The Opal Coast of Northern France is one of those special off the beaten tracks parts of France that people who experience it don’t want anyone else to know about – it’s literally just across the English Channel on the doorstep of the UK. We’re always being asked “where to eat near Calais” well, the Opal Coast offers a huge range of places to eat out – gourmet fine dining, traditional brasseries, fabulous fish restaurants – it’s all here.
You’ll discover cobblestoned roads in medieval villages, ancient towns, wonderful seaside resorts with miles of golden sand, glorious rolling countryside and lush green forests, fabulous patisseries, charcuteries, boulangeries. There is a street market every day of the week and lovely restaurants serving a warm welcome along with authentic French cuisine.
From October 26 to November 3, 2013 the local tourist offices and their partners are laying on special events to tempt you to come and find the Opal Coast for yourself in their annual Opal Coast Girls week. Great offers, discounts, deals and events like British Week in Le Touquet are being laid on all around the Opal Coast area aimed at ladies, their partners, friends and kids (it is half term after all!).
Take the D940 Coastal road from Calais and discover wide beaches, dramatic cliffs, forests and stunning dunes. Peppering the route are wonderfully authentic little fishing villages, quaint towns which seem hardly changed by modern day life, where artisans ply their wares from locally caught fish to locally made cheese, bread and even chocolate. The bigger towns like Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais and Dunkirk are vibrant and dynamic, full of art and culture, great shops selling locally made artisan products and fabulous restaurants – with a nod to history that adds charm and character.
The French are passionate about good food and you will be spoiled for choice in this delicious little area of France where the food scene is an integral way of life:
Le Touquet – This smart seaside town beloved by Parisians is great for foodies. Choose from the Michelin-starred restaurant Le Pavillon at The Westminster Hotel, in the running for an award for Best Restaurant in a Hotel in Europe, to dozens of great restaurants, bars and brasseries. If the weather is nice try the restaurant at the Yacht Marina with its stunning views over the estuary and its sleepy seals resting peacefully when the tide goes out.
Etaples – is a traditional fishing town and home to the marvellous Aux Pêcheurs d’Etaples, a fabulous fish restaurant run by a consortium of local fishermen, wonderfully atmospheric, the freshest and most delicious fish possible and afterwards you can pick up some fish to take home from the fish market below.
Boulogne-sur-Mer – France’s largest fishing port and naturally full of superb seafood restaurants like the Michelin starred La Matelote opposite the Nausicaa National Sea Centre of France which is where you’ll also find a great restaurant run by the same chef! Wander the ramparts of the old town of Boulogne and the lovely rue de Lille, lined with restaurants and one of the oldest bars we know, Charles Dickens called this town his “favourite watering hole in all of France”. Visit Philippe Olivier’s famous cheese shop and try a chunk of Vieux Boulogne – officially the smelliest cheese in the world according to the boffins at Oxford University! If that doesn’t take your fancy – don’t worry, you’ll find about 300 cheeses on offer!
Berck-sur-Mer is a traditional bucket and spade type French resort with fabulous wide beaches which are perfect for flying a kite and building up an appetite.
Hardelot – a wonderful and charming seaside resort with its own English built chateau where entente cordiale is celebrated in style, we like the friendly service and atmosphere and very French menu at La Terasse in the town square.
Montreuil-sur-Mer – the town which inspired Victor Hugo to write Les Misérables has two Michelin-starred restaurants, a soup bar in a converted peasant cottage, fine dining, authentic cuisine and a huge choice of terrific places to eat and enjoy the ambience in this medieval hill top town. Afterwards walk off the meal with a wander around the ramparts which overlooks the surrounding countryside of the gorgeous Seven Valleys. On the last Sunday each October take part in the authentic Soup and Bread Festival!
Wimereux – the charming harbour in this lovely town of Belle Epoque style villas and Victorian beach huts is full of simple Gallic charm and a wonderful place to take in the fresh sea air and the magnificent views. Enjoy a delicious lunch at La Liégeoise restaurant in the Atlantic Hotel with sea views and a menu that is guaranteed to wow you.
Wissant – fresh fish straight from the sea make this is a seafood paradise, restaurants like La Chaloupe serve traditional moules et frites (mussels and chips), oysters and lobsters all dished up with aplomb and friendliness, making you feel at home and relaxed.
Calais – with its museums and gourmet specialist shops also offers a great array of restaurants. Check out Restaurant-Le Channel which has a seasonal menu and offers a fine dining experience of a three course meal for less than £20 – its unbeatable value and exquisite food.
Dunkerque – this old northern French town has a lovely harbour area, museums and a range of excellent restaurants. We recommend you wander along the sea front at Malo les Bains for a huge choice of restaurants and bars.
The Opal Coast – intoxicating and authentic – come and see for yourself!