The north of France is a bit of a secret place for foodies. It’s reputation is very well known – but largely amongst those who live there. We take a look at great places to eat in Saint Omer, just 30 minutes from Calais port, perfect for a day trip or weekend to enjoy a real taste of rural France at its best…
No visit to the north of France is complete without at least one visit to a cheese shop and in Saint Omer a new fromagerie is making serious waves, La Ferme Audomaroise is at 26 rue Louise Martel.
If you love cheese then this place will definitely float your boat. Paul Alexandre Wullus is a man who is passionate about cheese. He makes cheese, matures cheese in his own cellars at his sprawling farm house and he sells it in his shop.
There are cheeses here I didn’t even know existed, many of them are unique to the shop and will have fromage fans drooling. “Camembert de St Omer, Tomme de St Omer” I read the labels out loud. Madame Wullus who works in the shop tells me her husband is a genius and that he is constantly making new cheeses “sometimes he adds chicory or coffee” she says, and offers me a taste. Coffee in cheese? Doesn’t sound right does it, but you definitely can’t taste anything weird, the cheese is simply salaciously and tantalisingly different.
Monsieur Wullus has worked all over France learning about cheese and is, says his wife “un grand expert”. He never stops learning and has just bought an old tunnel not far away as he believes it will be the perfect place for certain cheeses to mature. Madame Wullus confides that he is making a new cheese, it will be ready soon she says, and I notice that some of the steady stream of customers in the shop lean toward her trying to glean more information. She bites her lip and steps back “I’m not allowed to tell anyone yet, it’s a secret” she whispers. I pay for my St Omer Camembert “the most popular cheese” in the shop and depart for the Saturday morning market.
Saint Omer’s weekly market in and around the main square in the shadow of the very pretty town hall, is your stereotypical fabulous French market with one difference. The vegetables that you find here are almost all grown locally on the famous marshes. This is the cauliflower and vegetable capital of France and if you like fresh vegetables at their peak, and artisan produced fare – this market is perfect for you. The vibrant, colourful, buzzing market held on Saturday mornings spills off the square into the side roads where you’ll discover dozens of bakeries, chocolate shops, and a thriving pavement café lifestyle plus lots of excellent restaurants.
Great Places to eat in Saint Omer
I thoroughly recommend picking up some fabulous bread in any of the spectacular patisseries in the grand square around the town hall, some filling, fresh fruit, a gorgeous gateau and a bottle of something chilled. Head off for the very pretty St Omer Park by the grand Cathedral and enjoy a picnic whilst you say hello to the animals in the little farm (reindeer included!). If you’re feeling adventurous, enjoy your picnic in a boat on the famous St Omer marshes just 15 minutes from the town centre. An astonishing area of marshland and a network of canals and the only place in France where the postman delivers the post by boat to the families who live on islands in the marshes. The nature reserve and superb scenery make for a stunning location to enjoy either a guided trip on the water or hire a boat and gently glide while you enjoy your fabulous Saint Omer picnic.
If you stay in the town you are really spoiled for choice and I stopped for lunch at L’Histoire de Laurent Bogé (1 rue Henri Dupuis), just off the square, located at the top of what the locals call the rue gourmande on account of the high number of restaurants and brasseries. This little road is flamboyant with bright bunting and flowers of all kinds and colours tumbling out of pots and there is a vibrant buzz.
The restaurant is run by husband and wife team Fabienne and Laurent Bogé and they are both very passionate about local produce. Laurent who is a wonderful chef, says that he loves the “extraordinary range of vegetables” that he can get in St Omer.
Every day he changes the menu according to what is in season and what is available, a real feast of all that is best – and almost entirely organic. A quick glance at the menu reveals that L’Histoire definitely believes in local produce – everything is from just a few miles away, chicken from Licques, snails from Radinghem, salt marsh lamb, cheese from Mr Wullus’s fromagerie and beer from the Brasserie Saint Omer – my next stop!
At just 30 minutes from Calais port – Saint Omer is a real taste of rural France at its best.
Brasserie de St Omer – one of the most famous beer in France and a fabulous success story