North coast gastronomy

Whether it’s a quick day hop or an overnight stay, a visit to your nearest French port could open up a whole gastronomic experience, full of small producers, specialist shops, local flavours and hidden culinary gems. Kate Chappell heads across the Channel on an unforgettable shopping trip

Whether it’s a quick day hop or an overnight stay, a visit to your nearest French port could open up a whole gastronomic experience, full of small producers, specialist shops, local flavours and hidden culinary gems. Kate Chappell heads across the Channel on an unforgettable shopping trip

Ferry port: Calais

France’s biggest passenger port might not be the first place you’d think of as a foodie mecca. Certainly, if you’re looking for cheap booze you can’t go wrong and if you are brave enough to explore acres of hypermarket, there are certainly some gastronomic delights to be had (although with a super-strong Euro, the bargain prices are starting to look more than a little familiar to British shoppers). But the busy industrial port and its environs are far more likely to be bypassed by the thousands of cars heading across the Channel every year as the more popular delights of France beckon.

For anyone who decides to linger though, the Pas-de-Calais region is full to bursting with delicious local specialities, friendly food producers, smart delis and wine shops and some wonderful restaurants. Nip over for the day and stock up, or make a mini break of it and enjoy an amazing meal and a bottle (or two) of great wine without worrying about the drive home.

Getting there

By ferry (from Dover)

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P&O Ferries: 23 sailings daily (1 hour 30 minutes) www.poferries.com

Sea France: 15 sailings daily (1 hour 15 minutes) www.seafrance.com

By train (from Folkestone)

Eurotunnel: up to 3 shuttles per hour (35 minutes) www.eurotunnel.com

The markets

Calais’ own market in the Place d’Armes on Wednesdays and Saturdays (8am to 1pm) is a good place to find locally produced food. Look out for great cheeses, including the stinky local Maroilles, andouillettes from Arras or ostrich p�t� (yes, really!). If you’re feeling peckish while you shop, try anguilles au vert – eel cooked with spinach and sorrel leaves in white wine and served on delicious fried bread.

Alternatively, the market at Montreuil-sur-Mer (also Wednesday and Saturday mornings) is certainly worth the 40-minute drive from Calais. Set in the pretty town’s market square and overlooked by rows of shuttered windows, the stalls sell a huge array of produce to take home. The plaits of smoked garlic, with their autumnal aroma, are particularly lovely as gifts.

The shop

Charcuterie Maffrand

27 Rue des Fontinettes, Calais

Tel: (Fr) 3 21 36 57 41

This award-winning charcuterie and deli is a must-stop for foodies. Open every day except Sundays.

The producers

Christophe Noyon

The 2 Caps Brewery, Tardinghen

Tel: (Fr) 3 21 10 56 53

www.bieredes2caps.com

Noyon (pictured above) has a microbrewery in a farm high above the C�tes d’Opales (about 25 minutes’ drive from Calais) and produces some of France’s best beers. Stock up on blonde beers or try some of Noyon’s stout, Noire de Slack. Tastings are on offer Fridays and Saturdays.

Valerie Magniez

La Halte Autrefois, Hesmond

www.halte-autrefois.com

In the heart of the rolling Seven Valleys (around 50 minutes’ drive from Calais), Val�rie Magniez’s farm produces delicious organic goat’s chees and artisan bread.

You can even take a tour of the farm and have a go at milking the goats!

S�bastien Bailleul

Boulanger P�tissier S�bastien,

Audruicq

Tel: (Fr) 3 21 35 30 19

Master baker, confectioner and chocolate maker, S�bastien Bailleul has a shop in Audruicq (a 20-minute drive from Calais) which is the place for sweet treats. Bailleul uses local ingredients, including Calais’ famous chicory, in his concoctions. Open Monday to Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Hubert Delobelle

La Maison du Perl�,

Loison-sur-Cr�quoise

Tel: (Fr) 3 21 81 30 85

www.perledegroseille.com

Hubert Delobelle is almost as effervescent as the sparkling, fruit-based wines he produces. Made from redcurrants, cherries and raspberries grown in the Seven Valleys, Delobelle’s fizz is made in his tiny factory surrounded by wooded hills and green fields, where you can taste his wares. Open from May to September.

Vincent Lutun

Chicoree du Nord, Oye-Plage

Tel: (Fr) 3 21 82 17 67

The fields around Calais are famous for producing chicory. The last traditional roasting plant is at Oye-Plage, 20 minutes from Calais. Sample the taste and smell of freshly roasted chicory and buy some to take home with you. Open every day except Saturday.

The restaurant

L’�picure

1 Rue de la Gare, Wimereux

Tel: (Fr) 3 21 83 21 83

A small but chic restaurant in one of the Opal Coast’s most historic seaside resorts (about 25 minutes along the coast from Calais). Delicious and inventive dishes are made with lots of local ingredients – including fish caught that day – and the set menus are great value. Booking is essential.

Ferry port: Boulogne

Generally considered a more attractive jumping-off point than Calais, the bustling town of Boulogne is perhaps more conducive to a spot of foodie shopping. Still within easy reach of the delights of the Seven Valleys and the Opal Coast and, of course, all the other gastronomic attractions we’ve listed for Calais, Boulogne nevertheless has enough wonderful food shops on offer within the town centre to make a quick day trip an attractive option. You could even do the whole trip on foot.

Getting there

By ferry (from Dover)

LD Lines: 5 sailings daily (1 hour) www.ldlines.co.uk

The markets

Boulogne’s large open-air market (pictured above) takes place on Wednesday and Saturday mornings in the town’s pretty main square, Place Dalton. Hidden among the big stalls run by touring shop owners are smaller gems selling local produce that you won’t find elsewhere.

Look out for delicious flamiche aux poireaux (leek tarts), local honeys and jams and Terre de Brume, Boulogne’s very own beer.

Boulogne is probably most famous for its freshly caught fish and, for those who’ve planned ahead and brought a cool box, the town’s daily fish market is a seafood-lover’s paradise. Every morning on Quayside Gambetta, the fishermen and fishmongers display whatever has been caught that morning and will gut and prepare it for you as you watch.

The shops

Philippe Olivier Fromagerie

43 Rue Thiers, Boulogne

Tel: (Fr) 3 21 31 94 74

Arguably France’s best cheese shop, this legendary fromagerie is a must-visit on any trip to Boulogne. Run by Philippe Olivier (pictured top right) and almost hidden away in the new part of town, the small shop has more than 300 cheeses on offer, with local specialities taking pride of place.

The most famous is the smelly Vieux Boulogne, which is wonderful eaten there and then, but might not survive the ferry trip back!

H�diard

7 Rue Porte Neuve, Boulogne

Tel: (Fr) 3 21 31 65 47

www.hediard.com

The Boulogne branch of this chic Parisian chain of delicatessens is nestled among the ramparts of the very attractive old town. The interior is as mouthwatering as the jars, boxes and tins of delights on offer and there is no better place in town to find gifts for fellow foodies.

Chocolaterie de Beussent Lachelle

56 Rue Thiers, Boulogne

Tel: (Fr) 3 21 92 44 00

www.choco-france.com

This chic little shop offers artisan chocolates in every shape, colour and flavour. But for the real experience, visit the company’s chocolate factory in Beussent (half an hour south of Boulogne). Check the website for factory opening hours.

Le Chais

49 Rue des Deux Ponts, Boulogne

Tel: (Fr) 3 21 31 65 42

www.lechais.com

An Aladdin’s cave of fine wines, this friendly cellar holds more than 800 wines from all over France. With experts on hand to offer advice and arrange an impromptu tasting, this is as far from the booze cruise warehouse experience as you’re likely to get.

The restaurant

La Matelote

Boulevard Sainte Beuve, Boulogne

Tel: (Fr) 3 21 30 33 33

www.la-matelote.com

Boulogne’s best-known gastro destination is worth the ferry trip alone. Michelin-starred chef Tony Lestienne runs an exciting kitchen producing sumptuous dishes. The restaurant itself is cosy and colourful rather than grand, making it perfect for a luxurious lunchtime treat.

Ferry port: Dieppe

The journey to Dieppe may be longer than crossings to Calais or Boulogne, but the attractive Normandy port is perfect for an overnight trip and is a wonderful base for foodie delights. The town itself is most famous for its fish and seafood of course, but is also a great place to buy the many specialities produced in the beautiful north Normandy countryside – cider, cheese, rhubarb, galettes and bottles of Benedictine among them.

The town’s Saturday market is considered by many to be the best food market in northern France.

If you fancy stretching your legs (or your engine!), there are plenty more opportunities to stock up straight from the producers, all within an hour or so of Dieppe. Many farms, workshops and orchards are open for tastings and tours. Mix this up with a delicious meal and you’ll have found gastronomic heaven.

Getting there

By ferry (from Newhaven)

LD Lines; 16 sailings weekly (4 hours) www.ldlines.co.uk

The markets

Dieppe’s huge Saturday market is famous. Stalls stretch across Place Nationale on the Grande Rue and sell mountains of fresh local produce. Cheese, bread, fish, wine, cider and fruit entice a stream of shoppers from surrounding towns and villages and the atmosphere is always jolly. The market opens at 7am and runs until 1.30pm.

If you’re a fish fiend and don’t mind early mornings, the fish market on the Port de P�che every day is where you’ll be happiest. Dieppe’s restaurateurs pick up their seafood supplies there and you could take home some famous Dieppoise oysters if you’ve brought your cool bag.

The shop

L’�picier Olivier

16 Rue Saint-Jacques, Dieppe

Tel: (Fr) 2 35 84 22 55

www.epiceriefine-olivier.fr

Almost certainly Dieppe’s finest delicatessen, this food and wine emporium (pictured above) is run by the ubiquitous Olivier family and stocks the best of Norman produce, plus food and wine from further afield. Shelves filled with goodies tower high above you, while the cheese counter is truly legendary.

The producers

Fr�d�ric Dutot

Clos du Bourg, Saint-Saire

Tel: (Fr) 2 32 97 10 74

The very pretty village of Saint-Saire (about 50 minutes inland from Dieppe) is home to the Clos du Bourg orchard, where M. Dutot and his team make wonderful organic ciders. Tours and tastings can both be arranged and are well worth the effort, while the ciders and apple juice on sale are really delicious. Open every day except Sunday.

Mme. Brianchon

Fermes des Fontaines, Nesle-Hodeng

Tel: (Fr) 2 32 97 06 46

The formidable Mme. Brianchon (pictured left) and her family have worked on the family dairy farm for years and produce some of the best Neufch�tel cheeses in France. Situated within strict appellation boundaries, their heart-shaped wonders are the real deal and have won countless well-deserved awards. The farm is a short distance from Saint-Saire in rolling Norman countryside.

Agn�s & Bernard Dherb�court

Le Valaine, �tretat

Tel: (Fr) 2 35 27 14 02

www.levalaine.com

This tiny goat farm high above the sea at pretty �tretat (80 minutes along the coast from Dieppe) started with a romantic idea. M. Dherb�court, sad that his dairy-intolerant wife couldn’t enjoy the chocolates she loved, decided to make her favourites with goat’s milk instead. The result is some of the richest, most delicious chocolates in France, not to mention some great goat’s cheese to boot.

B�n�dictine

Palais B�n�dictine, F�camp

www.benedictine.fr

A visit to the jaw-dropping B�n�dictine Palace in seaside F�camp is about so much more than stocking up on bottles of the famous herby liqueur. The gothic turrets, grand halls and amazing art collections are just as fascinating as the distillery and production plant. After your tour, visit the palace cocktail bar for a huge choice of delicious drinks all featuring B�n�dictine (naturally!)

The restaurant

� La Marmite Dieppoise

8 Rue St-Jean, Dieppe

Tel: (Fr) 2 35 84 24 26

Dieppe has given its name to a very popular dish, so where better to enjoy la Marmite Dieppoise (pictured above) than at its namesake restaurant – one of the most popular in town? The stew, a deliciously creamy mixture of cod, turbot, monkfish and mussels, with a hint of curried spices, is heartwarming comfort food at its best and, made with fish straight from the harbour, is worth a trip to Dieppe alone.

Ferry port: Caen

Historic Caen (actually 15 kilometres from the Caen ferry terminal at Ouistreham), sits at the centre of one of the most prodigious gastronomic regions in France. The town itself, famous for its associations with William the Conqueror, is full of bustling delicatessens, caves, caf�s

and restaurants, but venture out into the Norman countryside and you’ll come across some of the world’s most famous foodie destinations – Camembert, Isigny, Calvados, Pont l’�v�que – all within a 90 minute drive. Stay overnight for a wonderful tour of tastes.

Getting there

By ferry (from Portsmouth)

Brittany Ferries: 3 sailings daily (6 hours) or high-speed crossing (March to October, 3 3/4 hours) www.brittany-ferries.co.uk

The markets

Caen has two large food markets; one on Fridays (the main weekly food market) on the Fosse Saint-Julien (pictured above and overleaf) and one on Sundays at Place Courtonne. Both are ideal for stocking up.

The shop

Chocolatier Charlotte Corday

114 Rue Saint-Jean, Caen

Tel: (Fr) 2 31 86 33 25

www.chocolat-corday.fr

Imagine the perfect French chocolate shop and you’ll probably be halfway towards this beautiful Caen boutique. Handmade chocs of every sort fill shelves and cabinets – perfect for gifts if you don’t eat them before you get home. For a true Norman treat, plump for the Calvados truffles or the traditional chocolate pralines.

The producers

Normandie Caramels

Isigny-sur-Mer

Tel: (Fr) 2 31 51 66 50

www.caramels-isigny.com

Made with the famously creamy Isigny butter, these toffees are enjoyed all over France, in fact all over the world. Visit the factory (about 45 minutes west of Caen) for a tour, demonstrations of how the toffees are made and a tasting, before filling your boot with bags of rich, buttery caramels.

Christian Drouin

Domaine Coeur de Lion,

Coudray-Rabut

Tel: (Fr) 2 31 64 30 05

www.calvados-drouin.com

Sitting in a lush, green valley with orchards on all sides (30 minutes from Caen), sits the half-timbered manor house and distillery of Christian Drouin and his family. Producers of award-winning Calvados, pommeau, cider and poir�, their small shop is packed with bottles you will want to take home with you. There is an opportunity to taste before you buy.

Domaine de Saint Hippolyte

Saint-Martin-de-la-Lieue

Tel: (Fr) 2 31 31 30 68

www.sainthippolyte.com

This beautiful 16th-century manor house close to Lisieux (just under an hour from Caen) is a tourist attraction in itself, with lovely landscaped gardens. But it also has its own small dairy farm and produces medal-winning Livarot and Pont l’�v�que cheeses – two of Normandy’s most famous exports.

Christiane & Jean-Pierre LeGrand

La Perce Haye, La Meurdraquiere

Tel: (Fr) 2 33 61 44 25

Just under an hour west of Caen, this small traditional honey producer sells its wares, but also enthusiastically welcomes visitors who can see the process of bee-keeping and honey-making. Fascinating and very delicious!

The restaurant

Le P’tit B

15 Rue de Vaugueux, Caen

Tel: (Fr) 2 31 93 50 76

On one of Caen’s most historic streets, this cosy bistro specialises in simple but delicious Norman dishes. You can enjoy lots of local produce in the half-timbered, 17th-century dining room.

Even more French food producers

For more information on France’s best local food producers, plus lots of places to taste, eat and buy their wares, check out this great website.

www.bienvenue-a-la-ferme.com