Last week my sister and her partner came to stay while my other half was doing a business course in London.
I love it when someone comes to stay as it gives me an excuse to take them out and show them the wonderful places in my part of France – Pas de Calais – and as my sister is a total foodie I pretty much knew that we’d have to go out to eat somewhere nice and shop in some of the amazing little delicatessens and boulangeries that are plentiful.
Sadly my sister only had a couple of days here but we managed to pack in plenty of shopping and eating out including a lovely lunch in Montreuil-sur-Mer. It’s a gorgeous little town, cobbled roads, ramparts, chateau – and there are loads of restaurants and brasseries there, lots of little boutique style shops, a chocolatier and much else.
My sister loves to try the tastes of “ la France profonde” – the real France as she calls it so she wanted lunch somewhere where the French would eat for a meal that reflects everyday life here. I can’t think of anywhere better in Montreuil-sur-Mer than one of the little restaurants in the Place du General de Gaulle. We went to the not remotely posh La Paloma which is in a superb location. In the summer you can sit outside and watch life go by and in the winter you can sit inside and keep warm and cosy. The staff are lovely and although they speak little English they absolutely make you welcome and as this little town attracts thousands of tourists every year thanks to its Victor Hugo roots (he based much of Les Miserables on the people in the town) they print the menu in English.
We all went for the Menu du jour – at €14.50 for a three course meal what’s not to like?! No one could resist the allure of onion soup (soupe a l’oignons gratinée) on such a cold January day and it was great. The main dish (plat) was fish with basil sauce and tagliatelle or fillet steak with chips and haricots and for desert each of us chose something different –mousse au chocolat, pancake with chocolate sauce and home-made rum baba with Cointreau. They probably thought we were totally nuts taking pictures of our plates but we were really impressed by the vintage crockery and the use of colourful spices to enhance the presentation – for instance paprika scattered on the plate holding the soup bowl and the colours of the food – we are now both scattering spices with wild abandon but as usual it doesn’t look quite the same as when the French do it!
My sister insisted on going into almost every shop in the town –she has wonderful taste and can pick out something amazing from amongst some of the truly awful garments you can get here though Montreuil-sur-Mer is actually pretty smart and has lovely clothes shops. When we first came out I told my husband to shoot me if I started saying I liked the clothes at the market or the shops at Desvres – they all seem to the type of shops aimed at old ladies who want to blend in with brick walls!
The walk round the shops was good though after such a huge lunch – it was necessary to make room for the cakes we’d bought for later in the fantastic little boulangerie Leprêtre Frères in Rue Herambault.
Bet you’re all jealous!A bientôt Janine