Thursday , September 21 2023

Bon appétit: savouring the gastronomic highs of Hauts-de-France

Les grands fromages

This stunning area of northern France where it borders Belgium is famous for its numerous cheeses. Hauts-de-France produces some of the country’s most delectable dairy items, and that includes more than 200 different types of cheese. Look out for maroilles, a soft cow’s milk cheese with a pungent mushroomy odour; mimolette, a semi-hard cheese with a fruity aroma; or brine-washed chaud biloute, which is delicious served warm and gooey from the oven.

In Montreuil-sur-Mer, Fromagerie Caseus offers a huge variety of regional cheese. In Lille, you can choose from Philippe Olivier’s three excellent cheese shops, while at the Wednesday and Saturday Arras Food Market the creations of 2021 Cheese Champion Virginie Dubois-Dhorne take centre stage.

Plats de poisson

Boulogne-sur-Mer, France’s biggest fishing port.
Boulogne-sur-Mer, France’s biggest fishing port. Photograph: Anne Sophie Flament

Boulogne-sur-Mer is home to France’s biggest fishing port and the quays here are lined with shacks selling super-fresh spider crab, lobster, langoustines, scallops, sole and oysters. Master your seafood cookery skills at La Matelote where chef Stellio Lestienne offers tips and tricks from filleting fish, opening scallops and oysters like a pro, to making delicious sauces. Don’t miss Le Chatillon in the port area, originally a restaurant for dock workers and sailors – it offers an excellent lunch of market-fresh seafood (mains from €12.90). Then explore Boulogne-sur-Mer’s cobbled historic heart, dominated by its distinctive domed basilica.Les grandes fromage

Légumes très frais

A boat on a tree-lined river
Biosphere reserve: journey through tree-lined wetlands to see market gardens

The French may have a reputation for downgrading vegetables but not so in its agricultural heartland where there’s an abundance of leeks, beetroot, sand-grown carrots, cauliflower and “pearl of the north” endives. All figure in the region’s gastronomy and there are even guild-style brotherhoods for individual vegetables grown in the peaty Audomarois marshlands.

Board a flat-bottomed bacôve barge from Saint-Omer’s La Maison du Marais visitor centre through tree-lined wetlands where you can admire these extraordinary market gardens. The marshes are also a Unesco-listed biosphere reserve, supporting hundreds of bird species including storks and kingfishers.

C’est l’heure du déjeuner

The dining room at Bacôve restaurant.
Marshland menu: Bacôve, Top Chef winner Camille Delcroix’s restaurant

After exploring the town, head to Bacove, Top Chef winner Camille Delcroix’s elegant restaurant in the heart of the old quarter. Expect brasserie-style lunches with delicious locally sourced ingredients – from oysters with foraged herbs sorbet, artichokes and monkfish tail – straight from those Audomarois marshlands. Around €40 for a three-course menu (

Les meilleurs restaurants

A salad bowl at the Grand Place Café.
Green and fresh: a salad bowl at the Grand Place Café

Hauts-de-France has 17 Michelin-starred restaurants alongside affordable bistro-style estaminets where traditional Flemish recipes mix with French favourites. You’d be hard-pressed to try them all, but base yourself in pretty Montreuil-sur-Mer and you’ll find a range of them masterminded by chef Alexandre Gauthier. His Grand Place Café (mains from €15, serves delicate brioche-based croque monsieurs, daily dishes such as local endive baked with ham and cheese, and – a Flemish favourite – the Welsh, a cheese-heavy hot sandwich pepped up with beer.

For finer dining, try La Grenouillere, Gauthier’s two-Michelin-starred farmhouse restaurant and hotel (three courses from €65). If you stay in one of the inn’s eight exquisite hunting huts, you can enjoy signature dishes like blinis stuffed with local tourteau crab (

Et maintenant pour le dessert

Chez Meert, a bejewelled patisserie in Lille.
Crème de la crème: Chez Meert, a bejewelled patisserie in Lille. Photograph: Xavier Renoux

Hauts-de-France is famous for a confection so enduringly popular, there’s even a Brotherhood of Whipping Knights in its honour. Chantilly cream (whipped cream, sugar and vanilla) is named after the famous château . And, if you’re visiting it, Head for its Atelier de la Chantilly ( and have a go at whipping up your own.

Over in Lille, seek out the stuccoed tearooms, chandeliers and antique wooden inlay counters at Chez Méert (, a bejewelled patisserie store that originally opened in 1839. The speciality here is a wafer-thin gaufre (waffle), filled with Madagascan vanilla paste. Fans included Jackie Kennedy and Winston Churchill.

Local chocolatiers Beussent Lachelle, who grow their own beans in Ecuador, have shops throughout the region. You can also visit their factory near Le Touquet-Paris-Plage (

Envie d’une bière?

Over half of France’s breweries are based in Hauts-de-France, offering a hugely varied selection of 200-plus blond, brown, amber and golden ales. Well-established breweries include Brasserie Castelain, Brasserie Saint-Germain and Brasserie Goudale, but microbreweries are also on the rise: look out for quirky beers produced by Lille-based Singe Savant and Les Célestins.

If beer sampling’s your thing, Lille is your goal. The city has been brewing beer for 1,000 years and runs an annual Bière a Lille Festival, 17-24 September. Or join a beer treasure hunt organised by L’Echappée Bière, the first brewery tourist agency in France, running every Saturday (

Célébrez avec du champagne

Some of the finest Champagne producers are to be found in Hauts-de-France – with around 10% of all of France’s output produced in Aisne, the southern part of the region. Tour the area’s niche caves to learn more about their particular champagne blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay grapes. Important Champagne cellars include the Maison Pannier in Château-Thierry and the Unesco award-winning Champagne Meteyer house in Trelou-sur-MarneKeep an eye out too, for the delectable, highly unsung local tipple, Champagne Cricco (

Visitez un marché alimentaire

Saint Omer market.
Foodie heaven: Saint Omer market

Witness the region’s gastronomic gems at its fabulous weekly food markets. Saint-Omer’s Saturday market, replete with marshland vegetables and fruit, spreads from cobbled Place du Maréchal Foch to surrounding streets. Lille’s Marche de Wazemmes is one of the country’s biggest, and home to fruit, vegetables, charcuterie, cheeses and olives. Over in Amiens, the Saturday morning market in Place Parmentier sells fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers brought by boat from the floating gardens. There are also stalls piled high with fresh seafood from the Baie de Somme


Et enfin un super hôtel…

A bedroom at the Mercure in Saint Omer.
Bed down: the Mercure in Saint Omer. Photograph: Laurent Mayeux/Abacapress

For easy access to the area, stay at Château de Montreuil in Montreuil- sur-Mer. This handsome 1930s cream-toned and green-shuttered country-house hotel has great views over the town’s ramparts, alongside and glorious gardens.

Doubles, room only, from €140 ( In Lille, Grand Hotel Bellevue has a pitch-perfect location overlooking the handsome Flemish buildings of Grand Place – the city’s main square. Rooms feature period Flemish décor mixed with bold contemporary colour notes.

Doubles, room only, from €110 ( For foodies, La Matelote in Boulogne sur Mer has an indoor pool and comfortable rooms above its award-winning restaurant, handy too for the centre of town. Doubles, room only, from €165 ( For self-caterers wishing to cook up market-fresh fish, Evancy offers a range of contemporary studios and apartments overlooking the marina. Studio sleeping two, from €90 a night ( Eurostar offers return tickets from London St Pancras International to Lille from £78 (

About admin

Check Also

My cultural day out on the Sussex Art Shuttle

I’m on a bus, hurtling over the hills at exhilarating speed. An oxbow lake flashes …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *