The fish on my plate had been speared that morning, by the chef himself.It was the most perfectly cooked, delicious, melt-in-the-mouth piece of sea bass I have eaten for many years and it had been caught from waters lapping a few hundred meters from the restaurant.
Where in the South West can you eat fish that superb? Exmouth, at Les Saveurs, a French restaurant owned by Chef Olivier Guyard and his wife, Sheila, that specialises in local seafood. They won Marco Pierre White’s Kitchen Wars last year but I just don’t think this little diamond of a restaurant has really had the recognition it deserves. This is a restaurant where the owners really care. A local fisherman told me how Olivier lovingly lifts scallops from the seabed like they were sleeping children that “mustn’t be wakened”, then leaves them to rest in seawater before serving them to make sure they are extra tender. Respect.
Olivier learnt his craft from his father before training formally and working through the ranks to become head chef and executive chef in establishments like Trade Winds and The Lobster Pot in Antiqua. Returning to Devon, he worked at Brocks Padstow, and was head chef at the Hotel Barcelona before opening his own restaurant in Exmouth. Bronzed, and barrel chested, with eyes like cut kiwis, that flash with enthusiasm, Olivier cooks with the delicacy of a Michelin chef and the vitality of a big game fisherman. At the end of the evening, he came out of the kitchen and gave us an impromptu demonstration of his spear fishing techniques. He is so obsessed, the coastguards are called out two or three times a year to look for him when he gets carried away in the water for 13 hours at a time. Sated and satisfied by our delicious meal, we stayed for hours listening to his tales of the sea.
Hidden away down a small pedestrianised street near the centre of Exmouth, their family run restaurant is friendly and warm with Sheila, and their son Patrick front of house. Address: 9 Tower St, Exmouth, Devon, EX8 1NT. Tel:01395 269 459
Please Note: Spear-fishing depends on the season and the weather, so not every dish is hand speared. Les Saveurs have excellent relations with local fish suppliers and the seafood is as fresh as it can be.