As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Normandy, Paul Bloomfield picks out a selection of places to eat in this wonderful foodie region of northern France.
Possibly more than any other region in France, Normandy knows how to make the most of its natural ingredients. Some flavours will be familiar: with bountiful orchards producing the finest apples, it’s no wonder Normandy is famed for its cider, calvados (apple brandy) and tarte Tatin – a delectable upside-down apple tart. Milk from cows grazing the emerald grass lend a distinctive flavour to a panoply of soft cheeses, most familiar being rich Camembert, ancient Neufchâtel and strongly scented Pont-l'Évêque. Unsurprisingly, there’s wonderful seafood, too, plus traditional salted caramels, goat pâté, pear cider and more.
It’s one thing to have the resources, another to know what to do with them. No problem here: from vegetarian restaurants to organic markets, farm shops and fine-dining eateries, the journey from farm to fork is made in style. We’ve rounded up the best places to buy and eat Normandy’s fabulous produce, helping you discover the region’s delightfully varied flavours.
La Ferme de l’Aritoire
A pair of goats might not seem like the most obvious wedding present, but for this couple it ignited a lifelong passion for goat farming. In 1983, Annie and Christian bought a ramshackled farmhouse and set about creating their business. Thirty years later, they now have fifty goats and a thriving fromagerie, artisan soap-making business (using herb and flower-infused goats milk) and farm shop selling, amongst other products, goat terrine and goat meat, all located on their farm in the depths of the Perche National Park. Open March-December. Their products can also be found in markets across the region. fermedelaritoire.com
Honfleur Organic Market
Held every Wednesday at Place Sainte-Catherine, Honfleur’s Organic Market has been running for nearly twenty years, selling 100% organic produce from local suppliers, from fruit and vegetables, bread, cheese and eggs, to cosmetics, wine, cider and meat. From 8.30 til 1pm (5pm during July and August)
Following the 2009 dairy strike when French farmers started protesting against the low price offered for their milk, this dairy farm started up the production of traditional salted-caramels using the milk from their own herd of Normande cows. The shop on site also sells a range of local produce, from cider and wine, to dairy produce straight from the farm. The farm also runs tours every Wednesday when you can learn about the production of Carameuh and its history.
La Maison Ferré
Along the Voie Verte cycle route which runs along the Canal des Deux Mers, just 5km from Mortagne au Perche, you’ll find this farm shop run by Grégoire Ferré who has taken over the apple production on his family’s 60 hectare farm, a third of which is given over to orchards. Open from April to September, this shop sells medium dry cider, Calvados, apple juice and sparkling apple juice, as well as other apple-based products, such as cider and apple jelly. A refreshing find when tackling the canal path in the heat of the summer!
Chateau de Canon
This beautiful 18th-century house and gardens – with foundations that go back to the Middle Ages – is a must-see for any visitor to the area. Wander the glorious interiors, roam the gardens (amongst the most beautiful in Normandy) with follies and swan-dotted lakes, and finish off with a visit to the cave à cidre – yes, one of Normandy’s finest chateaux has its very own cider cellar where you can sample and buy cider produced on the Canon estate, as well as apple juice, pear juice, marmalades, preserves and organic calvados. Open all year from 10am-7pm. chateaudecanon.com
La Maison du Vert
This pretty redbrick building used to be the village bakery, but the homemade organic bread served up by the small restaurant is only a tiny crumb of the story. The culinary delights are enough to turn the most staunch carnivore vegetarian – for the evening, at least. Tuck into wild mushroom and chestnut steak, homemade red gooseberry ice cream, wash it all down with homemade liquors and organic wines. In warm weather eat out amongst the orchards in the lush country gardens where chickens roam and sheep graze. There are three B&B rooms too if the prospect of a delicious organic breakfast is too much to ignore. maisonduvert.com/restaurant.htm
Le Bistrot des Ecuries
In the heart of the Perche National Park, full of forested hillsides and rolling landscapes, lies this 17th-century farmhouse, revived from ruin by foodies Ulli Rudolph and Sandrine Strauch who have blended their passions for fine wine, regional cuisine, and horses. The simple, daily-changing restaurant menu offers up plenty of local fare: try rib of beef with Belleme mushrooms or ravioli with Mortagne black pudding. There’s wine-tasting in the cellar, B&B rooms upstairs for overnight visitors, and stunning grounds and gardens to explore. If you arrive on horseback, there are stables and paddocks for your trusty steed. The owners have also partnered with Perch’Orizon to offer horse-riding excursions through the Perche region with a gourmet lunch stop. bistrot-des-ecuries.com
Much of what you’ll find on your plate at this family-run restaurant near arty Fecamp comes straight from the huge allotments in the lush gardens, from the herbs and sorrel to the radishes and peas; the orchards and fruit trees offer up quinces, apples, walnuts and chestnuts which make their way into flans, tarts and other mouthwatering puddings. There are lots of exciting local dishes on the menu too: rabbit terrine with red onion jam, local snails, smoked trout and mackerel from Fecamp (it’s an historic fishing town). The traditional half-timbered Norman manorhouse is home to husband and wife team Noémie et Jean-Charles Vautier who run this place with passion and spirit, and an unwavering respect for local culinary traditions.
Le Goût Sauvage
The ‘wild’ (‘sauvage’) in the name of this much-celebrated little restaurant gives away the nature of its food: ingredients are foraged locally, grown on site, caught in the sea (just a few kilometres away) or bought locally. The menu is simple and unfussy: expect things like grilled sea bream with buckwheat polenta, fruit crumbles, and local cheeses with homemade thyme and rosemary jelly; it’s very reasonably priced, too. Their website has reams on information on their local suppliers, who they talk of like old friends. Time your visit with one of their evening concerts – they regularly hold music events throughout the year. legoutsauvage.typepad.com
La Ferme des Mares
Tucked away in a maze of country lanes on the west of the Cherbourg peninsula is La Ferme des Mares, a small, chic hotel and restaurant headed up by a British chef with a passion for seasonal produce and French culinary traditions. As you’d hope from a restaurant within sniffing distance of the sea, fish makes a daily appearance on the menu: cuttlefish tagliatelle, seared scallops, roasted monkfish. For afters, try lemon thyme pannacotta or baked cheesecake with sour cherry sorbet. Roll up your sleeves and become chef for the day on one of Mike’s cookery courses. la-ferme-des-mares.com/en
Le Volet qui Penche
Whether you’re looking for a light lunch, an evening meal to linger over, or pre-theatre bottle of wine and charcuterie, you’d be hard pressed to find a better spot than this much-loved little restaurant set in a wine cellar in beautiful Bayeux. The limited menu is chalked up on the board daily – expect classic country French cuisine with fantastic local cheeses and a great wine selection. Generous, gracious host Pierre Henri will talk you through the wine lists. Great atmosphere, reasonable prices and all within striking distance of Bayeux’s top sights.
Le Logis de Brionne
In pretty Brionne's centre is this smart hotel/restaurant, whose head chef Alain Dupoix whips up exciting dishes influenced by the seasons. Vegetables come straight from the garden, pastries are homemade, and local farmers and vineyards provide meat and wine. Dishes include things like confit of duck with oregano and local turbot with lemon chutney jus. For afters try the delicious chestnut ice cream and homemade macaroons. Everything is beautifully presented and the attentive, descreet staff are a font of knowledge on ingredients and cooking methods. In summer, enjoy dining al fresco on the lovely terrace. lelogisdebrionne.com/
Le Jardin des Plumes
Surrounded by country gardens filled with weeping willows and duck ponds less than an hour from Paris, this hotel and restaurant in Giverny is one of the region's most popular. Tuck into fabulously inventive food amid glistening crystal chandeliers and Art Deco flourishes in the dining room. Top chefs serve classic dishes with a twist – French, fresh and modern: try the hake with lemongrass jus and the melt-in-the-mouth rack of local lamb.
For information on local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities, see our