Thursday, 23 June 2011

Le Cale, La Plage, Blainville-sur-Mer, France

We had good fortune to be able to enjoy a short holiday in Normandy last weekend, complete with a rented car like real grownups, handling the endless French roundabouts, torrential rain and sparse petrol stations but had a really wonderful time. And I have to tell people about this fantastic place we had dinner on Sunday night - La Cale.
No jazz band the night we were there, sadly.
It might just be me, but when you're on holiday in an area that thrives on tourism, choosing a place to eat which isn't "too touristy" (i.e. crap and overpriced) can be quite a big ask. So you go from street to street knowing in your heart that you're in completely the wrong area in the first place but resolutely refusing to settle for Irish pub food in the medieval town of St. Malo, for instance, so you try to pick something that fits half way between. La Cale, on the other hand, is quite a distance from anything flashy, is anything but easy to find and doesn't really feel all that tourist-targeted, although I daresay they get a few gushing expats and Brits like myself who just adore the whole set up. For starters, its address (on the business card we were given, at least) was "La Cale, la plage". It's just a shack, location: 'the beach'. No number or anything - this is the location on streetview, just down that long lane. Thank god for sat navs is all I'll say, we ended up following a sign that said "La mer, 0.2k" There's no set opening hours either, so you have to just show up and hope it's open, not too full, and not too empty. However, we were in luck! We ran from our car in the torrential rain and burst through the door and sat down at one of the rickety benches, grateful for the roaring fire (good old summer holidays). 
Taking in the whole atmosphere of the place was a great laugh - tonnes of crooked paintings on the wall, mostly boats and nude women, plus a cracked hair drier, all with a full view of the tide. We ordered a drink - local cider! - and watched the swell of the waves in the storm which were really just a scant distance away.
We both ordered moules frites (mussels and chips), not really knowing much about how they'd come, just that there'd be moules and there'd be frites. And by god, there was. Our table number, painted on a stone, was roared from outside the kitchen, and the next thing a HUGE, utterly huge, steel pot was slammed onto our table with a ladle next to it. Beautiful little mussels, swimming in cream, cider, parsley, and who knows what else, they were beyond delicious.
The frites that accompanied the meal were some of the best chips I've ever had, golden and crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy enough to make eating them alarmingly easy. Combine with a side of oily homemade mayonnaise and we were in heaven.
Such delicious chips! 
Although we were fit to burst after we threw in the towel on the mussels, the boyfriend decided he'd be mad not to order a galette, so went for 'Galette Pere de Voision', recalled from memory but the name loosely meant neighbour's father, which a French pancake with calvados, butter and sugar. It was beyond delicious, the sharpness of the apple brandy combined with the richness of the butter and the carmelisation brought on by the copious amounts of sugar, was gorgeous. And despite knowing I'd probably regret it, I decided to snaffle a few mouthfuls from his plate, even though I felt like I had eaten 60,000 mussels already.
What I liked about La Cale was that although it's probably reasonably easy to do 'rustic France for tourists' style dining or whatever, this place felt like the real deal. The entire experience was utterly practical (want a napkin? BAM a roll of kitchen roll on your table.). The staff were very laid back, and friendly. And the location was to die for. I can't even imagine how great it would be to enjoy such fresh, well-cooked and authentically local food outside looking at the sea, without the driving rain (offset, mind, by the roaring fire - all my clothes stank of woodsmoke when we got home). The outside seating consisted of tables made out of wire-reels, from what I could tell, on a sand-coated wooden deck and looked equally practical and endearing. Imagine, with the sunset, and a warm breeze...sigh.

Hooray for summer holidays! 

I'll not be going back to Normandy for some time, with the whole car rental and distance to travel needed, it's a bit of a mission, but I'll probably remember La Cale as one of the highlights of the entire holiday. Wonderful.

La Cale, La Plage, 50560 Blainville-sur-Mer, France, +33 2 33 47 22 72 ‎

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  1. I couldn't agree more. We went twice in 3 nights! The first time we had the fortune of good weather and the jazz band. The second was more like the experience above! It's amazing - both the atmosphere and food (moules frites)

  2. We've been swimming there when the weather is fine, and then proceeded straight into La Cale in our swimming pant and tucked into the moule, shedding sand as we did so ... heaven.


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