Auberge Sauvage, Le Mont Saint Michel
In a tranquil village within sight of Le Mont St Michel, you can find Auberge Sauvage. Focused on providing sustainable and delicious cuisine, Thomas and Jessica's hotel-restaurant nestles amongst enthusiastic flourishes of wildflowers and silent stone buildings, itself a former presbytery. A feeling of serenity welcomes you and lingers comfortingly throughout the rest of your stay.
The restaurant's understated, raw and earthy design too pairs perfectly with their approach to food and sustainability.
The sun was dipping ever closer to its setting and its softening glow filled the interior, skimming across the tops of tables, warming the diners. The eight courses arrived like paintings; herb bouquets to be swept through a light sauce, a column of thinly sliced courgettes. I stayed overnight and was greeted by a dainty petit-déjeuner before continuing with my journey. Their dedication to beautiful presentation and exceptional home-grown ingredients was clear and impactful.
After bidding adieu to Auberge Sauvage, we drove onwards, up the coast towards Granville. Renowned as the picturesque childhood home of Christian Dior, the town inspired some of his most famous motifs, like the lily of the valley flower, and was commemorated in the eponymic perfume. Reunited with the small beach town, I too was instantly reminded of my summer memories there as a child, as I would often stay at my family friends' house in the neighbouring town of Joulouville. One particularly stormy afternoon, whilst visiting the Granville seaside, our French friends parked their Citroën 2CV on the quay, only for it to be blown into the sea! Thankfully, once it was hauled out later, the car started almost instantly.
As well as being home to these memories and France's most loved couturier, Granville is the home of restaurant L'Edulis, though, as it is so unassumingly tucked away, you might not know it.
A rainy day gave us the perfect excuse to have a long lunch and fully immerse ourselves in Jonathan Datin's adventurous cuisine. His love for experimenting with colour and texture was apparent in his Gazpacho, which combined traditional ingredients with a bright orange mussel sat atop vivid green sorbet basilic, but for me, the greatest dish was his ingenious transformation of a cheese course. The emulsion de Camembert (see left hand image below) was a creamy, light, mellow Norman Camembert topped with a sprinkling of chopped herbs - for this course alone I would willingly drive across France once again.
Le Central, Trouville
Le Central, despite not receiving the same prestige as the other restaurants I encountered on my travels through Normandy, had a personal connection that none of the others could match. The grandmother, Suzanne Guimard, of one of my closest and oldest friends, Nathalie, in fact was heavily involved in the business. François, Suzanne’s son, told me about his memories of this time:
My mum ran the ‘Central’ from the end of the war in 1945 until the mid-1950's. Trouville then was already a fashionable destination for Parisians, but the motorway did not exist; it took hours to get there on small roads devastated by the bombings; there was still anti-landing gear and mines on the beach and we played in bunkers that were still intact. [...] Mum only opened for a few days at Easter and then opened properly at the end of June. She closed on August 31st, when everybody left town after the Deauville Grand Prix.
The Brasserie's long history is still clearly embraced there today. Vintage early and mid-century adverts for Byrrh and St Raphael are framed and hung liberally amongst the French bistro style décor, bringing colour and flair to the otherwise plain room. It is simple and no nonsense with a charming, retro feel which harkens back to Suzanne's generation.
Most summers I like to stop in Trouville and go to Le Central for lunch, piling my plate high with moules marinière, whitebait and langoustines. We always leave before desert (in need of some exercise by then!) and then stroll along to Glacier Martine Lambert: another well-loved institution of Trouville whose sorbets I have eaten since I was a very small child.
Normandy's gastronomic offerings are various and diverse, indisputable in even the microcosmic array of dishes I sampled in my short trip. From timeless classics to their ingeniously evolved counterparts, to avant-garde and progressive sustainable gastronomy, Normandy is home to some of the finest cuisine France has to offer. Make sure to visit these restaruants when you are next nearby - they are truly, as the French say, 'vaux le visite, même le détour'.