When I told Lawrence Hartley of the wonderful and award-winning French bistro, Brula (www.brula.co.uk) in Twickenham that I was coming to Deauville-Trouville for a holiday, he said I had to go to Les Vapeurs for Moules Frites. So that’s what I did tonight.
After my market adventure this morning, I had lunch at the apartment and then headed out again in the afternoon. I’d already decided to eat at Les Vapeurs in Trouville this evening so intended only to wander around Deauville, where my studio apartment is, but I seem drawn to Trouville and soon found myself crossing the Pont de Belges again, almost without thought. I put it down to, if there’s any kind of chic in me, it’s the cafe society kind of chic rather than Chanel and thus Trouville is my more natural home in this twin town setup. That’s not to say I don’t also love smart Deauville and I found an incredibly good ice cream shop just down the road as I set off on my afternoon stroll.
I’m rather fond of extolling the virtues and superiority of Italian ice cream but I can tell you, this vanilla with chocolate pieces and candied orange ice cream from Martine Lambert was fabulous. On into Trouville I cut through some back streets as recommended by the villa’s owners and found Willy Cafe and enjoyed an coffee.
I bought a large print of my favourite but I loved them all and could happily have bought more if I had more wall space in my house. Soon I was on Trouville beach. I’ve had a poster from an Impressionist by the Sea exhibition at the Royal Academy London on my study wall since 2007 showing Monet’s impression of this beach and, despite the cloud and wind today – I’m not sure so far this holiday qualifies as a ‘summer’ one, albeit it lovely – I was both delighted and awed to be walking here.
Come evening, I headed over to Trouville again to Les Vapeurs. I took a table on the outside terrace overlooking the harbour as there were some powerful heaters providing much need warmth. Lawrence recommended the Moules Frites and since it is one of my very favourite things that’s what I ordered, with a small carafe of Muscadet.
I’m such a big bread lover but there really is nothing quite like an excellent baguette in France. And some good butter is just the thing to go with it; a good slab of cold, slightly salty French butter. Then my Moules came. It was an enormous portion. The friendy waiter carefully ladled a portion into a bowl for me. The rest were kept warm on a small hot plate. And of course, there were the frites.
The mussels were wonderful: small and sweet, soft and tender and tasting just enough of the sea. I’d chosen the simple Moules mariniere; no messing around with added extras for me, not even cream although I’m in Normandy. As for the frites, they were more like chips because they weren’t particularly crisp but unlike the over-salted tasteless monstrosities served up under the name of ‘frites’ sometimes, these tasted gloriously of – yes! Potato! Gosh, they were good!
I’m on holiday. A dessert was in order. Then I saw it. Cafe Gourmand. And I remembered discovering what this little gourmand end of meal treat was in Lille with my son a few years ago. We were just going to order coffee but when we saw what our neighbouring diners were getting, we said, That please!
The plate of little desserts and coffee is well named. There’s a little big of greediness to the gourmand, but oh, why not! This was just the most divine end to my meal. A rich, perfectly soft creme brûlée with a slightly bitter thin crust of caramel; one of the best and most chocolately chocolate macarons I’ve ever tasted; a perfect mouthful of strawberry tart and some creme chantilly. The bill (€33 inc. service) came with a glass of Calvados. The waiter showed me this enormous bottle and asked I’d like some. Yes please! I said. Here I am in calvados country – what could be better?