La Plaine sur Mer: Anne de Bretagne
Traveling in France during the fall is a special pleasure, because the summer crowds are gone, the sea’s warm enough for good swimming almost everywhere and the weather’s generally fine. I can’t think of a more delicious autumn destination for a long weekend than the Anne de Bretagne, a handsome contemporary hotel-restaurant with stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean near Pornic, in a quiet corner of Brittany. Chef-owner Philippe Vételé and his charming wife Michèle run this wonderful lodge, and if I often have a bone to pick with Bibendum, the mascot of the Michelin Guides, in this case I completely agree with the two stars he’s bestowed here.
I’m still savoring the midsummer lunch I enjoyed in the appealingly spare contemporary dining room with picture windows, modern art on the walls, parquet floors and well-dressed, widely spaced tables. Most amuse-bouches, or complimentary hors d’oeuvres, bore me, but the carpaccio of ormeaux (abalone) with lemon “caviar” (chopped lemon) and piment d’Espelette served at the beginning of my four-course “Menu Intemporel” was an enticing cameo confirmation of Vételé’s reputation as one of the greatest seafood chefs working in France today. And if I feared that the oyster-themed course that followed might be gimmicky, I was wrong again. It brilliantly parsed out the taste of the bivalve in a set of white porcelain shot glasses that held oyster sorbet; a cool, plump oyster in sea-water gelée; and a warm one in a light curry sauce. A dish of gently cooked baby and razor clams was another perfect expression of Vételé’s cooking style. “Everything I do is intended to delicately enhance and enunciate the natural taste of the products,” he says. Served with baby leeks, the shellfish were simply dressed with organic rapeseed oil and garnished with a scoop of sorbet made from whole-grain mustard and Banyuls wine vinegar. My main course, a fillet of John Dory, was pan-grilled with similar precision and served with diced razor clams, a delicious jus de cardes (cardoons) enriched with cooking juices, and poached cardoons in neat squares—a simple dish, but potent in its subtle range of textures and tastes. I finished up with a liquorice dacquoise, a layered meringue dessert topped with sweet baby carrots from the sandy fields around Nantes and a small scoop of cumin ice cream. I enjoyed the meal so much that I was envious of the vacationers who would have another go at Vételé’s wonderful cooking in the evening.
Port de la Gravette, La Plaine sur Mer, 02.40.21.54.72. Menus €32 and €39, Menu Intemporel €65, à la carte €90. website
Prices are approximate, per person, without wine.
Alexander Lobrano’s book Hungry for Paris is published by Random House. Find Hungry for Paris and more in our bookstore.
Originally published in the September 2011 issue of France Today; updated in October 2012
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