The second was a long, oval plate with three stunning vegetable purees
(purple carrot, zucchini and celery) and two small oysters from the mouth of the
Charente River near the Isle of Oleron. We have had oysters from the Bay of
Biscay before and these certainly didn't disappoint. We were also amazed at the
intensity of the vegetable purees.
The next dish had three components. The first was a small bowl of
intensely-flavoured, deep-green veloute that was made from artichoke and
ciboulette (chives). This had both an intense flavour and an appealing
mouth-feel. The second component was one of the best dishes of the day. It was
described as a tartare of shellfish with clams and mussels and tiny pieces of
artichoke lying flat on a white plate where they had marinated in a mild
vinaigrette and were topped with an ethereal white foam.
The third component was a dish of tiny beignets of white fish that were served between crisp, white sheets of
paper joined with a tiny peg. The white sheets reveal nothing.
However, nestled between these pure white sheets were some crisp beignets!
We then moved on to a dish of lobster and white fish in a lobster broth
studded with artichoke and girolles and flecked with saffron. This was a
beautiful, rich dish and although there seemed to be a lot of saffron, it did
not dominate, rather it supported the other flavours and it was very fresh.
And finally the bouillabaisse arrived. A tower of circular bowls stacked like
Chinese steamers was placed on the table. When the top cover was lifted two pieces of fish, one bass and the other we think was called Gallinet (but we can't find any references to it. Can anyone help??) were swimming in a brown rich fish broth in the tradition
of classic bouillabaisse. On the side was grated parmesan and garlicky rouille and a jug of extra broth. This dish was certainly worth the journey.
side dish of potatoes with a fennel, tomato and herb broth was also served on
the side. We accompanied the main dish with a half bottle of Chateau Simone
blanc from the tiny Palette appellation. The 2006 vintage is particularly good. This wine is made from a blend of Clairette, Grenache blanc and Ugni Blanc
with tiny amounts of Bourboulenc and Muscats Blanc picked from very old vines.
Desserts were based on an apple theme with tiny cylinders of dried apple
sitting on meringue-based confections along a rectangular plate and an apple
sorbet served in a silver spoon on the side. This was accompanied by the most
extraordinary apple 'wafers' - long, incredibly thin stands of intense dried
apple puree that snapped as soon as you touched them.
And finally to the mignardise. These often disappoint as they seem like an
afterthought. Here they were just as complex and interesting as every other
dish. Gems such as an intense mango and mint mousse sat alongside a tiny lemon
'tart' which vied for attention with a kiwi fruit, basil and almond cream among
This was a great end to an almost perfect meal.