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L'Avant Gout.  Review by Tate
6 Ave du President Wilson, Lucon. Tel.02 5127 72 69

Sud Vendee.. Haut Bocage.. Coastal Region.. Marais Poitevin.. Marais Breton.. Bas Bocage.. Plaine.. Marais Olonne..
L’Avant Gout

We had tried to book at a restaurant closer to home but they were having a Quiz Night which meant that the normal restaurant service would not be on offer. As it is early May a lot of restaurants are not open and we decided to bite the bullet and headed off to Luçon, about an hour away, where there were several restaurants listed. Trevor had one or two restaurants in mind and as we were with our good friends Stephen and Sally and as we didn’t know what these restaurants were like, we decided to take a chance and not make any reservations.

On arriving in Luçon we drove around without success looking for the Avenue de President Wilson, so we stopped in the middle of town and asked a group of young people if they knew the restaurant, they were charming and though they didn’t know the street, they knew the restaurant and gave us very good directions to it. We were lucky, there were three parking spaces immediately in front of the restaurant and one was vacant. There were tables outside and the whole front of the restaurant was open, making the inside, which could have been dark and dingy, light and airy. The menus looked good, there were other people dining and we decided to give it a try. We were given a choice of tables and decided on a table inside as the tables outside were right on the roadside and though it was not a particularly busy street my days of enjoying carbon monoxide as a condiment are long gone. The tables were well set and the chairs were comfortable. The interior of the restaurant, as the name would suggest, was modern and the walls carried works of art emulating that.

The waiter, who was charming and attentive, brought the menus and the wine list, we all chose the
22 menu which was a starter, a main course and a desert. Having chosen my meal I turned my attention to the wine list. I immediately called the waiter back and said that I didn’t like any of the wines in his list. He was very concerned and opened the wine list with a view to making some suggestions, only to find that the plastic sleeves which should have been filled with lists of wine, were in fact empty. We had a laugh and he returned with a list with the sheets in it. They didn’t serve a house wine so we settled for a Fief Vendéen, it wasn’t cheap but I’ve found that to be a feature of the restaurants that we have visited so far this year. Undeterred we ordered aperitifs and settled down to enjoy our evening, there was another English party on the table next to us and of course Trevor knew them, but there were also French people dining as well.

Our entrées arrived Trevor Stephen and I had the Mojettes, and Vendéen Ham Tart while Sally had the Goats Cheese in Filo Pastry, it was a good size and was very tasty. It was served on a bed of salad which contained some very interesting ingredients including white beetroot and some small crinkle-cut chips that none of us could identify which turned out to be white carrot, which Sally felt added little to the dish other than as a topic of conversation as to its identity. The Mojettes and Vendéen Ham tart was superb, Mojettes are white beans local to the Vendée and they were mixed with Flageolet beans, set on a very hard flaky pastry base and topped with a slice of Vendéen Ham. The three of us all agreed that it was a very tasty starter the ham was good quality the beans were in the white sauce typical of mojettes and when I tackled the chef about the pastry, he assured me that it was traditional for the pastry on the base of the tart to be very stiff.

Having finished our starters, the plates were cleared and our main courses arrived covered with cloches, which the waiter and waitress removed simultaneously in dramatic style. It was a nice touch and gave the course a feeling of gravitas. I had the Emincé de bœuf au paprika doux, Trevor had Marbré de rougets aux senteurs de Garrigue and Stephen and Sally both had Tranche de saumon aux épices d’ailleurs. The salmon was served on a piece of very hot volcanic rock which not only kept the fish very warm but also intensified its flavour, which both Stephen and Sally thought was delightful. Trevor’s red mullet was he said perfectly cooked and was enhanced by the flavours and scents of the herbs. My beef was cut into small slices and I’m guessing was probably the equivalent of rump steak as it was a little on the tough side, now as I’ve said before I’m happy to accept my meat a little bit tough so long as it has plenty of flavour, and this certainly didn’t lack flavour it was cooked rare and the sweet paprika sauce was a perfect accompaniment to the beef. All of the dishes were served with a selection of vegetables including a carrot, an asparagus spear, roasted turnip, some courgettes. cauliflower and brussel sprouts all of which were from the Chef’s father’s garden. The mixture of colours and textures were a welcome addition to the meal and were universally enjoyed, apart from the sprouts, which were of course frozen and Sally thought chewy.

The deserts were exceptional, Trevor had Crème de Grand Marnier façon Tiramisu, which is Tiramisu with Grand Marnier flavoured cream, he is a desert fan and he seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. Stephen and I had the   Moelleux à la noisette cœur coulant chocolat, which is a chocolate hazlenut fondant. It was perfect the cake was perfectly cooked and the centre was just gooey enough, fondants in the Vendée are often cooked flat and solid more like a solid cake, this was deinately not. Sally had the Pastilla de fruits exotiques. In Sally’s own words this was “wonderful, a sweet covering to the warm fruits which tasted like a soft pancake combined with a selection of sliced fresh fruits providing a crisp sharp alternative to the sweetness of the sauce,- delicious and I am not usually a desert fan”. I am indebted to Sally for her contributions to this review all of the descriptions of her meal are hers and she felt “Overall it was a very enjoyable experience, the restaurant had a good ambiance and the staff were efficient and attentive.  The presentation of the dishes demonstrated artistry and a dedication to excellence”. I can add little to that except to say that the evening was further enhanced when the Chef/Proprietor Pierrick Macé came and sat with us for 30 minutes or so. He insisted on giving us a couple of digestifs and by the time we left it was like leaving an old friend. It is truly a small world as we discovered, when we found out that one of our favourite restaurants, the l'Auberge du Donjon at Bazoges en Pareds, is owned and run by his cousin and he has a black and white photo on the wall of the two of them as children, absolutely charming. As we left he added that anyone who eats at the restaurant and mentions the Vendée Guide will be given a free aperitif.  The meal cast us about 31 per head all in which was I thought pretty good value for money, and I can highly recommend this restaurant. 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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Map to find Restaurant L'Avant-Gout
Tate and guests at l'Avant-gout
Dining room at l'Avant Gout
Dining room at l'Avant Gout
Emince de boeuf au paprika doux
Moelleux à la noisette cœur coulant chocolat
Goats cheese in Filo Pastry
Mojette tart
Chef/Proprietor Pierrick Macé
Marbré de rougets aux senteurs de Garrigue
Tranche de saumon aux épices d’ailleurs.
Crème de Grand Marnier façon Tiramisu