I’d love restaurant recommendations for our 3-week trip. We are starting in Rennes and driving a western loop from the Granite Coast to Carnac (mainly along the coast) and then cross country to St Milo and driving east along the coast as far as Bayeux and ending in Caen.
About 75% of the time will be in gites so food purveyor recommendations would also be useful as many dinners will be picnic at “home”.
Which month will you be visiting? The strawberries in Brittany are among the best in the world, and strawberry season starts in April.
I haven’t been to Brittany since 2008, so my recs are out-of-date. The dishes I remember most were the crêpes, the Cotriade (Breton fish stew), and Kouign Amann.
I chased that Kouign Amann dragon for close to a decade, having tried 5 or 6 versions in Montreal, over 2 dozen in Toronto, the DKA in NYC, and others when I was travelling. That first Kouign Amann was still the ideal Kouign Amann for me. I would have purchased it in Rennes or Pont Aven, but I can’t remember which pâtisserie.
I haven’t been further than Saint-Malo since pre-Covid and then only a weekend. I can only offer Istrenn in Hirel just south of Cancale. Untried by me, I’d also suggest Amiral Garden in Pleneuf-Val-André (a 30-min drive northeast from delightful Saint-Brieuc)… the chef used to run an excellent restaurant in Paris, Cézembre, but moved back home to Bretagne about 2 years ago… and it seems to be a bit more contemporary and could be a relief from all the folklorique on which it’s so easy to overdose in Bretagne. Especially if you are there for 3 weeks.
Douarnenez between sad Brest (nearly obliterated in WWII by Allied bombing) and Quimper is the birthplace of kouign amann and still prides itself on preserving its authenticity… which means a large pie-shaped confection rather than the smaller versions so popular today. Although there are the smaller versions (“kouignettes”) also available, the Douarnenez kouign amann is usually served by the slice and best eaten after being slightly warmed.
Speaking of Brest, have a look at the poem “Barbara” by Jacques Prévert or download from YouTube Yves Montand singing it and listen to it while driving through the Brest part of Sud Bretagne.
I’ll asked my neighbour for some food tips, she is from Brittany and goes back home several times a year. She always brought me some excellent kouign amann because I takes care of her cat when she’s away. Will you visit Cancale? The Japanese restaurant La Table de Breizh was very good with its tasting menu, serving mainly seafood. Been years I’ve visited le Coquillage, great lunch.
Thanks so much for reaching our to your neighbor for us. That’s very kind of you. We do plan to visit Concale so I’ll add that restaurant to our list.
I’m aware of the chilly weather which is a packing challenge. We will be going on to Portugal for a week where it will be quite warm so we need to pack for two climates. We usually travel light but I’m not sure if I’ll manage that this trip.
For shopping to stock up for your first gîte, Rennes has some superb “marchés”. The biggest and the best is the “marché hebdo”/ weekly market on place des Lices on Saturday morning. For other days Les Halles/ Marché de la Criée just off boulevard La Liberté/ rue Nemours is an all-day daily covered market… some of the vendors take very long lunch breaks from 1:30 or 2 to 4 or 4:30.
There are lots of “marchés hebdos” throughout Bretagne. They change from place to place depending on the day of the week and you almost need a spread sheet to keep track. There are websites that give the time and place of marchés hebdos but none are totally reliable so crosscheck from several sites or, even better, just ask around once you get there. Some of the département websites (Finistère, Morbihan, Ille-et-Vilaine, etc could also have info on marchés hebdos.
(John Hartley - a culinary patriot eating & cooking in Northwest England)
Any lunch recommendations for Saint-Malo, please. We’re there just for the day, on a cruise.
Daniel - What a terrific idea to get the food in Rennes; it never would have occurred to me! We will be there on Friday so no marchés hebdo but the Criée Marché is a 2 min walk from our hotel so it’s perfect. We can buy our food in the morning (how much will depend on when we’ll be able to get to our first weekly market) and then pick up our car and head out.
One of the best non-consumable weekly market purchases I made were small retractable (like an umbrella) mesh domes to keep the flies, etc off the food while eating in the garden. I bought 2 in Lourmarin in 2014 and they were so useful I bought 2 more in Libourne in 2019.
If it’s just a day trip, you will probably confine yourself to the historic and very picturesque centre/ St Malo intra-muros which is ultra-touristy but not as tacky as some other places i.e. Mont-Saint-Michel tend to be. Be prepared for a very large number of fellow Brits. Most visitors gravitate to one of the many crêperies and indeed crêpes are emblematic of Bretagne. It’s very difficult to single out just one crêperie in St Malo… even the bad ones are pretty good, especially if you are a foreigner. As a Parisian with lots of crepes under my belt over the years, I like A la Duchesse Anne (new owners, vastly improved), Grain Noir (but contemporary décor rather than the folklorique stuff that appeals to many foreigners), La Tourline on a picturesque little square loaded with other more “custesy” but less good restos, and, probably the most well-known and justifiably excellent guidebook reputation, Le Comptoir Breizh Café.
St Malo is also famous for its fish and shellfish. I tend to go to one of the beach or seaside restaurants for fish and can only recommend L’Ancrage in St Malo intra-muros. If you are willing to shake off the tourist dust and have the time to take a taxi to Cité d’Alet (about 2 km south St Malo intra-muros), I’m a big fan of La Corderie overlooking the bay and the 14th-century Tour Solidor.
If you want more gastro Michelin-starred places, Méson Chalut in St Malo intra-muros is superb. Some very creative riffs on trad Breton cuisine. But reservations probably required.
Perhaps not useful to Eva whose lodging seems to be secure, I give a shout-out to Chateau mont dol an easy drive from the bay and Cancale. A chambre d’hote, i.e., French b and B, staying in a large home with adorable hosts, super comfortable rooms and, best, a reserve ahead superb evening meal. We stayed here several nights before affording ourselves a night at Roellinger’s Cancale Les Remains. Easy drives to St. Malo, Cancale, Mont St. Michel. But dinner in this home is the most memorable p;art. We sat in front of a lively fire in the fireplace, candles, linens, and the hosts exceptional cuisine. A highlight of Brittany for us.
(John Hartley - a culinary patriot eating & cooking in Northwest England)
Many thanks for your suggestions, Daniel.
Our plan is, indeed, to stick to the historic centre, so the idea of a casual galette or seafood lunch certainly appeals. Certainly something local, as this isnt a region we’ve visited before - our usual short trips to France are to the Nord or Pas de Calais (always for research purposes about the Great War).
Since most recommendations are pre-covid I’ll try and get at least some quick observations posted when I get back mid-June. I’ll post a link to my detailed trip report, which I post on TripAdvisor, but that probably won’t be until July.