Where do you eat in a small town on the Normandy coast? Well, if your friends know the mayor, who is justifiably proud of this lovely beach resort 40 kilometers from Le Mont-Saint-Michel, let him make the decision. And that was a fine idea. My only regret is that we didn’t have more time to try some other restaurants, because the two we enjoyed were both excellent, charming and, most important, they served innovative and interesting food.
We began at La Promenade, a seaside restaurant in a building that was used as a hospital by the Nazis until it was liberated by American forces in 1944. We sat on the patio overlooking a beautiful beach, drinking champagne and snacking on an amuse bouche that was unidentifiable, but quite tasty. After the champagne was finished (all too quickly) we adjourned to a table inside the restaurant. The menu was fairly short, but the prix fixe seemed like the perfect meal, because the choice for the first course was either oysters, or foie* gras and magret de canard. Like a fool, I didn’t order both, but I was saved by nine of the best oysters I have ever had. We were in a region renowned for its seafood, but these were so fresh and crisp and briny, with a richness and creaminess that tempered the brine, that they must have been some special oyster that is only harvested by sea nymphs during a full moon. Or maybe they were typical, in which case I will be blogging from Normandy from now on. The foie gras looked great, and the magret de canard, those beautiful slices of smoked duck breast, looked just as good, but my friend ate his too quickly and I couldn’t get any. I was too embarrassed to ask his wife or Monsieur Le Mayor for any of theirs.
The second course was an elegantly presented, crisply sautéed rouget. Or rather, four of these wonderful fish. They had been boned, so they were easy to eat, especially the wonderfully crunchy tails. The rouget were served on a bed of decadent mashed potatoes, with a small portion of spinach that was rich enough to make me suspect that it had been poached in butter. Alongside the spinach were several tiny wedges of something that I couldn’t identify, until I bit into one of them. But what a delight to discover small slices of artichoke heart that had been fried in — you guessed it — butter! They were almost crunchy but just thick enough to retain the flavor of the artichoke. Fantastic. Oh, there were a few yellow beans scattered about, just so that the meal could be considered healthy. And they were pretty damned good on their own.
For dessert, I was bullied into having the regional specialty called Tarte Tatin. Just think of the best apple pie you have ever had, multiply the deliciousness by ten, and then toss the thought away, because it was so much better that words can’t describe it. The tarte itself was ethereally light, made with a pastry dough that seemed more like a mille-feuille and, needless to say, incredibly buttery. The apples were unbelievably sweet and buttery, with a touch of tartness that balanced the flavors perfectly. We were near apple country, so this didn’t surprise me.
We drank a Loire Valley white with dinner, a Les Couronnières Saumur-Champigny that went nicely with the rich seafood. And something else, but I didn’t write it down and don’t remember. But my guess is that any of the bottles on the menu will be good. If you are lucky enough to eat at this wonderful little restaurant, just ask the waiter for advice. Or, if you are really lucky, hope that the mayor is eating there and ask him to choose for you.
This is not a Michelin starred restaurant, and the town has a relaxed atmosphere that probably wouldn’t support a more formal eating experience. But if you are in the region and need a place to eat some excellent local cuisine, this is a great place.
*Thank you, Tommy, for the spelling check!