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5 days in Brittany--advice on places to eat and stay

We're from the Bay area, are nuts about French food and wine, and will be making our first trip to Brittany in May. Will be staying in Dinan, Douarnez and Auray, but have a car and are willing to go the extra mile for a great, non-Michelin starred find. :-). Love oysters, lobster, mussels and other fruits de mer, but we're open to any truly authentic or quintessential Brittany eating experience. We'd love any advice on where to go and what to eat while we are there!

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  1. Salt fields in Guerande
    AM market in Pont L'Abbe
    Sardnes in Concarneau
    Not food, but Breton clothing at huge outlet in Douarnenez
    La Taupeniere in Pont Aven
    Oysters at booth just inside wall in St Malo, teeny booth try to find.

    1. Youpala Bistrot in Saint-Brieuc, absolute must.
      Jean-Paul Abadie in Lorient
      Ty Saozhon and all other crêperies in Roscoff
      Le Temps de vivre in Roscoff
      All the incredible spice shops in harbour towns, my favorite being Comptoir Kerjean in Brest, rue de Siam
      Oysters and seafood all over the coast.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Ptipois

        Abadie will be closed at the end of may for renovation (unfortunately, as I had planned to make reservation)...

        1. re: Ptipois

          Do you have any idea if Le Temps de Vivre Restaurant is still open? I find many write-ups on the hotel, but no information about the reataurant. Have already made a reservation at Youpala Bistrot for our September trip and w2as looking forward to a great meal in Roscoff.

          1. re: pepisstud

            I think Le Temps de Vivre is closed now.

            1. re: Ptipois

              Indeed it was closed when we were there in late 2012. It is now only a small boutique hotel, with a few rooms with nice views onto the water. -- Jake

        2. Between St Malo and Dinan, one of my fave towns, is the very down-home Ferme de la Porte in Saint Jouan des Guerets. Nothing fancy, but a very nice farm by the Rance river serving food from the farm itself. The first time I went, we arrived in a cold afternoon to find a whole pig roasting in the fireplace in the restaurant. (I remember the farm also has sheep and ducks and geese.)I consider this a truly "authentic Brittany eating experience"...
          In the warmer seasons (with calmer sea) you can even pay to go on the owner's boat and go fishing with him in the morning. Of course this means god-awful early in the morning.

          Another authentic experience is to go to a morning market. The Cancale market is one of my 5 favorites in the world (Boqueria, Villefranche de Rouergue, Qingping, Bayonne which just aced out Ile sur la Sorgue).There is a thrilling "beach oyster market", where you can eat oysters fresh off the sea.

          And I love DCM's and Pti's recs as usual. This whole thread again goes to my archive.

          14 Replies
          1. re: Parigi

            Yes to everything above, plus I would heartily recommend taking the inexpensive 15 minute boat ride from Roscoff out to the Ile de Batz. Walk the village streets, hike, visit the exotic gardens but most important have lunch at "å l'Abri du Vent" creperie. Especially suggest the amazing algae crepe filled with ribbons of green seaweed, scallops and shrimp. One of my most delicious and memorable surprises.

            http://www.creperie.ile.de.batz.fr/

            1. re: mangeur

              Thanks, everyone, for the great ideas. We are working out our itinerary now and thanks to your suggestions are definitely making sure we hit Cancale and Roscoff, places that were on our only on our "maybe" list before. And we will be heading to Paris for a week afterwards, and are mining the board archives for all sorts of great ideas for Paris as well. We are new to Chowhound and are just loving it!!!

            2. re: Parigi

              Parigi - is the Cancale market on every day?

              1. re: pj26

                http://www.annuaire-emeraude.com/dive...

                The oyster beach is not part of the Cancale market which is Sunday morning. Seems to be operating every morning. The fishermen's off morning is probably Monday. -- Am guessing.
                But this webpage says it's open everyday.
                http://www.lepaysdesaintmalo.com/canc...
                You can also call or email the office du tourisme of Cancale. All the offices du tourisme have English speakers and are very nice and helpful.

                1. re: Parigi

                  I think that the oyster market is probably open every morning but may vary in size. I remember being there several times on frigid December weekday mornings and finding, say, three sellers.

                  1. re: mangeur

                    That was what I meant to say, but my subordinate clauses raced ahead of me...
                    Yes Cancale has a Sunday morning market which is faaabulous.
                    And it has this oyster market on the beach which goes on every day.

                    1. re: Parigi

                      Thank you both! In the UK we have an oyster season (or are recommended not to eat oysters in any month without an 'R' in it!) - is this the same in France?

                      1. re: pj26

                        French oysters can be eaten all year round. Really. I do, and I have a fragile stomach.

                        1. re: Parigi

                          That is music to my ears, I can't wait!

              2. re: Parigi

                Parigi, where exactly is the Cancale morning market? Is it walkable from Chateaux Richeux? Are there other items at that market besides oysters. Sounds great, and we love Boqueria as well.

                1. re: jssLA

                  According to Google Map, the oyster market on the beach should be an 8 minute walk.

                  You eat what the fishermen bring back from the sea right there and then, which means oysters and mussels. So no roast chicken, duh, or shrimp or crab unless you eat it raw (in case you do, I have not seen any, probably because my eyes were blurry from my weeping over the oysters).

                  For an overwhelming "normal" market, Cancale's Sunday morning market occupies a good part of the village. Great, great fun.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    I did not make it to the morning market but I did to the oyster beach. You just drive down the main waterfront street to the end.

                    Four or five vendors selling very (very!) fresh oyster from the farms a few hundred meters away. They all charged around 5€ for a dozen #3 oysters, plus 1€ to shuck them and give you a plate and lemon wedge.

                    Did I say they were fresh? On the other hand, I personally find the Cancale oysters a bit brinier than I prefer. Still, it was a great treat and the setting was perfect.

                    Editing my post: As a pastry chef, I just have to add mention of my hotel in Tregastel. We went to Perros-Guirec and stayed at the Beau Séjour. http://www.beausejoursarl.com/. Renovated, comfortable, very reasonably priced. We stayed there because it was close to some very nice walking on the Pink Granite coast and birding at the 7 Îles.

                    This is a small hotel across from the beach, unfortunately with an ugly rec center in front of it. This does not block the view from the hotel rooms, luckily. Unlike many of the nearby beach areas, this one is relatively quiet, and very quiet at night.

                    The food aspect was first seen at breakfast. For the usual 9€, there are all kinds of fresh baked goodies. Croissants, pains au chocolat, 4 kinds of bread, far (a sort of Breton custard cake), and Kouigh-Aman. The baked goods were outstanding. La patronne is a baker. She has a full-scale (if tiny) bakery in the basement. She makes some of the best croissants I've had in France, and excellent breads. Although I find Kouigh-Aman way too sweet, at least hers was made with really good puff pastry. There was also fresh fruit and homemade yoghurt and jams. Finally, eggs and bacon or a crêpe, all included in the price.

                    The lobster dinner that night for 44€ should be the topic of a separate posting or thread.

                     
                     
                    1. re: RandyB

                      One of the most drool-inducing posts. Bravo.

                      1. re: RandyB

                        Another saved thread. I should add that after you sent us to Le Telline, I'll follow you anywhere, especially when there's seafood involved.

                2. Thanks all for the great ideas. Just returned from Brittany a few days ago. I believe I dragged my husband there specifically for the breakfast at Beausejour in Tregastel, but after breakfast, neither of us minded the trip. Great experience. They aren't good about responding to email, so I suggest you call for hotel reservations.
                  We also enjoyed the oysters at the harbor in Cancale.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ellenmccarthy

                    I'm glad you enjoyed the Beau Séjour.

                    I'll be heading to Auray (Port de St. Goustan) next week to visit a friend in a new home. This will be a whole new area of Brittany for me to explore. Unfortunately, this trip to France is only for a week, and part of it is visiting old friends who just moved from Paris to Aix-en-Provence.

                  2. Since you're staying in Dinan, spend time in Saint-Malo and Cancale.
                    In Cancale go to Breizh Café, there is a branch in Paris but this is the best location. Do not miss the fantastic Tsarskaia oysters from the Cancale bay.
                    For seafood and great spider crab, L'Ormeau right next door.
                    Another Breizh Café (Comptoir Breizh Café) in Saint-Malo with 60 different ciders (perries and chouchens) on the list.

                    Patrick Jeffroy in Carantec.
                    L'Auberge des Glazicks in Plomodiern.
                    Crêpes and galettes in Roscoff.

                    But the best advice I can give you is: don't forget the cafés.

                    My favorite meals all over the Brittany coast are always at simple cafés by the sea. Sometimes it will be a hotel-restaurant built near a lighthouse. They will have a small local specialties menu, with moules-frites generally a must-try (I've known one of these seaport cafés that had a secret recipe for curried mussel sauce, I coaxed the chef as much as i could but he would never give it to me. It was that good. Said it ran in the family since his grandfather's days.)

                    Brittany has a very strong café culture. Some cafés are more than watering troughs and meeting places. They're the heart of the village, with couches, music, sometimes small libraries to borrow from or to read on the spot. They'll sometimes have a plat du jour. Try it. Or choose from their simple shellfish recipes, like stuffed mussels or bay scallops (pétoncles farcis) simply served at the terrace right next to the fishing boats... (in Rosbras for instance)

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Ptipois

                      Thanks, Ptipois. Your "best advice" advice has my mouth watering. I wish I had more time. But now that I have a place and friend to visit, I'm sure I'll go back.

                      As for the specific places you mentioned, I am staying in the Auray area. It is on the south coast, not the north coast. I fly into Nantes and drive west along to coast, just past Vannes.

                      1. re: RandyB

                        Hi Randy, We as well as mangeur thank you for the La Telline recommendation, what a lovely place. In only small recompense, I'll mention, not too far from Auray, and nearish Carnac: Le Petit Hôtel du Grand Large -- a simple and casual (at least for lunch) one star place that we enjoyed in Sept 2013: http://www.lepetithoteldugrandlarge.fr/. (We had excellent seafood accompanied by an aged Muscadet, and we enjoyed speaking with the three women who run the front of the house.) -- Jake

                        1. re: RandyB

                          Yes, the Auray region is very beautiful, as is the entire bay of Morbihan. Incredible daylight.

                          Life on the Breton coast is pretty much the same all around the peninsula. There are no drastic differences from South to North.

                          The Northwest (between Brest and Morlaix) will be a bit more austere, while Morbihan, South Finistère and the North coast of Trégor and Ille-et-Vilaine (roughly from Carantec to Mont-Saint-Michel) will be slightly more cheerful, but the region is all one in spite of being composed of many different "pays" (tiny cultural districts with each their own dialectal variations and costumes). Everywhere there are cafés, markets, harbor or beach restaurants serving simple fish and shellfish dishes, bookstores, poetry meetings, local music festivals (festou-noz), and plenty of cultural events. Brittany has probably produced more poets and writers than any other region of France, and still has the highest literacy rate of all French regions.

                          1. re: Ptipois

                            And the wonderful jewel-box museum at Pont Aven is, I believe, now reopened. One of my favorites, tiny and human sized and seldom crowded.

                            1. re: mangeur

                              Unfortunately, their website says they will reopen at the end of 2015.