The name of Olivia and Didier Le Calvez’s new contemporary brasserie in their Hotel Le Toiras on the Ile de Ré refers to many Georges: the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris where the couple met when Didier was general manager there; US President George Washington, one of whose ancestors is from the Île de Ré; and the couple’s son, Georges. This same cosmopolitan spirit can be found in the chic and relaxed decoration of the Parisian decorator Pierre-Yves Rochon for the dining room and in the attractive modern French menu of chef Gregory Vingadassalon.
Autumn is an ideal period to visit the Ile de Ré, as I discovered during an excellent lunch on the vast terrace overlooking the port of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, a perfect setting for a gaze of first-rate and the pleasure of the lightly salty breezes that blow from the Atlantic Ocean on this chic island of Charente-Maritime.
Vingadassalon, who has worked at several Ducasse restaurants and most recently served as chef at the Hotel Burdigala in Bordeaux, has put together a mouth-watering menu of contemporary French comfort food featuring the best local, seasonal produce, and he has adapted and satisfies the various appetites of two Londoners and two Parisians over a long lunch on a balmy Indian summer day.
To start, we shared organic oyster appetizers from local oyster farmer Frédéric Voisin and a casserole of steamed mussels with cream, both deliciously succulent and perfectly cooked. Then the main courses ranged from a generously served lobster club sandwich instead of pollack cooked with salicornia seaweed (salicorne in French), and an impeccable sole meunière for two. We were all impressed by the precision of the cooking, the quality of the products used and the generosity of the portions.
Helpfully, this address is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serves late, and also has a short but focused children’s menu. In other words, it’s a perfect example of the kind of seaside vacation address one hopes to find in France.
Hôtel de Toiras, 1 quai Job Foran, Saint-Martin-de-Ré
Phone. (33) 05-46-35-40-32, Average à la carte € 50,
From France Today magazine