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Mary Stuart Restaurant Review By Tate
86 Boulavard Louis Blanc, La Roche-sur-Yon.  Tel.02 51 37 02 24

Sud Vendee.. Haut Bocage.. Coastal Region.. Marais Poitevin.. Marais Breton.. Bas Bocage.. Plaine.. Marais Olonne..
Earlier in the week some French friends, Roger and Christine Goudeau, had visited me. They had been highly renowned Traiteurs (outside caterers) until Roger was diagnosed with a heart condition and was forced to give it all up and retire. In the course of their visit the conversation turned to restaurants and Roger recommended that we try the Marie Staurt Hotel in La Roche-sur-Yon. Now in my opinion when someone of Roger’s culinary experience suggests that one tries a restaurant one would be foolish to the point of arrogance not to listen, and so last night Trevor and I made the not inconsiderable trek, about an hour’s drive, to La Roche-sur-Yon. The Marie Stuart Hotel formerly the Voyager is owned and run by husband and wife duo of Margaret and René Drapeau, Margaret formerly Margaret Donald is a Scot and the restaurant reflects that with a tartan carpet, walls painted royal red and draped with various tartans and brasses and the ceiling hung with chandeliers. There is a Scottish bar with stags heads and over one hundred different whiskies, and a menu that drips with Scottish accented food. I thought at first it might all be a bit twee but in actual fact it was warm and welcoming and totally unpretentious. There are formula menus at 16, 27 and 29 and an A La Carte menu which includes Highland Steak at 29. All of the menus had Scottish accents and I mixed the 27 and 29 menus paying of course the higher tariff, where Trevor stuck to the 27 menu, had we seen the Highland Steak being cooked before we ordered we would have probably pushed the boat out and gone A La Carte. As it was we ordered aperitifs, there was, as one might expect from a Scottish influenced establishment, no alcohol free beer so Trevor had tonic while I had a Kir Royale. I was offered the choice of it made with Crème de Mûres which is a blackberry liqueur or the rather more traditional Crème de Cassis which is a blackcurrant liqueur. Trevor’s suggested that I tried the Mûres as I had never tried it before, so I did and I enjoyed it very much. With the aperitifs we were served some Mis-en-Bouche which are little appetizers and in this case they consisted of two puff pastry fingers and half a mini scotch egg each all of which were very tasty.

The restaurant started to fill up, a young couple’s arrival quickly followed by a young family from the Ile d’Yeu with two other couples coming in later, and as always the ambience was immediately lifted with the extra people. The accepted form of aperitif at this restaurant was whisky and the waitress, a very nice young lady, wheeled around a trolley with a large selection on it. It didn’t appeal to me as I’ve never really been a whisky drinker. Our entrees arrived, Trevor had chosen Scottish smoked salmon, there was plenty of it, and it was served with a salad, black radish and a cream side dish. Trevor cut me a piece of the salmon and it had a very good flavour. I had chosen a Scotch egg, it was halved and served warm with a dressed salad and a side dish of home-made mayonnaise, as a starter here in France it was as unusual as it was delightful. We had ordered a pitcher of House red wine which once it achieved room temperature was good enough at
7 for 500cl, and in what I thought was one of many nice hints of Scotland, it was served in a pewter jug. Our main courses arrived, I had chosen a Pavé of Fillet of Beef served in a pepper sauce which was not creamy but had a great savoury taste, while Trevor had plumped for the Entrecôte. Both meals came served with an abundance of sautéed cubed potatoes and a small dressed salad. Both pieces of beef were perfectly cooked, were tender and had a great flavour, the potatoes were in such profusion that had they not been so delicious I would probably not have finished them. While we were waiting for our desserts the waitress wheeled out a flambé trolley and proceeded to cook the highland steak for the young couple and the adults from the Ile d’Yeu. The steaks looked marvellous and she seasoned them while melting butter into the deep flambé pan, they were cooked with shallots and mushrooms before being coated with oatmeal and flambéed in whisky. The sauce was finished with cream and I can honestly say that I was tempted to order it there and then, even though I’d already eaten, if only I was eloquent enough to adequately describe the odour that filled the restaurant you would understand why, even though I was pretty full my taste buds were doing the Tango and telling me that I wanted it, I have vowed that I will return and indulge myself. Our desserts arrived, I had ordered Eve’s Pudding which was a warm almond cake on a bed of cooked apple surrounded with a sea of cold crème anglaise, it was good but not a patch on Trevor’s Butterscotch Dumplings which were the consistency of Christmas pudding with a great taste of butterscotch and served with cream. We both had large white coffees avoiding the Irish coffee which I’m sure would have been delightful but Trevor doesn’t drink and I couldn’t justify the indulgence.

As the coffees were served we were joined by René Drapeau, he was a charming man and spoke excellent English, he regaled us with stories about the hotel and his wife and told us that there was a village locally which had twenty seven English families living in it and the English association that they had formed. During our conversation his wife, the legendary Margaret phoned him and I was privileged to be asked to speak to her on the telephone, she seemed a delightful lady and they both belied their ages René being seventy four and Margaret seventy nine. She was even gracious enough after talking to me to say to René that she wished that she had come in that evening and met us in person. René was visiting all of the tables but he came back to talk to us frequently, I don’t suppose that it was our magnetic personalities that drew him back, it was probably his desire to speak English, however he did recount a tale about Margaret that I think eminently worth repeating. He told us that in the early days of their occupancy of the hotel, they were one of very few outlets for Scotch Whisky, and as such were courted by all of the whisky distributors. Margaret is a Donald and as such is a sworn enemy of the Campbells and when the Campbells’ Whisky representative came calling he was always sent away without an order. This irked the head of the Campbells distribution company so much that he decided that he would visit personally and open an account with the Hotel, telling his sales representative to watch and learn. Now Margaret had a Scottish shop on the first floor of the building, after about an hour in her company the Campbells’ senior executive had to concede that he wasn’t going to sell Margaret any whisky however he left with his arms full of the things that Margaret had sold to him. She sounds a formidable lady and Trevor and I both found the story as interesting as it was enchanting. Alas the time was getting late and poor old Trevor had an hour of driving to get me home so reluctantly we had to pay the bill and say our goodbyes. The bill came to
78, the food had been delightful, the service understated, friendly and efficient the ambience of the restaurant was very welcoming but what made the restaurant captivating was René, he was a great guy, he took photos of everyone, printed them out and gave them to the diners, and he made everyone feel that they were his invited guests. Restaurants in my opinion should be about more than just the food, they should be about the overall dining experience, and I can’t remember an occasion when I have enjoyed myself as much as I did at the Marie Stuart Hotel, it was a terrific evening and it was so enjoyable that I am as we speak trying to organise a group of my friends to return and try the highland steak, I’m sure we’ll have a brilliant time and hopefully meet Margaret in person. I highly recommend this restaurant it is simply one of the best. - 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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Mary Stuart restaurant dining room
Scottish smoked salmon
Scotch egg starter
Entrecote steak
Rene at the Mary stewart Restaurant.
Rene Drapreau talking to his guests
Dumpling in Butter scotch
Eve's pudding
flambé  highland steak
highland steak
Pave du Beouf,
Tate at the Mary Stuart Restaurant
Restasurant at the Mary Stuart Hotel in La Roche-sur-Yon