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Le Pantagruelion Review by Tate.
9,Rue de l'Octroi, St.Hilaire des Loges. Tel. 02 51 00 59 19

Sud Vendee.. Haut Bocage.. Coastal Region.. Marais Poitevin.. Marais Breton.. Bas Bocage.. Plaine.. Marais Olonne..
Tonight Trevor and I ate at La Pantagruelion a small restaurant in the centre of St. Hilaire des Loges. Although it only seats twenty five covers the dining room is open and airy and there is plenty of room between the tables. There is no doubt that numbers here are sacrificed for space, airiness and efficiency of service. The restaurant is a mix of the old and the new, it is in an old building and there are dark beams inside, however the decor is modern with the pale paintwork and light table settings adding to the feeling of space and light. There were glass beads and candles on the table and it would be a good place to bring your sweetheart for a quiet evening. Trevor and I had to put up with each other’s company and so the conversation was as always lively, with romance being entirely out of the question.

The menu though not extensive was nonetheless very interesting and very well devised. Along with the la carte menu there were
25 and 29 set menus both of which offered several choices for every course and the 29 menu included Fillet of Parthenais Beef, which is beef from a special breed of cattle which produces high quality meat, and is rarely seen on menus. Had we not been reviewing the restaurant both Trevor and I would almost certainly have plumped for the beef, but ever mindful of our reader’s needs one of us had to have something else. Today it was my turn to bite the bullet and select an alternative. There was no house wine and the wine list was not extensive, with bottles starting at 14 for a local Vendée wine. Trevor doesn’t drink and so I decided to drink wine by the glass, which restricted my choice even further. Undaunted I started with a Macon Rouge at 3.80 a glass which was very pleasant. While we waited for our starters we were served with a couple of crisps, they were a tiule mix without the sugar made into a flat round crisp, topped with paprika and chives and were a very good. I had decided on the 25 menu starting with a tomato stuffed with snails in a tarragon cream sauce. It was absolute heaven, the tomato was stuffed to bursting with small snails, and though they were almost certainly tinned they were nonetheless succulent and did not suffer from an overbearing taste of garlic. The tarragon cream sauce was absolutely superb, it had a perfect consistency, full and creamy but not too thick and the balance of tarragon was absolutely right. It was tasty without being overpowering, and had an extra twist with the addition of freshly torn basil, which I have always found the perfect complement to tomato. Trevor had in the meantime decided on the 29 menu and started with a carpaccio of duck. The ultra thin slices of uncooked duck, mixed with ultra thin slices of fois gras were served with a salad which included hazel nuts and artichoke and was topped with a nasturtium flower. It looked fantastic, Trevor gave me a taste and I can confirm that it was full of flavour. Some people shy away from uncooked meat as it can be a bit scary, but this was as tasty as it looked.

The restaurant’s name Pantagruelion is taken from Francios Rabelais’ third book, which he is purported to have written in Fontenay-le-Comte. Pantagruel the son of Gargantua discovered a magic herb (which was in fact cannabis, although the restaurant interprets it as hemp) and named it Pantagruelion after himself. The brown homemade bread rolls that we were served were made with some hemp flour incorporated in them. The rolls were delicious, though the hemp was not the genus that Bill Clinton famously didn’t inhale.

The main courses arrived, and to accompany it I had ordered a Cote de Blaye, it cost
4.20 per glass and was very good, so good in fact that Trevor after having tasted it said that he could take up drinking again to drink wine like it. My main course was guinea fowl stuffed with finely chopped vegetables it was served with a cake of hot vegetables which included carrots, roasted red peppers, courgettes and cabbage, with a gravy-like sauce. The guinea fowl was delicious, succulent and slightly gamey, and the vegetables were an excellent complement to the bird, the whole plate was once again perfectly balanced and a delight to eat. Trevor’s Partenais beef fillet was of course fabulous, it had a unique taste with much more flavour than most other fillet steaks. Trevor gave me a taste of his beef and I was extremely envious. On top of it all the beef was wonderfully tender and perfectly cooked. It was served with Boulangère Potatoes, which for the uninitiated are a little like Dauphinois Potatoes but are a healthier option as they don’t have the cream. The potatoes were served as an individual cake and were wrapped with streaky bacon, I didn’t try them but Trevor said that they were excellent he especially liked the mixture of the potatoes and the streaky bacon, which is an ingredient that is rarely found in France.

Trevor was so happy with his main course that he even had a taste of my second glass of Cote de Blaye, before moving on to his desert. I am in the middle of what has become an almost obsessive and ongoing search to find a proper chocolate fondant here in the Vendée. Many of the fondants that I have been served are like slices of dense flat chocolate cake, which doesn’t say fondant to me, however having asked for a description before ordering I was hopeful. I was not to be disappointed, my fondant was perfect and I confess that I raised a little cheer when I cut into the individual cake and found a gooey liquid chocolate centre. The taste was everything that I would expect from a fondant it was a light fluffy cake with a hot liquid centre with a dense chocolate flavour and was served with small dots of caramel, “fondant heaven”. Trevor had gone for fresh strawberries and cream which was served with redcurrants and a macaroon he enjoyed it so much that it actually caused him to coo with delight. The strawberries were fresh and full of flavour and the cream was unlike the normal French creams, being more like an English whipped cream, there were redcurrants which I have always found offer a great juxtaposition to strawberries and the sweet macaroon being absolutely perfectly cooked was an ideal accompaniment, he said it reminded him of a time past. We finished the meal with large white coffees which were served with homemade blackcurrant jelly sweets, they were covered with sugar and were very good and a little unusual.

The whole meal was of a very high standard indeed, everything was perfectly cooked and was extremely well balanced, the service was friendly and efficient and the ambience in the restaurant was fresh and airy. For me the dining room was a bit soulless, it lacked the charm or the ambience of an old building, and was too quiet and demure, for me there was no buzz. I liked the fresh open feel of the dining room, but it seemed that this was achieved at the cost of those traditional trappings that I so much enjoy when eating out in the Vendée. Perhaps if there had been more diners, there were only six other people in the restaurant, the atmosphere might have been lifted, although somehow I think this will always be a quiet and restrained place. In terms of the food and the efficient friendly service this restaurant would have to be one of the best I’ve tried in the Vendée, and would undoubtedly make the top five in those terms. The meal was not cheap having cost
75.40 for the two of us, which I would say is about 30% more expensive than the price of a good quality Auberge, but in terms of the quality of the food and the service, it would be hard to find a fault. It did however confirm one thing for me, namely that no matter the quality of the food or the service, I need something more from a restaurant to make my night a complete success. 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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le Pantagruelion Restaurant, St.Hilaire des Loges.
Le Pantagruelion Restaurant Dining room
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Tate at le Pantagruelion.