While France is well known for foodies that want to sample the culinary delights of Paris, there’s also a lot to be said for Western France. The cuisine for Western France is dominated by the coast, with Brittany to the North, and Bordeaux to the South helping to define the seafood focus of individual regions. Western France is similarly defined by its red wine culture and Bordeaux, as well as by some more unique dishes, and particular restaurants and towns. What, then, should you look for in Western French cuisine? Moreover, what are some of the best restaurants you can find across different regions and large cities, and what are the options available for vegetarians?
Further South, and around the warmer, Mediterranean regions of France, expect to find a lot of seafood and red wine; this is particularly true of Bordeaux, where you can take guided wine tours. Specialty dishes along the Western coast include Hornard Persille, or lobster terrine, as well as foie gras, a favourite in Perigord in the Dordogne. The Pyrenees mountain regions, which border France and Spain, are home to spicier dishes and cassoulet stews, as well Duck Confit and rabbit. Drier white wines are more popular around the Pyrenees, as are dishes that use river fish and Poule au Pot, or stuffed hen.
If visiting Bordeaux, you can sample the city and the Girondins region’s wine culture, while also trying out Sauce Bordelaise, as well as Entrecote, made with beefsteak cuts. Lamproie a la Bordelaise, which represents an eel dish cooked in red wine, is also popular, as are oysters, a favourite up and down the Western Coast of France. Recommended restaurants within Bordeaux include Le Chapon Fin, Cordeillan-Bages, the Bo Bar, and Le Petit Commerce.
In the North, Brittany is similar to the rest of Western France in terms of being distinguished by its local seafood. Dishes include Palourdes, which are baked clams with garlic and white wine, as well as Coquilles Saint-Jacques, which are scallops. Oysters also don’t come much fresher than the ones taken from the North Sea and the Atlantic from Brittany. Other popular dishes include crepes and galettes, as well as Moules-Frites (mussels and chips), the standby dish for many French visitors. Brittany’s other delicacies include Andouille de Gueene, or sausages and chitterlings, and Breton Far, a prune flan.
While being a vegetarian isn’t always easy in France, wherever you go, there are quite a few different dishes and combinations that you can try. Truffles, which are particularly popular in Aquitaine and the South West of France, can be served with omelettes and goat’s cheeses. Different kinds of cheese and eggs are also used along the coast and inland areas to make delicious desserts, as well as rich soups. South Western France is also notable for its Risotto dishes, as well as for its chillis. If visiting Bordeaux, restaurants like La Bonne Bouille, Le Liban, and Malabar are recommended for vegetarian dishes. It’s also worth remembering that France’s Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants typically feature vegetarian and other specially prepared dishes.
Rob James is a well seasoned traveller, having visited many places around the world. He likes renting gites in France from Chez Nous. Rob can be found blogging about his many adventures around the globe.
Photo Credit: Juhan Harm