"Do you want to go to Sete? He says we will have the best bouillabaisse of our lives...""Done!" I shouted out immediately from the next room. Now truly, who on earth would say no to such an offer? Who would even need to think twice? Not me. I will go an-y-where for good food.
It turned out to be the stuff of dreams. The little family run restaurant that is so off the map that even locals get lost trying to find it. A gorgeous room filled with an eclectic art collection and low lighting. No music but the sound of the gulls bobbing on the waves just beyond the front door. Yes, please.
Our ami had called ahead to reserve bouillabaisse for four people. He knows the father, who is the owner, the son is the host and the other son the chef. We met them all. They treated us very kindly. Parce que je suis gourmande or because I am piggy, I wanted to start with oysters. We were after all sitting at 15 yards from the place where some of my very favorites come from. Our friends shot each other a glance and then looked quickly down at their menus but said nothing. The oysters! How they were divine! So creamy. I couldn't get over it. And so perfect with the white Clairette that had a fair whiff of sea salt in its golden bouquet. As the host/brother/son approached, hefting a silver platter, I started shaking my head in disbelief. Mais non! C'est pas possible! Mais si, it is possible. We each had our own dorade, plus enough rascasses, crevettes, encornets, rougets and some other extremely special (although alien-esque) fish that this was no mere bouillabaisse but a bouillabaisse royale. My hands trembled with excitement before...
...and were folded into a prayer of "Please, no more, I beg you" an hour later. Now kids, I can eat. I really can. I can put away enough sushi for a family of four and relish every bite. When I was invited to partake of the incredible, mind-blowing menu degustation at L'Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel in Arles, I was the last person partaking, even when my charming French honey was clutching the table. But here alas, I cried defeat.
Ooh la la, c'etait beaucoup. The crispy little toasts with aoïli, the saffron-perfumed gravy to dribble...all just phenomenal. A second bottle of wine washed the whole lot down and no, we did not get dessert.
Needless to say we were feeling rather...pleased with ourselves...at the end of such a meal. Certain members of the party even felt the necessity to pose "like fishhhermen!" Yep, that's right. While we finished our desperately needed coffee the chef took our Golden Retriever, Ben, for a walk on the beach, blithely ignoring the sign stating "No Dogs Allowed." The sun finally pushed the clouds out of the way. And our visit to Sete? Oh yes, it wasn't half bad either...
2 Place des Mouettes,
Tel.: 04 67 51 16 77
Open only in the evenings in the summer, a good idea to reserve and folks, Google Map it!