Auberge du Moulin Review by Tate

Route Sablais, Chasnais, Nr. Lucon. Tel.02 51 97 71 58
If you have been out to the beach and you are wending you weary way home and fancy an excellent meal at an excellent venue then the Auberge Du Moulin could well be the place for you. In terms of trying to eat there for Trevor and me, it was shades of the Donjon, which we tried to eat at for almost a year before managing it. When we did at last manage to eat at the Donjon we found it to be one of our favourite restaurants in the area. We had been trying to visit the Auberge du Moulin for some time, so we were hoping that having gone to this much trouble we would be similarly rewarded. The reason we were going to so much trouble was that Trevor had often passed it when returning from the beach and he had noticed that the car park was generally full of French cars. This is often a very good indication to a restaurant’s quality. It is true that his sightings were often on Sunday afternoons which are usually busier than during the week, but the French don’t normally frequent places, in numbers, that aren’t good.
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We had been trying to book for early in the week due to Trevor’s business commitments, but now as it was the end of the season Trevor was able to make a Friday night, so we had at last managed to book a table. It is a bit of a schlep from here, taking about an hour, so all we could do was to hope that all the effort would be worth it. This is a working Auberge so there was a reception area for checking in the guests staying in the rooms above, with a door off to the right for the dining room. It was light when we arrived and when offered the choice we decided to eat in the conservatory as opposed to the main dinning room, this was a mistake as when we left it was dark and we were able to see that the main dinning room was in fact absolutely charming. It had a mixture of stone and white painted walls with tasteful wall hangings a Vendeen beamed ceiling and very sympathetic lighting. It was well set out, and with several tables now occupied the ambience was without doubt very good. The conservatory was nice enough with a view onto the garden and half a dozen tables, one of which was occupied by some English people. They were having some trouble with the menu so being “Good Samaritans” we pitched in to help them, I think both the diners and the restaurateurs were grateful, and it did give us the chance to have a quick advanced look at the menu.
There were several set price menus, starting at 15 euros, which Trevor chose; I went for the 21 euro menu. My selection had nothing to do with greed and everything to do with selection. I wanted to try the assiette gourmande as a starter which was a selection of several small portions of the starters that were on the a la carte menu, where Trevor was happy to select from the hors d’oeuvres table. Trevor’s main course was three rolls of a white fish that he thought was pollack wrapped in salmon, with tagliatelle in a parsley sauce, with pureed pumpkin. My main course was three decent sized medallions of beef in a Mareuil red wine sauce, served with the same pumpkin puree, ratatouille, an individual dauphinoise potato cake and caramelised onions en croûte. I finished with a Rum Baba and Trevor had a slice of pineapple cake. There was no house wine and so I chose from the somewhat limited wine list. I ended up choosing a bottle of Brem Rouge which is a Vendéen wine. At 19 euros a bottle it wasn’t cheap but a half bottle would have been 12 euros and that would have made it scandalously expensive for what is an average bottle of wine, it was my intention to take what remained of the bottle home. I try to drink house wine when eating out because I have found that in general house wine is of reasonable quality and bottled wine served in most French restaurants is seriously over priced. The restaurant had no alcohol free beer, or tonic water, so Trevor had to content himself with Orangina.
The drinks were served and with them came a plate of toasted French bread cut into croutons served with a small dish of sardine pate, Trevor reliably informed me that the pate had chives in it, which I couldn’t taste but couldn’t dispute either. It could have been a triumphal start because it certainly got the taste buds motivated. There was however not enough and it looked a bit of a mess. Had they served it with toasted French farmhouse bread which would have made it much more aesthetically pleasing. My starter arrived and Trevor went to load his plate from the hors d’oeuvres table, he came back with copious quantities of the usual suspects and when I questioned him on the amount of choice and the quality of the food, he said that the both were extremely good, the only thing that he thought that was missing was the “scabby horse” which he said he could have eaten when we arrived. I think I will run out of superlatives while trying to describe my starter, it was truly divine, not just on the palette but also in terms of its presentation. Everything was arranged in a circle around the garnish and just looking at it made me feel hungry. There was a slice of foie gras on a slice of cooked apple with a small piece of crisped potato lattice, which made my taste buds sing. There was a pink mousse of fish roe (it does have a local name but for the life of me I can’t remember it) much like taramasalata with a few lump fish roe on top and served with a spear of asparagus, unbelievable.were a couple of slices of smoked duck breast and a thin slice of locally cured ham, both were superb. There were prawns served in a small spoon with a wonderful seafood sauce and there was a sliced scallop in vinaigrette that was simply stunning and finally a simple king prawn in batter, the batter was light and the prawn was perfectly cooked. The plate was garnished with lettuce, tomato and rings of red onion and unlike so many garnishes this was all delightfully fresh and meant to be eaten. If this is a selection of the starters that they serve a la carte I could come back and eat them exclusively.
So where do you go from heaven on a plate? Well I went on to the beef, and surprisingly enough it didn’t disappoint. There were three very thick slices, almost paves of beef, they were tender, very tasty and cooked to perfection. I always order medium in France, knowing full well that it will arrive on what I perceive to be the rare side of medium and sometimes the very rare side. The Mareuil sauce was deep, rich and unctuous without being in the slightest bit glutinous. The pumpkin puree had a rich creamy consistency and disappeared on the tongue leaving only the delicious taste.  How can you eulogise over onions cooked in puff pastry, well quite simply by saying that the caramelised onions en croûte gave the perfect sweet balance to the beef with a puff pastry that was so light it almost needed an anchor to stop it drifting off the plate. If I was being picky I would say that the dauphinoise potato cake was a little dry and the ratatouille a little tasteless but what the heck it didn’t in any way detract from my enjoyment of what was one of the best main courses I have eaten this year,

Trevor’s main course was he said very good and it was well presented for what it was. Tagliatelle and parsley sauce on the same plate is always going to be a bit grey, and even though it was punctuated with the colour of the salmon and the vibrantly coloured pumpkin puree, it didn’t turn me on. Trevor said that the fish was well cooked but I know that he prefers to eat fish simply pan fried in butter without sauce and he’s also not a great lover of pasta. The Brem wine was alright, but certainly not worth 19 euros a bottle nonetheless it served its purpose.
For dessert I had chosen a Rum Baba and it was excellent the cake was light, the rum was strong and I was happy it was served with Chantilly cream and small thin quarter slices of orange. Trevor’s pineapple cake looked absolutely fabulous and when I asked him what it was like he made a comment that I couldn’t possibly repeat here, and I know wasn’t true because he ate every last bit. We finished with large coffees and the bill came to 62 euros which was very good value when you consider that the drinks made up 26 euros of that. I would have to recommend the 21 euro menu, 24 euros if you wanted the cheese course, for the extra 6 euros I felt that my meal was quite a bit better than Trevor’s 15 euro meal, not that it was any better cooked but more that the concept was better, it was better balanced, it was a gourmet meal as opposed to the sort of meal that you might find in any restaurant and I think that the extra 6 euros were very well spent. I would love to revisit this restaurant and I highly recommend it, I would say that it is without doubt right up there with the best restaurants that I have frequented in the Vendee, definitely top 5.

Tate - 2009