Skip to main content

LA CAMBUSE DU SAUNIER, GRUISSAN: RESTAURANT REVIEW

Salt has always been a valuable commodity. From preserving meat and fish to enhancing the flavor of cooked foods to enticing wild game out into the open, salt has a permanent place in human history going back millennia. And so wherever the configuration of sea and shore facilitate the large-scale evaporation of sea water over the shallows leaving sea salt behind, humans have taken advantage. One such place is outside of Gruissan along the Mediterranean coast not far from Narbonne. Salt has been harvested there for generations, hundreds if not thousands of years.

There are restaurants at destinations, restaurants that benefit from their location in an area that attracts tourists, and there are destination restaurants, restaurants that are sufficiently interesting in and of themselves to warrant going a bit out of your way to make a special visit. La Cambuse du Saunier on Gruissan's salt flats is a bit of both.

Uniquely situated directly adjacent to the salt flats, the sight of the pink-tinted drying pools and impressive mounds of harvested salt are almost worth the trip in themselves. Add a gift shop that features all sorts of salty stuff, the wines of the region, displays of tools used in the harvest now and in the past, and a tiny theater showing a short video describing the harvesting process and you really don't need to stop by the restaurant to enjoy your visit. La Cambuse is a restaurant at a destination.

But wait. There's more. La Cambuse presents varieties of seafood not always available even in local seafood restaurants. And many of the main dishes are baked in salt, giving both fish and meats unique flavors. For these and other reasons, La Cambuse is a destination restaurant.

As high season approaches, reservations are mandatory. When our party of five arrived, we were directed to one of a series of long picnic tables with benches where five places had been set. Our server greeted us with a very tasty, sweet aperitif, a small taste of rose wine that had been steeped with orange peels and fortified with anisette. We were given menus and a slate of the day's specials. Our orders came from both.

We began by sharing a dozen oysters and a dozen shrimp. The oysters were plump and briny, the shrimp sweet and mild. Four of our group chose the salad with bits of octopus, a full portion and well designed and executed. I had a bowl full of small, steamed clams with lots of butter and garlic. Yum!

Three of us chose main courses baked in salt - two had the sea bass and I had a duck breast. The fish, fully intact, came encrusted with salt. But once the skin had been peeled away, the ladies reported that there was no particular salt taste to the flesh which had survived moist and flavorful. My duck did carry the taste of the salt with it, different and interesting without being overpowering. The other two mains were a cassoulet featuring seche and a seafood assiette with a wide variety of forms and tastes, from razor clams to shrimp and more. All very satisfactory.

We were too full for dessert but three of us went for coffee. With a bottle of rose and a bottle of white en pichet the tab came to just over 200 euros for five. We found that a bit hefty. And there was a mix up with our order. Two mains were served at the same time as the starts and the other three arrived some time later. Apologies but no adjustments.

In sum, our visit to La Cambuse du Saunier was interesting and informative, with new sights and tastes. But given the value for dollar, this restaurant will not go into our regular rotation, either for ourselves or for visiting travelers. True foodies, maybe. But that's about it.

Read more of my reviews HERE.










Comments

Popular posts from this blog

GRAND CAFE OCCITAN: RESTAURANT REVIEW

  We made our way to a new restaurant the other day, up toward the hills past La Liviniere in the small town of Felines-Minervois. None of our party had been there before, but a friend had visited and said that she'd enjoyed it. She's a vegetarian. First clue. Now don't get me wrong. I have no gripe with those who choose to go meatless. I understand the environmental concerns and I understand the horrors of factory farming. But I also understand that form follows function in the design of tools, in the design of appliances, and in the design of human teeth. Our incisors and canines did not develop over the course of hundreds of thousands of years to rend the flesh of a fresh-caught broccoli. We are omnivores by design, Darwinian design. And I enjoy eating omni. Enough preamble... I never went inside the Grand Cafe Occitan. A young lady who would be our server met us at the front door of the nicely pointed old stone house, leading us to a pebble-covered courtyard on the side

DANCING AND SEXISM, JANET JACKSON, HILLARY AND DONALD, AND MORE: #16

   DANCING AND SEXISM Norman and I went to the same high school at the same time, we knew each other, but we had no classes together and weren't really friends. A big, ungainly kid, as a teenager Norman played keyboards for services at a local church. I learned some years after graduation that Norman had gone to a fine arts college and had worked his way up to Resident Organist at a major, big city Protestant congregation. Fast forward to our 25th or 30th high school reunion, I don't remember which. I do remember that when the dancing started, one couple who were obviously into ballroom dancing glided and posed across the floor with serious expressions on their faces. Carefully well rehearsed. Then Norman stepped on the floor, blue suit, white shirt, red tie and all. He stomped. He twirled. His arms and legs flew in every direction. Norman truly danced like no one was watching. I envy Norman's dancing to this day. Sanna Marin wears leather coats, goes to rock concerts, and

MONARCHY, BUTT PATTING, SELF CHECKOUT, AND RANDOM STUFF: #17

  MONARCHY It is not possible to be an English-speaking expat living in Europe without having gained some understanding of how the UK works and how UK policies and politics affect European life. And so, a word about the monarchy is in order today. I'm no monarchist. As an American, I have grown up believing in liberal democracy. Today, I consider myself a democratic socialist. But I have come to appreciate the manner in which British royalty has accommodated itself to the modern world. There is no doubt that accommodation has diminished the role of the monarch. That's probably a good thing. But a diminished monarchy need not necessarily herald the end of the monarchy. Elizabeth's monarchy became simply the personification of her country's flag, to be trotted out to acknowledge community, in good times and in sad times, expressing publicly what was being felt privately. There was a time, during Brexit, when I was furious with Elizabeth. As one of the richest, most well-