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l'Auberge des Trois Provinces  Review by Tate
La Grossière, Torfou. Tel. 02 41 46 57 58

Sud Vendee.. Haut Bocage.. Coastal Region.. Marais Poitevin.. Marais Breton.. Bas Bocage.. Plaine.. Marais Olonne..
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l'Auberge des Trois Provinces
l'Auberge-des-Trois-Provinces, Dining Room
We stumbled upon this charming Auberge on a previous visit to the Haut Bocage it is in Grossiere on the banks of the Sèvre Nantaise at the meeting of three departments namely the Vendée, Loire Atlantique and Maine-et-Loire. The Auberge is on the Maine-et-Loire side of the river and as such is just outside of the Vendée, but it is in such a charming location that we felt that we had to include it in the Vendée Guide. Grossiere is a pretty hamlet on the bank of the river Sèvre Nantaise with a disused water mill, a weir and a large mill pond. The Sèvre Nantaise in this part of the Haut Bocage is a meandering flow of sweeping lazy bends, babbling rock strewn shallows, and slow velvet green ribbons that pass beneath avenues of overhanging trees.  As it made its way through this area of hills and valleys the river’s power was harnessed and there are many mills with their millponds and weirs many of which are now disused  as with the mill at Grossiere. The Auberge des Trois Provinces has a garden and a terrace on this quiet millpond and what could be a dark and brooding piece of water is in fact a light and charming Plan d’Eau with overhanging willows and a view back to the bridge on the one hand and the weir and the mill on the other. The terrace would be a lovely spot to eat on a warm summer’s day and though the weather had turned out fine on this mid-September day we decided to dine inside. We were met outside by the chef/owner who was an amiable young man and discussed the menu of the day. His delightful wife, who spoke a little English, showed us through the small bar/reception area into the dining room which is very well appointed with its simple wooden tables each with a banner matching both the curtains and the serviettes. The room is wood panelled with a beamed ceiling and could be dark but due to a large amount of windows it is light and airy. Around the room there are pieces of lovely old country style furniture including a sideboard with a large model ship on it, the whole effect is warm and welcoming.

I was with Trevor and an old friend of mine called Ron who was staying with me, we were celebrating the life of an old friend whose funeral was taking place in England as we sat down. The proprietor brought the menus, apart from the Formule du midi there are menus for
18, 25 and 33. Ron and I started with a Riccard and Trevor with an orange juice which were served with a small bowl of crunchy bits as an appetizer. We had all decided on trying the Formule du midi which offered a choice of La Formule salade consisting of 2 large chef’s salads of your choice followed by either the dessert of the day or the pastry of the day or La Formule Complète. The latter offered a plate of cold mixed charcuterie or the entrée du moment, (starter of the day) followed by a piece of beef in a pepper sauce with sautéed potatoes or the plat du moment (dish of the day), followed by the dessert of the day or the pastry of the day and all of this for only 10. Ron and I chose the plate of charcuterie and Trevor chose the entrée du moment which turned out to be strips of Sandre, a river fish akin to a pike which is a delicacy in this part of France. The Sandre was served on a parcel of mixed vegetables which were principally leeks and topped with finely chopped egg, it was accompanied by a small green dressed salad, mushrooms and an onion sauce. Trevor was very happy with everything, the fish was perfectly cooked and the rest of the dish complimented it to produce an interesting and unusual starter. The plate of charcuterie consisted of a slice of duck and apricot pate, a slice of Vendéen ham and three slices of salami. It was all served with a small dressed salad and some cornichons. It was a perfect start to the meal especially the duck and apricot pate which was homemade and was a perfect balance of deep flavours which blended into a symphony of taste on the palette. The salami and the Vendéen ham were as one would expect and the salad with its balsamic dressing tied the various elements of the dish together, it was a good way to start. We had all chosen the beef, which was a decent sized Pave (the French equivalent of rump) it was reasonably tender, perfectly cooked and was accompanied by sautéed potatoes and a delicious pepper sauce which caused some debate between Trevor and myself, he thought that the sauce was from a packet, whereas I thought it was homemade, in truth it doesn’t matter we all enjoyed it which is all that is important. We were drinking the house red wine which was perfectly acceptable and great value for money at 4 for a 50cl pitcher, we enjoyed it so much that we decided to have a second pitcher.

Our desserts arrived, Ron and Trevor had both chosen the homemade Tarte Basque, this was a slice of cake with an almond cream sauce in it and served with a caramel sauce, and they were both effusive in their praise for the dessert. I had chosen the Pâtisserie du Maison which was three balls of iced shoe pastry filled with a coffee cream and served with a caramel sauce, it was simply divine and good though the rest of the meal was this transcended everything else. It shocks me to say this as I am not really a dessert person, but this was honestly as close to heaven as dessert gets. I would be very surprised if before taking on the Auberge the chef hadn’t worked in a Pâtisserie or on the dessert section of a larger restaurant, in any event it matters not this guy knows his desserts. We finished with large coffees and were all very happy with the meal and the price, which with all of the extras was still only
48 for all three meals. Before we left the young chef and his wife came out, talked to us and showed us around their delightful garden. They are charming people, committed to providing great quality and value for money, they do this with a calm friendly manner in a beautiful setting and my only regret is that I don’t live close enough to use the restaurant more frequently. I consider that on every level this is one of my very favourite restaurants in one of my very favourite locations and I would highly recommend a visit, I’m hoping to persuade Trevor that we should go back next summer and eat “al fresco”, wish me luck. Tate - 2011.

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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