Le Safran  St.Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Well Trevor and I are back in St Giles Croix de Vie to return a plastic chair to a restaurant that loaned it to me when the electric chair in my van stopped working in the back position. Itís a long story about as long as my arms would have needed to be to drive the van without the plastic chair, and one that although is very amusing now, is probably best left for another time. We dropped off the chair with my profuse thanks and I bought and gave a packet of tobacco to the very kind young man who had tried very hard to help me during the broken chair incident. It was time to continue our exploration of the town and its gastronomic delights.
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le Safran restautant at St.Gilles-croix-de-Vie
The weather was fine but the wind was strong which made it a bit cold but that didnít stop us, after all we were intrepid and we were in search of another restaurant to add to our list. I love St .Giles Croix de Vie but it is a bit of an enigma. In the season a large part of the car park on the south side of the river is taken up with fairground rides, hideous, and an unashamed tourist trap. The north side of the Vie is home to the working harbour and the railway terminal, however it has a modernised and pedestrian only centre filled with bars and restaurants, but it has charm and a natural swimming pool. It is less glamorous than the south side which contains the ďgrand plageĒ the marinas and the tourist restaurants, but behind the tourist areas lurks the old town with its small streets and lovely old buildings. We made our way over the bridge to the north side of the river Vie and walked (well I scooted) through the pedestrian area of the town past the many restaurants all offering formula meals for 10 to 12 Euros, but nothing took our fancy. We went further through the town and past La Fauvette a fantastic restaurant that we had eaten in the previous year. We were struggling a bit as time was running short and we just couldnít find anywhere that enticed us, we were heading back towards the bridge and the south side until we went around the harbour area and there on the quayside was Le Safran all blue and white and full of French people having lunch. They welcomed us with open arms, well by opening the double doors so that I could drive the scooter into the packed dining room, where diners scattered at the sight of me advancing on their tables, leaving their lunches to drag their tables and chairs from beneath my smoking wheels.

The restaurant was in 2 parts an inner section with the bar and an outer section with a canvas roof which could be opened when the weather suited. The inner section was very nautical being decorated with stuffed fish, huge luminous fishing lures and small model sailboats with the low level of ambient light giving it an almost onboard atmosphere. The inner section of the restaurant had capacity for about 60 diners and it was very busy which didnít stop the staff pulling out all of the stops to get my scooter to a table and Trevor seated.
Tate at le Safran
The food was superb I had Smoked Mackerel Rillettes served with a dressed mixed green salad and tomatoes and it was exceptional. The Rillettes were a perfect taste combination, smooth tasting yet full of flavour and the crisp well dressed salad was the perfect accompaniment. Trevor had a Hot Lardon Salad which was very good, there were small cubes of potato with the lardons and the salad was crisp and the dressing was warm and well balanced. For main I had an Ostrich Steak with chips and a green salad garnish. One can tell a lot from a salad garnish, many restaurants pay scant attention to it putting a limp lettuce leaf and half a tomato on the plate more to fill a gap than add to the gastronomic experience. My feelings are that a plate is only as good as itís lowest common denominator and if there is a salad garnish it should add rather than detract from the eating experience. In this case it definitely added to the meal, as it was crisp and the dressing was perfect as was the Ostrich, a great taste, very tender and perfectly cooked, the frites were crispy and the whole plate was perfection. Trevorís meal was more like the restaurantís signature dish being sea bass and hake in a cream sauce and served with saffron rice, Trevor ate it with relish and said that it was excellent. For dessert we both had the Waffles with Tuti-Fruti Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce and it was a simple yet tasty way to finish the meal, the waffles were crispy and the chocolate sauce was sweet and decadent. I had a pitcher of house red wine which was perfectly acceptable and Trevor had a Tonic Water, we both had large coffees and the bill came to 32.80 Euros which I thought was great value considering the content and the standard of the meal, we have often spent a couple of Euros less and eaten far more mediocre fare.
Having now eaten in 4 restaurants in St Giles Croix de Vie my take on it is that although there are undoubtedly some good restaurants on the south side of the river we have eaten at two exceptional restaurants on the north side and Le Safran is one of them, I have no qualms in highly recommending it to you. Tate - 2009
Review by Tate
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