Easter in Normandy – Gourmand holiday

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After weeks of rebuilding, fixing, polishing our 1961 Mini was ready to go on another #miniadventure. We made our way towards the coast on a Thursday afternoon, aiming to catch the 22.30 ferry. We made it to Dieppe a few hours later, after a few scary glitches on the car put our trip in jeopardy for a bit. 

Cidre in the sun

After a few hours resting in an Etap room, our first stop of the morning was Norauto – a heaven for @bmcboy who even declared it a better shop than Halfords! 
With a few supplies and spares extra, we drove south, towards Etretat where a cosy room was awaiting for us at the overpriced but quaint Donjon St Clair. Our first stop however was for food of course. In the fairly touristy Etretat we stopped in one of the local brasseries, picked mainly because it had tables in the sun. Our first Norman lunch consisted of course of a boule of cidre (I love french cidre much more than British cider, sorry Brits!) and a pot of Moules. An enormous pot in fact. I think I have had enough mussels for the year, it must have been well over a kilo of the black mollusc – it was nice but way too much.

For the evening, we had a rendez-vous with my uncle and auntie who have a penchant (how many french words can I use in this one post?) for France and all things french. They had read that the best restaurant in Etretat was that of our hotel and there we ate, instead of my suggested interesting looking downtown elegant spot called Le Galion. Good decision? Not really. 
The food in the hotel was quite pretentious, being a three course meal with not a huge amount of choice. We passed on the red mullet starter which apparently was quite awful, we sipped through the amouse bouche which was a cold and very creamy asparagus soup, and we got to the main course which for me was roasted John Dory with mango and pineapple – it was ok, not too bad actually but nothing mind blowing. The dessert here was a good looking but plain tasting Sable’ with Rhubarb and raspberries. Forgettable. 
We soon retired to the lounge for a mint tea and a Calvados.
Isigny Salmon at Sa.Qua.Na

The next day, under a grey sky, we went further south – as a major Romanesque abbey was seemingly too far, uncle and auntie suggested the lovely and fairly touristy town of Honfleur. 
They had in fact booked a Michelin starred restaurant as they felt the need of some good food. Great idea. Shame that they omitted to tell us it was a 10 course meal which lasted over 4 hours. 
Fat Duck it was not and, although the food was extremely interesting, I might not have opted for such a long lunch in such a beautiful, full of history location. 
Give me a WWII museum, I am rather happy. 

But this is a food blog. So how was the food? Sa.Qua.Na was indeed very good – two Michelin stars seem surely well earned, apart from too long pauses between courses and some dishes less flavoursome than others, I really enjoyed some of the courses, particularly the Fillet of sea bream, first asparagus radish seaweeds and rebaked bread and a deliciously light poached Monkfish with lime, lovage and coriander leaves in a coconut broth. I wasn’t too convinced by a barely cooked salmon with an emulsion of oysters and lettuce and squid ink tempura – I found the oysters’ emulsion too overpowering and paired with the uncooked chunky piece of salmon, a bit sickening. A Roasted saddle of lamb was disappointing as too pink for our liking and lacking our British lamb flavour, although the white beans and orange blossom puree was a stroke of genius.

Meringues at Sa.Qua.Na.

Two desserts, a cute ice cream pot and petit fours seemed way too much to manage but the caramelised meringues were gorgeous – light, fluffy and nicely complemented by the burnt biscuit. All in all, a really enjoyable, if too long, meal with great service in a beautiful location.

In the evening, we found ourselves in need of nourishment, amazingly. Our hotel in Eu (Domaine de Joinville) was pretty enough (apart from some very dodgy and debatable decor) but they had no space for dinner. 

We ventured to the port of Treport, 2 minutes away and upon recommendation by the waiter, we found a table at le Saint Luis. Now, the whole of the seaside town sea front is covered in pretty tacky, neon lit, colourful restaurants. Le St Louis was no different. Hurried service, Titanic style maritime mementos all over, fake parrots hanging from the ceiling, tanks with barely alive lobsters and so forth. In we went. We actually had a decent meal, I enjoyed an average but satisfying salad with herring and salmon while @bmcboy a good steak with roasted potatoes.

Gigot d'agneau
Gigot d’agneau

The following day was Easter Sunday and we had booked nowhere… after driving around in the rain for a while, visiting the lovely town of St Valery sur Somme and finding no place with availability, we drove through the mystic looking seaside town of Ault where we found space for a late lunch at Hotel de Paris. It sounded a lot better than it looked, but I learned not to trust first impressions, so we sat down and ordered our food. Surrounded by not the most attractive looking locals, we actually enjoyed a nice, earthy, fairly genuine meal. I had Gigot d’agneau and a starter of a local crepe – half Normand, half Picard as we were on the border, to the displeasure of my auntie who feels Picardie is not as beautiful as Normandie. They looked the same to me. 

Le meme
Sole on the Titanic

The evening meal? We couldn’t skip it! I had booked the well reviewed, modern looking Grain d’Sel at Treport.. but alas, my uncle and auntie felt strongly against it, so we should go back to the mock Titanic le St Louis. Grumpy enough, I managed to enjoy a dish of cold langoustine and prawns, while @bmcboy opted for a sole, which was almost decent enough to make us forget the surroundings. 

The next day was our last day and we left our uncle and auntie to make their way back to Paris leisurely, while we drove off in the rain back towards Dieppe. 
We did stop in many places on the way, finally adding a bit of culture to the food heavy holiday. 

Cheesy salad

We then picked a cute corner restaurant for our lunch, and we picked well. Not very touristy looking, full of locals and regulars, this seemed to be a place specialised in eggs (!) and dairy products. 
Eggs and hens were everywhere, the service was friendly, had a family feeling and we really liked the food. I had a Cheese salad, with smelly, melting french cheese which was delicious, @bmcboy the last marmite of moules of the break and an onglet with potatoes. Lovely. We even bought 3 bottles of the Cidre they had, which was possibly the best we have ever tasted in France.

Whipped cream

We left after a quick dash to Auchan, where we stocked up on nowhere near enough cheese and wine (the maximum amount is 90 litres!)

On a final note…coffee making outside of Paris is still an unknown skill. When I asked for a cafe au lait I was served an espresso with some milk, and when I asked for a cappuccino, this beauty… ’nuff said.



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