Subscriber OnlyRestaurants

Savoir Fare, Westport, review: Simple and utterly beautiful food in a charming restaurant

This daytime restaurant serving traditional French food is worth a special journey

Savoir Fare
    
Address: Bridge Street, Westport, Co Mayo, F28X622
Telephone: 098 60095
Cuisine: French
Cost: €€

I was in Mayo for a wine weekend at Knockranny House recently, and it seemed like everyone had the same idea. I had lunch at Savoir Fare on Friday, and chatting to Zsolt Lukács of Daróg, well, he had lunch there on the Saturday before the tasting, and a clatter of others did too.

Such is the draw of Savoir Fare, the small, daytime restaurant and deli in Westport owned by Alain Morice and his Spanish wife, Nuria Brisa. They have just celebrated their fifth year in business, which is pretty spectacular considering it spans the decidedly difficult years for the hospitality industry.

We arrive early, at 12.45pm, and are lucky to get a table. It is a 20-seater, for walk-ins only. A few extra seats were added last summer with a new counter and high stools by the window, and if the sun is shining, there are a few tables outside.

It is a compact, atmospheric room with a small deli counter filled with cheese, but the mood is very much French wine bar. At the far end of the room, the white wall is lined with shelves made from old crates housing an interesting selection of low intervention wines. The tables are made from Burgundy oak barrels and premier cru wine boxes. A slicing machine and coffee machine sit on a counter which originally served time in a bakery in Normandy.


Behind me on the wall there is a large map of Ireland carved from lightly spalted Irish beech by Ed Forristal, who has a studio just outside Westport. Tags hang from fine nails identifying the location of artisan producers around the country who feature on the menu, including The French Table Charcuterie, Gubbeen, Coolattin, Silke Cropp, Glasraí Farm and Wild Irish Foragers.

The short menu is on a single sheet, featuring charcuterie and cheeses and a couple of hot dishes; the specials are chalked up on a board. The wine list is equally short, with quite a few options by the glass. You can get a flight of wines by Róisín Curley, a Master of Wine who is a Mayo native. We go for a glass of her Bouzeron Aligoté (€13) and white Bourgogne (€15).

I am here for the pâté en croute which has been on the menu at Savoir Fare since day one. Morice makes a different one each week. It’s a lengthy process that takes a number of days. The meat is marinated, the pastry is made, and the pate is built and cooked before a boozy jelly is poured in and allowed to set. It is generally available as a special from Thursday to Saturday.

A generous slice of pâté en croute (€13) on a Forristal Woodwork board is accompanied by pickled beetroot and a beetroot purée. The pastry is golden and crisp with a buttery flavour and encases a pork forcemeat studded with beau morceaux, chunks of pork, figs and herbs. It is meaty, nuanced and absolutely delicious.

Galway snails à la Bourguignonne (€10) arrive in the traditional escargot baking dish, cooked gently in the perfect amount of garlic and butter under a flurry of parsley, with juices to be mopped up with bread and faces to be dabbed with crisp white napkins. The bean cassoulet (€13) in a creamy sauce is vegan but doesn’t suffer in any way from not having dairy cream. It is topped with greens and dusted with sesame seeds, pine nuts and coriander to add crunch, texture and aromatics.

The roast chicken Dauphinoise (€17) is a generous portion, a leg, wing and slice of organic breast meat lying on top of beautifully seasoned potatoes in rich cream, doused in the most delicious gravy.

Morice’s sister Fiona is the person responsible for the desserts, and today it is flan (€5.75), a custard tart in a golden, biscuity pastry. Our other dessert is café gourmand (€10), a coffee (or tea) with three mignardises, delightful mini desserts. Chocolate mousse in a small glass bowl is light and aerated, the apple crumble is clearly a portion from a large one where the crumble has been allowed to cook slowly and meld into the apple, and the third bite is a home-made jammy dodger.

Morice cooks with a classic French sensibility using the best produce you can find in this country. His food is simple and utterly beautiful. So is the room and everything about this delightful restaurant. I wish Savoir Fare was down the road from me.

Lunch for two with two glasses of wine was €86.75.

The verdict: A charming restaurant serving traditional French food.

Food provenance: Keem Bay fish, Lunasa Farm, Glasraí Farm, Western Shore organic chicken and Mad Yolk Farm.

Vegetarian options: Changes regularly, could be Puy lentil minestrone, goat’s cheese fritters, and bean cassoulet.

Wheelchair access: Accessible room with no accessible toilet.

Music: None, it’s a room filled with happy chatter.

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly restaurant column