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La Fauvette St.Gille Croix-de-Vie
Sylvie et Michel BOURMAUD 56,Quai de la Republique,
I first visited St. Giles Croix-de-Vie with my dear old mum some years ago. It was in September and having braved the causeway drive to the Noirmoutier-en-L’ Ile and toured the island we decided to take the coast road to Les Sables-D’Olonne before driving home as we’d never done it before. We both thought that St. Giles Croix-de-Vie was a beautiful town with lovely architecture a pretty harbour and a picturesque centre, so when Trevor suggested a return visit I was quick to agree. The North West of the Vendée is an area that I’ve not visited enough and we both decided that all being well and in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger “we’ll be back” hopefully later in the year to explore further especially the salt marshes, so watch this space.
It’s a long drive so rather than take the coastal route we drove through the Lay Valley and on to Les Sables-D’Olonne. Thanks to Trevor’s good sense of direction we circled the town and came out on the quayside at La Chaume. We parked up and went to a waterfront café overlooking the harbour and Les Sables-D’Olonne, it was worth the stop, for a well deserved coffee. The coffee got Trevor’s digestive juices motivated and so we drove north heading for Brem-sur-Mer, and looking for a restaurant. The problem we found with Brem-sur-Mer was that whoever had organised the road system including the road signs seemed interested only in keeping the traffic out. It certainly worked with us and we decided that rather than try to find a way into the town to look for a restaurant, we would press on to St. Giles Croix-de-Vie and eat there, what a good decision it turned out to be.
We entered the town with ease and ignored the strip of restaurants and the centrally placed funfair, which I was told was there for the summer, and for me ruined the town’s natural ambience. We crossed La Vie and pushed on to the port area where the old architecture reminded me why I had liked the town so much in the first place. It was the 7th July and we did have a bit of a job finding a restaurant that was open, this was apparently because the holiday season hadn’t started, something that I always find hard to get my head round. Less choice can sometimes be a good thing as it can funnel you towards those restaurants which are open and they tend to be the ones that are good; could this be the case with La Fauvette?
The restaurant is big, and stretches back from the road alongside a courtyard where you can park your car. There is a covered terrace which, on another day we would have loved to use, however, with the strength of the wind on the day we visited the staff would have had to nail things down to the tables, in fact they would have had to nail the tables down. Only the rear room of the restaurant was being used but it was a fascinating place, full of character, with a typically Vendéen wooden ceiling. A large “buffet ancien” split the room and the walls were festooned with artwork and crockery. Everywhere you looked was interesting.
Though large this restaurant is owned and run by the Bourmaud family and we were extremely lucky to have as our principal waitress the owners’ daughter. She is a charming, polite and attractive girl with a bubbly personality which gives you the impression that looking after you is the only thing on her mind. The menu was extensive but as it was a Monday I used my well worn maxim that I don’t eat sea food on a Monday reasoning that no one fishes on a Sunday so the fish can’t be fresh. It has stood me in good stead for the most part, however on this occasion I missed out badly. I had the charcuterie to start, and nice though it was, you can’t really do too much with that, Trevor had the Mussels in a seafood sauce and it was sensational, small sweet mussels in their half shells with the most fantastic creamy seafood sauce. I had a little taste of the sauce and I thought that the depth of flavour was absolutely stunning. We then both had the entrecote and French fries the entrecote was perfectly cooked and presented, it was slightly thicker than the norm and was that bit meatier as a result. I think it had been cooked on a charcoal grill as it had that wonderful smoked flavour that I always associate with a good grill. The French fries were as good as they get, well cooked and crispy with a proper taste, I just couldn’t knock it. We both chose the same desert it was chocolate and delicious, with crème anglaise, I don’t remember its name, but our delightful waitress described it as like cake, it was denser than the normal English idea of cake, but if it was cake it was cake heaven. I had a half bottle of Cote de Rhone which was a perfect accompaniment to my meal and not expensive at 10 euros. All in all the meal was of very high quality, the service was superb the ambience for a lunchtime was excellent as the room continued to fill all the time that we were there and overall it was very good value for money, coming out at about 35 euros per head as I write in 2008.
Now unusually I would just like to say a few things about what we didn’t have. By far the most popular dish amongst the other diners was the sea food platter, which I think started at 34 Euros for 2 people and rose in price the more of you there were, or I guess the greedier you got. It was brilliantly presented being delivered to the table in a boat, and it looked substantial. There were prawns, crab, oysters and a whole host of other shellfish. The more that were delivered to the other tables the more I wished I wasn’t such a smartass with my “I don’t eat fish on a Monday” adage. The next most popular dish amongst the other diners was (moules et frites) mussels and French fries, a huge pot of mussels, I think it was 1Ltr, in a cream sauce with an enormous plate of French fries, and as with all of the dishes the splendid French bread just kept coming.
As Trevor doesn’t drink I felt that I could, or more accurately, should only contend with a half bottle of wine and the Cote de Rhone that I chose was excellent. The wine list was without doubt one of the most impressive that I have seen for many a long time. It was a proper wine list with wines from all of the major wine growing regions of France, and some from abroad. The wine list also varied in its range of quality from vin de pays to premier grands cru classe pricing also covered the complete spectrum from a modest 10 euros up to 369 euros for the Chateau Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classe. There was a Graves at 248 euros and many bottles which topped 100 euros mark. The list had many old favourites like Nuits St Georges, Chambolle Musigny and Gevery Chambertin all coming in at around the 40-50 euro mark. I’m no wine snob but I could have spent hours just looking at the wine list, let alone tasting it.My opinion, and Trevor whole heartedly agreed, is that this restaurant was an exceptional find and is well worth a visit if you’re in the area. I haven’t got a crystal ball so I couldn’t say that the service would be as good when the season was in full flight. I can say however that even though it was busy for the two waitresses that were working, we always felt well looked after and that’s pretty much all you can ask. In terms of value for money, I’ve eaten at many more expensive restaurants and not eaten half as well, so I would highly recommend La Fauvette.
About the author: Tate spends the summers in the Vendee and is passionate about good wine and good food,he writes exclusively for the www.vendee-guide.co.uk
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