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La Maree - Les Sables d’Olonne

Sud Vendee.. Haut Bocage.. Coastal Region.. Marais Poitevin.. Marais Breton.. Bas Bocage.. Plaine.. Marais Olonne..
Trevor and I had been intending to visit Les Sables d’Olonne for the previous two weeks but circumstances had conspired against us, so in spite of it being a dull and overcast day we decided that we could put it off no longer. As Trevor hadn’t been too well our decision to go was made late and so it we didn’t set off until after 10 am, arriving in Les sables d’Olonne at around 11,30 am. On arriving we discovered that it was market day and that coupled with the major works being carried out on the promenade made just getting around the town and finding a parking space very difficult. We eventually managed to find a space near the sea front and struck out for the port area, where we intended to lunch at one of the many harbour side restaurants. En Route we found the covered food market and couldn’t resist looking around at all of the wonderful produce on offer. Arriving at the port we looked at all of the restaurants and initially decided on the Restaurant/Brasserie of the Hotel du Port, but they were most unaccommodating and so we decided to vote with our feet and take our custom elsewhere. We ended up at La Maree, who were very accommodating and were prepared to provide us with a chair without arms in their outside dining area unlike the Hotel du Port.

We both decided to have the menu du jour at
13.50 with Trevor choosing fish soup, followed by a duo of fish in a curry sauce. I chose the pickled herring and potato on a green salad followed by sautéed pork. When I asked the waitress what the pork was served with she confessed to not knowing but suspected it would be chips. There was no non alcoholic beer so Trevor had tonic water and I ordered a 50cl pitcher of Medoc, which they served right away and which was pleasant enough without being stunning, though  a little expensive for a house wine at 9.30. We were sat on the harbour side in the Vendée’s largest port and the start and finish point of the Vendée Globe probably the world’s best known single handed yacht race and we ought to have been steeped in atmosphere, but unfortunately we weren’t, in fact there was very little atmosphere of any kind and but for the obvious harbour we could have been anywhere. Our entrées arrived and they looked good Trevor had a large bowl of fish soup served with separate small bowls of croutons, Gruyere cheese and a Rouille. The soup was good and tasty and the croutons were homemade, the Rouille was however fairly tasteless and even Trevor who has an aversion to chilli couldn’t taste the chilli in it. My salad was big, with three large fillets of herring and plenty of sliced boiled potatoes garnishing a dressed green salad, the herrings were as one would expect very tasty, the whole dish was good and there was plenty of it. Our main courses arrived and Trevor’s duo of fish was to say the least disappointing. Les Sables d’Olonne was once the principal port for landing herring and cod in France and one would expect while eating on the quay side to at least have fresh local fish. Trevor thought that the fish he was served were haddock and lieu neither of which are likely to have been caught locally and this was reflected in the fact that Trevor thought that the meal was bland and disappointing. He was grateful however that the curry sauce was not very strong it was served with rice, courgettes and carrots but, all in all his dish was mediocre to say the least. In contrast my main course was surprising. I had ordered sautéed pork and had expected a piece of pork, a chop or steak of some kind fried in a pan and served, as the waitress had indicated, with chips, what I actually received was an individual casserole dish containing a pork casserole which included whole boiled potatoes. Far from being disappointing it was in fact very tasty, the sauce was thick and unctuous and I asked for more bread so that I could wipe the bowl clean. If I was being picky I would say that it was just a touch too salty. It strikes me as ironic that a restaurant sitting on the quayside advertising itself as a specialist in seafood should serve a below average fish dish and a pork dish that would have done credit to a country restaurant. For dessert there was a choice of Chocolate mousse, Creme Caramel, Ice Cream and Isle Flottant, they were all homemade appart from the ice cream and the crème anglaise in the isle flottant. Trevor had the crème caramel which he said was delicious and I had the isle flottant, the meringue which was homemade was beautifully light and fluffy and I enjoyed it very much. We finished in a bit of a rush, as the time on our parking ticket was running out, with two large white coffees which were alright but were in my opinion exorbitantly expensive at 4.10 each, they were served with a biscuit, quite acceptable if one was having a morning coffee on its own, but hardly appropriate at the end of a meal. The cost of the meal was 48 which I thought was expensive for lunch, the meal was patchy some elements being good with others being decidedly below par. The staff were helpful and pleasant enough but the restaurant lacked ambience and the truth is that although I enjoyed my food, harbour side restaurants if they do anything should do great fish, and the fish here was average to say the least. I wouldn’t rush back to eat at this restaurant, in fact I wouldn’t rush back to eat at any of the harbour side restaurants which all seemed to lack the buzz normally associated with eating in the heart of a port area. I’m afraid therefore I can’t recommend this restaurant. Tate - 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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