Les Oiseaux

(Anse de Rochers)

 

Date of Review: May 1998

Reviewer: Zebulon

 

- pronounced "wa - zoh"

 

Friday night we ate at Les Oiseaux. It was highly recommended by Fodors '98. It is on a hillside outside of St. Francois, on the way towards Ste. Anne. We arranged for a taxi at the last minute, so the (evidently) one taxi driver in St. Francois who had a van was apologetic, as he would not be able to pick us up after dinner. We didn't think this was a problem as, if worst came to worst, we could ride back into town in two smaller taxis.

Although the hillside location hints at nice views during lunches, it was dark when we arrived for dinner. The sun sets pretty early in the southern Caribbean and twilights are short. It is dark by 7:45 or so, and was dark when we arrived. Fodors claims that Les Oiseaux has a view of the sea and lovely gardens, so perhaps it would be best to arrive before sunset.

Les Oiseaux is an open air restaurant and is nicely breezy due to its location. Heat was not a concern during dinner. The dining area is open on three sides, and is attached to a larger building. Evidently, there is an area upstairs as well, but it did not appear to be open in the off-season. The three outside walls are only about three feet high, making the dining area look a little bit like a car port. On the one wall that was attached to the building, there was some minimal decor such as a colonial era map of Guadeloupe. To be honest, there was not much to recommend about the decor.

Service was prompt and very friendly. The owner came by, asking if anyone would like a drink before dinner. The owner's wife makes a variety of spiced rum-infusions for before or after dinner. We indicated that we'd like to start with a bottle of wine. The owner then rolled over a tanned cow hide on a five foot frame. Written in chalk on the leather was the wine list. Porducers and vintages were not indicated. We had a so-so champagne, a nice Tavel rose, and a very nice Beaujolais.

Our wine order was taken, and the champagne arrived quickly. As a result of the friendly attentive service, we had already decided that we preferred Les Oiseaux to the Iguane Cafe, decor notwithstanding. While sipping our champagne, the owner swung the cow hide apparatus around, to reveal another five foot piece of leather with the evening's menu. The owner was especially proud of his entrecote (sirloin steak). It was prepared three different ways, the finest (the Pirate steak) having been aged in rum for a week. A variety of creative seafood dishes were also offered.

Guadeloupe has a nascent stockyard industry. Most of the cows are thin, overworked, and not very tasty. The best beef in Guadeloupe is not domestic, but imported (usually from Argentina). Unfortunately for me, Les Oiseaux used domestic beef. Although the sauce was nice, the Pirate steak was inedible. It really was the worst steak I have ever tasted. Steve's steak was the silver medal winner in the worst-steak-on-earth contest.

Everyone else ordered seafood and enjoyed their meals immensely. Steve and I looked forward to dessert while discussing the merits (and demerits) of our respective steaks. Our Prawn Queen had ordered "fruits du mer" (fruits of the sea). Fruits du mer appeared to consist, in large part, of prawns with their heads still on. We began fitting Denae for a prawn dress.

I ordered Ananas Sorprese for dessert. My thought process was that I could fill up my empty stomach with bananas. Although I knew "sorprese" translated to surprise, I did not guess what the surprise would be. It turns out that the suprise was that ananas are not bananas, but pineapple. Imagine my surprise when served a large flaming pineapple, which I didn't terribly care to eat. I was fortunately able to able to swap desserts with Steve, who had actually had the wisdom to order bananas, but apparently had a taste for flaming pineapples as well. As it turns out, the French word for "banana" is "banana". Oh, those crafty French.

At this point we discovered that we couldn't get a taxi back to our hotel. The owner had been calling on our behalf for quite some time to no avail. Not only could we not get the minivan taxi, we could not get a taxi of any kind. It was 10:30 p.m., and the taxi drivers who weren't otherwise occupied had gone to bed to dream of prawns and pineapples flambe.

After this realization, the owner volunteered our waitress and the cook (we were the last table) to drive us back to our hotel. After this kind gesture, the owner then apologized that his cook could not leave for a few minutes and served us all our choice of aged rum or a homemade orange liquer. The aged rum was quite good; I didn't taste the orange liquer.

In all, the friendliness and hospitality shown by the proprietor and the staff at Les Oiseaux was above and beyond the call of duty. The seafood dishes were quite good, superior to the Iguane Cafe. Provided that you don't order steak, and you do arrange for a return taxi, I recommend Les Oiseaux.