Last year I enthused about Chez Hortense, a favourite restaurant of generations of visitors to Cap Ferret. The Cap Ferret peninsular and the town of Cap Ferret itself is the kind of place that people return to year after year for their summer holidays, and Chez Hortense oozes the kind of reassuring, traditional charm that draws people back. Perched on the water's edge at the very tip (La Pointe) of Cap Ferret, and with stunning views across to the Dune de Pyla, it's rather dreamy. It ticks those fantasy French holiday boxes. (This little film on You Tube sums it up delightfully.)
Well, I returned this summer and wasn't disappointed second time around. What's more my husband and daughter, who missed out last year, were fully in agreement, with 6-year-old Alice declaring "This is a superb restaurant!". We had a selection of dishes including some magnificent langoustines, but my favourite is their decadent mussels enriched by jambon de Bayonne and almost certainly goose or duck fat. Our reasonably priced bottle of Graves, Graville Lacoste 2010, was appetisingly fresh and zesty with all this rich seafood and kept things nicely local.
Apparently, the moules frites recipe has been a well guarded secret at Chez Hortense for several decades, but this should result in something similar:
Wash and de-beard 4 litres of mussels. Mince or finely chop 4 thick slices of Bayonne ham (prosciutto, Serrano or thick cut smoked bacon would be fine) or a skinned Toulouse sausage. Add 4 tablespoons of oil (or goose or duck fat) to a large sauté pan and briefly fry the ham, bacon or sausage with 5 crushed garlic cloves. Finely chop half a bunch of flat leaf parsley and add to the ham and garlic, along with 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Leave to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Over a high heat, quickly cook the mussels in some white wine (about a glass) – dry white Bordeaux is the authentic choice, but any other crisp, fresh white would be good (whatever you fancy drinking with the finished dish). Once the mussels have opened up, add them and their juices to the other pan, stir well to combine everything thoroughly and serve hot – ideally with mounds of frites and a sea view.