Mini guide to food and drink in Normandy
Sights such as the Bayeux Tapestry, D-Day beaches, Monet’s garden in Giverny and Mont St-Michel are Normandy’s historic draws, but its abundant seafood, cheeses and cider are the best way to fill gaps between sightseeing.
An old-time Cherbourg bistro, complete with red velvet curtains and red lights, La Régence is housed in a hotel of the same name, right on the harbour. It serves traditional fish, seafood and meat mains, and specialities include mussels, fish soup and scallops with a fondue of leeks and a velouté of prawns (42 Quai de Caligny; mains from £10).
It’s well worth reserving ahead for Le bouchon du vaugueux, a buzzing restaurant in Caen, which serves modern Norman cooking with a wonderful choice of well-priced wines. It’s a locals’ place, so there’s no translation of the chalk-board menu, which might include pork cheek and snail cassoulet, and duck à l’orange (12 Rue Graindorge; closed Sun & Mon; three-course lunch menu from £17).
La Petite Auberge, a traditional French restaurant, is possibly Le Havre’s most charming dining option, with its romantic, low-beamed dining room. There are good-value weekday and lunch menus, and ingredients are seasonal. Dishes to expect include duck foie gras with fig marmalade, and cod cooked Dieppe-style, with cream, white wine, mussels, shrimps and mushrooms (32 Rue de Ste Adresse; closed Sun eve, Mon & Wed noon; three-course lunch menu £22).
On the go
Trouville has long been famous for its fishing port and its newly restored covered fish market is the place to head to for the local catch – there are stalls selling mussels, sole, mackerel, scallops and, of course, oysters. Enjoy a waterfront picnic of oysters with lemon (around £7 a dozen) and a glass of chilled white wine (corner Bd Fernand Moureaux & Rue des Bains; 10am–6pm daily).
Just a few yards off Rouen’s old market square (the market hall itself is a newer building), Fromagerie du vieux marché ,run by expert fromager Léon Déant, specialises in Normandy cheeses such as heart-shaped Neufchâtel, a soft creamy cheese (00 33 2 35 71 11 00; 18 Rue Rollon; closed Sun afternoon & Mon; small Neufchâtel £2). The nearby market is open every morning except on Mondays.
Located in Bayeux just north of the cathedral (and named after William the Conqueror’s queen), a La Reine Mathilde is a patisserie and tea salon designed in the sumptuous style of the 1900s, with a wide array of sweet confections on offer. There’s seating here, so, if you have the time, it’s a great spot for a croissant or pain au chocolat for breakfast, or for macaroons with afternoon tea (00 33 2 31 92 00 59; 47 Rue St-Martin; closed Mon; patisseries from £1.60).
Gill is the place to go in Rouen for French cuisine of the highest order, served in an ultramodern dining room on the banks of the Seine. Specialities include Breton lobster with fennel ravioli and lobster bisque, and there’s also a seven-course tasting menu for £80 (8–9 Quai de la Bourse; closed Sun & Mon, plus holidays in Apr & Aug; three-course menus from £32).
Facing the Vieux Port in Honfleur, L’Absinthe serves sophisticated French cuisine made with seasonal produce. Specialities include sole meunière, roasted pigeon and blue Breton lobster. It’s a good idea to reserve ahead for Saturday dinner and Sunday lunch, and there are cosy rooms in its hotel (10 Quai de la Quarantaine; three-course menus from £28).
A home from home in Trouville for Parisian weekenders and even for the odd movie star during the Deauville American Film Festival, Les Vapeurs has a selection of locally inspired fish and seafood dishes served up in a grand brasserie style befitting of the Art Deco surrounds. Unusually for France, the menu offers à la carte dishes only (160–162 Quai Fernand Moureaux; mains from £13).