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
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
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).
Brittany Ferries, Condor Ferries and DFDS
run car ferries from Newhaven, Poole and Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg, Dieppe
and Le Havre (from £115). You can also take your car on the Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais (from
£94 return), then drive on to Normandy (about two hours to Rouen).
Alternatively, fly or get the Eurostar to
Paris – Rouen is 70 minutes by train from Paris Gare St-Lazare (from £22). Bus
services between smaller towns and villages are infrequent, so, to really
explore the rural areas and D-Day beaches you’ll need your own wheels.
Where to stay
To enter the 13th-century Ferme de la
Rançonnière is to be transported to another era. Half-timbered rooms in
this fortified farm are elegantly furnished, and the restaurant is excellent
too (Crépon; from £80).
La Maison de Lucie
in Honfleur is decorated with antiques and contemporary objets d’art. Some
bedrooms have Moroccan-tile bathrooms, and the shady terrace is ideal for a
summer breakfast (44 Rue des Capucins; from £165).
Hôtel de Bourgtheroulde
is a former private mansion in Rouen that’s been converted to a luxury hotel.
The rooms are large and beautifully designed, and the lobby’s glass floor looks
down to a pool below (15 Place de la Pucelle; from £250).
The article 'Mini guide to food and drink in Normandy' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.