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Solo CH in Paris/Brittany - Sep 2010

Hello All!

I am a LA CH visiting Paris(5? days) and Brittany(2?) in mid September for the first time.  Would greatly appreciate recs for breakfast and lunches mostly.  I will be solo so maybe places where it isn't absolutely overrun with people might be more comfortable.  I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be at dinners by myself, but I'm fine with a big lunch and light snacks for dinner. Unless there is a place I MUST eat for dinner.  Food is of the utmost importance, not scene and while I'd ideally like to eat like a local, I'm open to suggestion, no matter the type of cuisine. I've researched these boards endlessly and am quite overwhelmed.  I'd particularly appreciate suggestions for Brittany as I did not find as many recs for that region.  I'm a pastry and bread head so I plan on eating quite a bit of that with lots of butter whenst in Bretagne, any can't miss places?  I would say budget is not a concern, I'm pretty willing to go all out on this trip.  And I don't mind traveling a bit so no need to keep within a specific area(have flight tickets but no hotel reservations yet…).  TIA!

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  1. Brittany covers a very large area. Where in Brittany will you be based? For example, more toward Saint Malo or more toward Belle Ile? Or towad Brest?

    14 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Saint Malo, most likely. At the same time, I'm intrigued by Chez Jacky but don't know if it's worth the trek? I do quite like seafood.

      1. re: baloney

        Since budget is not a concern, you really should have lunch at L'Ambroisie. The only restaurant I've heard of that doesn't serve lunch is Le Pétrelle. Two days in Brittany sounds pretty hectic to me.

        1. re: fanoffrance

          Thanks for the quick recs! So do you guys think maybe I should give one or two of my Paris days to extend my time in Brittany? Best case, maybe I can rearrange my schedule to stay a few more days. Ah, not enough time either way!!

        2. re: baloney

          A couple of good eateries near St Malo:
          Am still heartbroken that chez Roellinger in Cancale is no more… One can still eat freshest oysters on the beach in Cancale.
          There is also a farm-inn Ferme de la porte, serving farm-fresh lamb, at Saint Jouan des Guerets between St Malo and Dinan, on a lovely spot on the river Rance. Cheap, simple, extremely fresh food.
          But if you have only 2 days and want to go to a restaurant in southern Brittany, it is best to base yourself in southern Brittany and not in Saint Malo. Already 2 days in St Malo is a lot of driving and back. The ferme also has a few chambres d'hote. In the summer oen can also pay to accompany the owner on a morning fishing trip on the river Rance.

          1. re: Parigi

            Yes, not sure why you'd chose Saint Malo for a short Brittany trip, now that Les Maisons de Bricourt is no more (though the Michelin seems to think that Le Coquillage is now the place where Roellinger cooks, but I'm skeptical). South Brittany has better food and is a nicer country -- think Thorel at l'Auberge Bretonne, Abadie at l'Amphytrion in Lorient, that other legendary place in La Roche-Bernard. And of course the crepes and the seafood everywhere -- but that's on both sides.

            North Brittany still has Patrick Jeffroy in Carantec.

            And I'm with Fanoffrance, you should try one of the really exceptional restaurants in Paris -- l'Ambroisie has the highest potential, but Ledoyen, l'Arpège, should also be considered if you're a very food-oriented foodie. And Savoy, Le Cinq, La Grande Cascade, Lasserre, Gagnaire are also top notch for the overall experience.

            1. re: souphie

              Hmmm, yes, I read about Les Maisons de Bricourt. Maybe it is not really worth staying in the Saint Malo area afterall. I'll have to research your suggestions some more, souphie, thanks so much to you and all the other CH'ers!!

              Any specific recommendations for the best or at least a great kouign amann?? I NEED to try an authentic one!

              1. re: baloney

                In St Malo along the 'wall' there is an oyster bar the size of a fotomat that is otherwordly. Three or four tables, was there with a friend a few years ago, we each had 3 dozen #1 fins de claires(?) and a bottle of muscadet sur lies for 35 Euros and WOW. Travel between St Malo and Cancale is a long hour and should be taken by the sea route, some of the prettiest scenery in France. Les Rimains, Roellinger's old family home is still available for a small hotel, it was one of the 10 best nights of my life. Chez Jacky in Belon,is very nice but while not a long distance south from St Malo, it sures takes a long time to get there. In addition, when in Cancale, you are an hour or so from Mont St Michel which is worth the trip alone. Will be there as well when you are. Can be contacted at email on info page.

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  That oyster lunch sounds lovely, exactly the type of dining experience I crave and love. I must say I am at a complete loss as to what to do about the Brittany portion of my trip: I've gotten so many terrific but somewhat spread out places to go...I'm still interested in the Roellinger hotel and eateries but is it worth basing myself there? I'd rather not have to drive or at least not drive around much since I've never driven European style(crazy Californian driver here!). I am in need of professional help, I think!

                  1. re: baloney

                    You can take the TGV fast train from Paris. Last visit, we took the train from Paris to Rennes, picked up a car and drove to Cancale, stayed at Roellinger's Les Rimains guest house, dinner at Roellinger, then drove to St. Brieuc, dinner at Youpala Bistrot, night at Maison Phare, the b&b for another Michelin 1 star, Aux Pesked. We returned to Paris via TGV from St. Brieuc.

                    Driving on these country roads in France is not scary. And, remember that the French drive on the same side of the road as we do in California. Also, you can/should take all the time you need at the rental agency, requesting and marking maps, getting precise advise from the agent. But most important, the TGV trains are your best friends.

                2. re: baloney

                  To me the ultimate Kouign Amann is at Le Goff in Douardenez. But I'm sure there are many great ones throughout Bretagne.

                  1. re: baloney

                    Regarding kouign amann, a bakery started in Bretagne called 'Grenier du Pain' has many branches in Paris now. Their store on Rue Abbesses in Montmartre has my favorite.

                  2. re: souphie

                    I was in Cancale three weeks ago and stayed at Roellinger's Chateau Richeux and ate at Le Coquillage. The hotel was AMAZING. One of the nicest I've ever stayed at in my life. Alas, le Coquillage did not live up to the hotel or the Roellinger reputation. I was disappointed by my meal -- the food lacked sparkle. Dining companion felt similarly. At first I questioned my own palate, but then last week I ate a superb meal at Les Fables de la Fontaine in Paris and realized that's what a seafood restaurant should be like.

                    1. re: Cookingthebooks

                      PS I loved the crêperie suggestions from la Guide Routarde. The book also gave me one other valuable piece of advice: Avoid ALL FOOD on Mont St-Michel. I visited at the break of day (well, 9am, but it felt early) and when I saw the price of the omelettes at La Mère Poularde (28 euros!!) I was glad I was on my way out as the clock struck lunchtime!

                      1. re: Cookingthebooks

                        And to make it even more interesting, the 28 Euro price is for one half an omelet, even if one person, they bring the whole 9" pan out and then give you one half. La 'Merde' Poularde was nasty, nasty, nasty in so many ways.

            2. Please consider stretching your travels west to St. Brieuc for lunch or dinner at Youpala Bistrot . http://www.youpala-bistrot.com/ Very casual setting but fabulous daily inventions from talented Jean Marie Baudic. No choice, multicourse menu absurdly inexpensively priced. One of our most memorable meals in France. Plus, Baudic is adorable, coming out of the kitchen after each course was served to see our reaction, this only because we expressed enthusiasm at the beginning of the meal.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mangeur

                I agree. We made a special trip to this out in the middle of nowhere neighborhood in St. Brieuc and we were not disappointed. The fixed menu lunch started with little gougeres filled with avocado, a buckwheat tidbit and another item I can't quite identify, then a first course salad with frisee glaciale (kind of a lettuce/succulent combo that was a frosted thick but crisp and crunchy green I had never seen before) and a fish entree that was so inventive and beautiful that we couldn't stop talking about it with the couple next to us who had eaten dinner there the night before and came back for lunch the next day. We actually liked St. Malo but it was enhanced by a personally guided tour by the deputy mayor of St Malo who we had met at the gite Maison Olhabidea (also recommended by chowhounders) in Sare. We followed the recommendations of others and went to Concale and ate at Surcouf which was quite nice but I'm not sure the effort involved with eating an araignee crab is worth it!

              2. SO, slight change of plans! Chateau Richeaux is completely booked for the month of Sep, do you guys think it is still worth basing myself in the Cancale area? Or should I base myself in the western region? Where would I be able to satisfy my seafood and butter cravings best?

                7 Replies
                1. re: baloney

                  Did you check 'Les Rimains'? His parents' house and great.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    Also fully booked! I've been suggested another hotel, Ian Kellerec? It seems in a totally different area though, and most of the restaurants and places I wanted to eat are either two hours east or south of it! I'm at my wits end and am thinking of just giving up on the Brittany portion of my trip at this point...

                    1. re: baloney

                      If you have a car, S
                      St Malo is an hour away from Cancale and great, lots of gites and hotels.

                      1. re: baloney

                        We stayed one night at Lan Kerellec last October. Excellent food, comfortable room, sea views. Perhaps not the most fun atmosphere, but certainly not a bad choice if the location suits you.

                    2. re: baloney

                      Cancale is an excellent base, not far from St Malo, Mont St Michel, Dinan, the Erquy coast.

                      "Where would I be able to satisfy my seafood and butter cravings best?"

                      Along that stretch of Normandy/Britany coast, there's no way you can avoid seafood or dairy virtuosity even if you try.

                      If you can't find a place to stay in Cancale…
                      I always like to eat and stay at the ferme-auberge "Ferme de la Porte" on the river Rance between St Malo. In season, you can pay for a morning boatride with the owner and fishermen on the Rance. Try to stay in one the gîtes - old fishermen's cottages by the river.
                      Once we arrived in a cold Spring afternoon, to be greeted by a pig roasting in the huge fireplace in the dining room. Exactly the warming fragrance one wants when one has been freezing.

                      1. re: Parigi

                        So, I've finally found a place in Cancale! Will be there for two days one night.

                        Now on to restaurant reservations, thus far CLJ, Frenchie, and Josephine have been EPIC fails....

                        1. re: baloney

                          This may be too late to be of help, but we recently stayed at Lan Kerellec in Trebeurden for two nights. The hotel itself was lovely - though our room, called "Petite Tradition" on the website, was so petite we barely had room to stand. We decided not to eat in the hotel's restaurant, because my husband found the menu too limited - but we did eat in two places in Trebeurden that I would highly recommend: Le Quellen and La Tourelle. Both were reasonably priced, high quality places with excellent local seafood and other great menu choices. La Tourelle is listed as one of the restaurants participating in the "Fresh Breton Seafood Platter Charter" (http://www.tourismebretagne.org/broch...), which I thought was kind of cool, though I have to agree with a previous poster who questioned the effort it takes to get the meat out of those monstrously huge crabs! Le Quellen makes a homemade Kouign Amman - served warm, with "black flour" ice cream and that incredible Breton salted caramel sauce - that is to die for. I am still thinking about that dessert. It was definitely one of the best things I ate during the entire 4-day trip to Brittany.
                          Trebeurden is a small resort town, very different in feel from Cancale, which is far more bustling and touristy. It was fun to be in Trebeurden on a night when there was traditional Breton folk music and dancing by the water. It drew lots of people from the community and was just a wonderful slice of life to observe and be part of.... (I think this happens every wednesday night during the summer - not sure until when.)
                          In Cancale, we tried to get into Le Surcouf, which many on this board have recommended, but arrived before they were ready to serve dinner and our dining companions were unfortunately too hungry to wait. But there are plenty of places to go in Cancale for oysters and seafood plateaus. I'd also recommend a visit to the Roellinger spice shop - we went to the one in St. Malo and spent a good half hour sniffing and tasting (and buying!)

                    3. I'm a bit torn whether I should try to go to L'arpege or Ledoyen for one of my lunches, anyone have any advice or comments? I am quite eager to try some of Bernard Anthony's cheeses at L'Arpege but Ledoyen seems interesting as well. Is one or the other that would be more comfortable for a solo diner? FWIW, I've already made reservations for Gagnaire but I could reschedule/cancel...I'm trying to keep the fine dining to 2-3 meals max on this trip!

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: baloney

                        That's easy. Ledoyen has some Anthony cheeses. I suppose that l'Arpège is a more playful place. But I would go Ledoyen any time -- l'Arpège is too annoying, unless you have assurance that Passard will be cooking for you. And even then...

                        1. re: souphie

                          I had no idea Ledoyen had Anthony cheeses as well! I think I'm leaning toward Ledoyen, thanks souphie. BTW, do you happen to know if they have the 4yr Comte or does the selection rotate?

                          1. re: baloney

                            That's more rare. There are only a couple of wheels of that every year, and they're not even always great.

                            1. re: baloney

                              Try the 4 year at either of the Dubois fromagerie locations, Dupleix or Maubert-Mutualite metros. Not quite Anthony, but wonderful nonetheless.

                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                I'd trust someone with "cheese" in his name…

                                1. re: Parigi

                                  Indeed, I shall do both the above. I was thinking of stopping by Dubois fromagerie anyways, now I have something in particular to go for. Thanks for the suggestions!

                                  1. re: baloney

                                    Hi baloney - I'm also going to be solo in Paris in September 2010. I was also trying to decide between Ledoyen and Pierre Gagnaire, but I think I will do one or the other as I am trying to keep my budget in check. What did you decide to do? Just curious! :)

                                    1. re: j.jessica.lee

                                      You know, I don't think I'm gonna be much help because I've decided to do both! I'm calling to try to make reservations at Ledoyen tomorrow, fingers crossed. If I had to decide between the two though....well, it's tough to say because it depends on what is important to you: food, atmosphere, cost, location, etc. I'll be curious to know which you decide!

                                      1. re: j.jessica.lee

                                        I think it's easy: you go to Ledoyen for the best ingredients and the utter perfection in cooking. You go to Gagnaire for creativity and surprises in the plate, looking more for vertigo than extasis. The setting at Gagnaire is club like, very comfortable and modern, the air conditioning doesn't work. The setting at Ledoyen is tired and old fashion and spectacular.

                                        1. re: souphie

                                          Thanks, souphie and baloney!

                                          So Ledoyen it is! When I return to Paris in December (I'm treating my mother to her first European trip!), you would probably suggest Le Cinq for lunch, correct? She loves good food, but probably nothing too adventurous, and I would love something with a great ambiance.

                                          Also, I just tried calling Ledoyen but no one is picking up. As I see, they are closed in August! How can I get in touch with them to make a reservation for the first week of September??

                                          I also saw your picture of the "spaghetti" - it looks amazing. Is that only offered ALC?

                                          Last question - what are the main differences between CLJ and La Regalade? And for a very comforting, typical Parisian meal, I see often JCD or Chez Denise, etc. And where does Les Papilles or Le Petrelle fit in there?

                                          1. re: j.jessica.lee

                                            For Ledoyen, you'll probably have to wait until they're back. It's not like the place is usually packed anyway, especially for lunch.

                                            Spaghetti is amazing but that pasta dish will cost you 95€, sweetie.

                                            I'm pretty sure I responded recently about CAJ vs Régalade.

                                            Les papilles is a lovely wine oriented little bistrot. Le Pétrelle is one of a kind, see pictures.