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Le Jusant  L'Herbaudière, Ile de Noirmoutier

Sud Vendee.. Haut Bocage.. Coastal Region.. Marais Poitevin.. Marais Breton.. Bas Bocage.. Plaine.. Marais Olonne..

Today Trevor and I set off early, we were going to Noirmoutier and it would take us a good two hours to get there. The reason we were going was for the “Fete de Bonnotte” which roughly translated was a festival to celebrate the first harvest of the famous Bonnotte new potato. This fantastic tasting new potato is said to eclipse even the Jersey Royal and is served in most of the major fine dining restaurants in France and many others across the world. We arrived in Noirmoutier-en- Ile, the island’s main town desperate for a cup of coffee, and having wandered down the main street we arrived back in the harbour, selected a cafe and ordered coffee. It was not cheap, costing the best part of
6 but that is not uncommon in a holiday region.

We then set off to try to find the festival, only to find that it consisted of potatoes apparently being dug by those who wanted to buy them somewhere further along the coast. That was to be followed by a cycle rally, although we never saw any evidence of it. Finally there was to be a tasting which was being held in the evening, by which time we would unfortunately be long gone, so all in all the Festival was a bit of a waste of time so far as we were concerned. To cut our losses we visited the local farmers’ co-operative and bought some of the newly dug Bonnotte potatoes, which I have since tasted and can honestly say are very, very good, although not so good as to warrant a 300 kilometre round trip and the resultant cost in diesel. By now it was getting near to Trevor’s lunch time and so we drove to L'Herbaudière, parked up on the harbour and went looking for one of the many harbour side restaurants to eat in. As we were fairly early we had to judge them by their menus rather than looking for a restaurant that was well populated, which out of season is generally a good indicator. Choosing a restaurant based entirely on comparing their menus is much more difficult but we made our choice of Le Jusant and sat under cover on the restaurant’s open terrace. We had a panoramic view of the port from the restaurant’s slightly raised position. Sitting outside but under cover we were sheltered but eating “al fresco”, it was a good start.

The Maitre d’ was a lady and she was charming, giving us a very cheerful reception and sharing a laugh with us when Trevor used some of his business cards to stabilise our table. There were various menus starting at
16, we both decided on the 19.80 menu and Trevor had a non alcoholic beer. Wine was not included with the meal and there was no house wine, ½ bottles started at 14.50 for a Fief Vendéen but I went for a ½ bottle of Cote de Bourg Bordeaux, which was very nice but not cheap at 16.50, I would certainly not have wanted to pay 33 for a full bottle. The restaurant itself was quite a classy place, the cutlery was individual and unique, as was the crockery and you do expect to pay a premium to eat on the harbour side no matter where that is. I must confess that before eating I was a bit sceptical about the likelihood of getting extremely high quality food. My scepticism was to prove completely unfounded. Our entrees arrived, I had chosen a salad of Ray in Balsamic vinegar, it was a slightly unusual choice for me but I have to confess I was delighted by the dish. The pickled Ray was fabulously tasty and the mixed leaf salad was crisp and well balanced as were the colours with its variety of green and purple leaves dotted with diced red pepper and with a dusting of paprika just for the visual effect. The plate which intentionally had a slight slope towards me looked appetizing and I was not disappointed with the taste, although on a personal level, I do like big flavours and so for me I would have preferred a slightly stronger balsamic dressing. Trevor’s fish soup was thick and looked very tasty, it was served in traditional fashion with a trio of grated Emmental cheese croutons and a puree, which in this case was flavoured with sweet peppers and had a gloriously deep yellow colour. When I quizzed Trevor about the taste he said for him all good fish soups tasted the same, and being his droll self he said that it was souperb.

Entrees finished our main courses arrived, I was having a Paupiette de Veau, for those who don’t know a Paupiette is a piece of meat flattened and rolled around a stuffing, in the case of veal it is usually bacon, garlic breadcrumbs and parsley. This Paupiette was served in a Kerisac ( which is a famous Brittany cider) sauce with sautéed chipped potatoes. As with every dish they served the restaurant paid great attention to detail and the plate was decorated with red peppercorns and a Chinese Lantern (that’s the fruit not a lamp with a dragon on it). The veal was superbly tender and succulent the stuffing was well seasoned and the cider sauce was an absolute delight, it was slightly fruity and although I’m not normally keen on fruit sauces with savoury dishes this sauce gave the dish a perfect balance. If I was going to be picky I would say that the elastic string tying the paupiette together had been left on the veal, when it really should have been removed before serving, I removed the string myself with relative ease and so it was only a minor irritant. Trevor gave me a bit of stick for eating veal at a harbour side restaurant, he takes the view that one should eat fish at seaside restaurants, it’s a view that I personally don’t subscribe to and I have no regrets whatsoever at ordering veal. Trevor had Grilled ray which he said was cooked to perfection and it was served in a well balanced lemon sauce, it was accompanied by new potatoes, which were not Bonnotte but were nevertheless very tasty, which one would expect as besides Bonnotte potatoes Noirmoutier is renowned for its potatoes almost as much as its salt. The final flourish was a salt water crayfish and the meal was decorated in a similar manner to my veal. Trevor loves his fish and he seemed to enjoy it. Both courses were served with freshly made brown bread rolls which were a perfect accompaniment.

The desserts arrived, we had both chosen apple crumble and it was spot on the apple was sweet but not cloying and the topping was just crunchy enough, and the dish was, as was everything, visually excellent. It was served with candied orange and lemon peel, with a thin slice of banana and a thin slice of Kiwi fruit. There was a string of cranberries a star anise a white and a dark chocolate button with a spoon of apple puree stuck to the plate with caramelised sugar. The plate was dusted with cocoa powder and was a delight on the eye as well as the palate. Of course being English the crowning glory would have been a generous spoonful of Crème D’Isigny, which is a thick high quality crème fraiche from Normandy and is the closest thing in France to clotted cream, but you can’t have everything. We finished our meal with a coffee and both agreed that it had been excellent. The service throughout had been efficient and friendly, the Maitre d’ was amusing and the young lad who served the meal was very concentrated if a bit serious, I would guess from observing his service at other tables and the assistance given to him by the very attentive maitre d’ that he was fairly new at the job and was still in training, although you would not have known from the way he served us. We were eating in early May and the restaurant was quite busy, the outside terrace was virtually full by the time we had finished and I can imagine that in season the place would be absolutely packed. Of course in simple terms of supply and demand, that is bound to affect the price that the restaurant can charge. It is true to say that
65.85 is not cheap for lunch, it is perfectly possible to get a great five course lunch including wine and coffee in the Vendée for half that figure. It is however also true to say that everywhere in the world you do have to pay for the situation that you dine in, and harbour side restaurants generally charge a premium for the view and the ambience that they give you. The decision as to whether that is worth the extra money that you pay is really a personal one, all I can say is that the view was good although not spectacular, L’Heraudiere is hardly Menton, the ambience was good, the food was very good and the wine was good too. Trevor and I both enjoyed the meal very much and would be happy enough to eat at the restaurant again and I would happily recommend it. 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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Le Jusant Restaurant, l,Herbaudiere
Tate at Le Jusant Restaurant. Click for personal statement