nature, Sorbet et Soda Aromatisé Menthe Fraiche, which was Melon from Vix served in three ways. There was the natural melon slices, a melon sorbet and quite uniquely a melon soda served with straw and all. There was a tuille and something akin to a brandy snap without the brandy and a small sprig of fresh redcurrants, the whole thing was fabulous, I would never normally choose melon as a dessert, but seeing how much Trevor enjoyed it I could be converted. Just as I was feeling a bit disappointed to think that the meal was over, two small pistachio flavoured crème brûlées arrived, they were so fantastic that it was hard to believe that they had no alcohol in them. These were followed by a plate of two small cakes and a cube of chocolate, which were a perfect accompaniment to the two large coffees which were served with warm milk and were,
in line with everything else, excellent, but so they should have been at 4.50 each.
This restaurant is without doubt out of the gastronomic top drawer, great ambience, great service stunning food and surprise after surprise, treat after treat. It is true to say that all of this doesn’t come cheap and the overall bill for the two of us came to
107.40 and that was without pushing the boat out on the wine, but if you want exceptional food sometimes you have to be prepared to pay for it. I would not hesitate to come here again the setting is lovely, the building is old and has a great feel to it, the service leaves nothing to be desired and the food as you can see from the photographs is beautifully presented. All of the ingredients were fresh and they were cooked to perfection, Thanks Trevor for a great birthday treat. Tate - July 2010

About the author: Tate spends the summers in the Vendee and is passionate about good wine and good food,he writes exclusively for the
The coping of this article is permitted as long as the complete article along with these credits are published.

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