Forget Paris's haughty gastronomic temples, Lyon's mustard-spiked menus and the steaming soups of Marseille… Our choice for a food-focused road trip through France? It's a route through rugged Brittany. This windswept region in the country's northwest is a perfect destination for a road trip - all meandering, sea-hugging roads, dramatic granite coastlines and a bistro culture fuelled by the region's deep pride in its local produce.
Surrounded by the sea on three fronts, this northwestern region of France puts its coastal location to use in the kitchen with a regional cuisine of seafood-focused favourites, shaped by whatever arrives on the fishing boats. From chic coastal towns to the storied streets of Dinard and Rennes, you'll find oysters for starters, langoustines for main, and - if you have room for pudding - French patisserie classics and the area's beloved crêpes. All washed down with Brittany cidre, obviously.
First things first, how do we get there? Simple. We're with Brittany Ferries, jumping aboard a ferry and heading out across the Channel. With various direct sailings a day from Poole, Plymouth or Portsmouth, we'll arrive in Saint-Malo in under three hours, thanks to a new, speedy fast-craft service launching this summer. It's fuss-free, sustainable travel - just how we like it. Pack your Breton stripes and bid "bon voyage". It's time to feast on Brittany's finest fare.
A foodie road trip through Brittany, France
Day 1 - Saint-Malo to Rennes
Let's start with petit déjeuner. After disembarking at Saint-Malo, head straight to the grey- stone turreted town of Dinan, a picturesque medieval settlement 40 minutes' drive from the ferry port. Stroll through the Hobbit-esque cobbled streets in search of a devilishly decadent breakfast. Kouign-Amann cake is a local Breton favourite, a layered, flaky pastry bake that makes a moreish morning snack - who doesn't want 30 per cent of their breakfast to be butter-based? Suitably satiated, we're setting the satnav for Cancale, a quaint seaside resort 30 minutes' drive away. The fisherman's commune is worth the detour for a peruse of the town's oyster farms. Browse the seafood stalls that pepper the shingle shoreline, then order a lunch of seafresh Pied de Cheval wild oysters - the nutty taste of the native flat oysters is distinctively different to more conventional molluscs on the menu.
Image credit: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com
After lunch, take an hour's drive to unconventional Rennes, Brittany's capital. This city is a maze of half-timbered architecture, cobbled streets, distinctive street art, and plenty of taverns that serve up some of Northern France's best bistronomy. Start with a taste of the local street-food speciality - galette-saucisse is a sausage wrapped in a buckwheat galette. Find one at the 400-year-old Marché des Lices food market, the city's largest. For dinner, we're booking Pierre Restaurant de Copains, a fresh new spot on the Rue Nantaise, opened by France's popular Top Chef finalist, Pierre Eon. On a road famed for its gourmet offering, the menu stands out with its revived take on seafood favourites. Think pollack ceviche, fresh Breton sardines, a chilli-spiked tuna steak and, for dessert, a minimalist cheese board including Timanoix and Abbaye de Timadeuc. Bon appetit.
Dinner done, we'll be rolling back through Rennes to find a bed for the night; the boutique Hôtel le Magic Hall.
Day 2 - A seaside adventure on the Emerald Coast
All eyes on the Emerald Coast for day two of your Breton adventures. Saint-Lunaire is the chic seaside stop of choice on our mini-break. Buckle up and hit the road for the hour's drive towards the coastline from Rennes, beating the queues for an early breakfast at the pastel-hued pâtisserie of hotel Le Nessay Saint Briac.
An eclectic mix of neo-Breton architecture and Victorian frills, Saint-Lunaire's boho spirit is its best-kept secret fuelled by its artsy, creative community. When you roll into town, keep an eye out for Sooo Vintage, a flea market frequented by Breton's dreamers and free-wheelers seeking Tiffany lamps and exquisite Epstein cabinets to furnish their chic seaside stays.
Check into the diminutive Comète and stay for lunch. A seashell's throw from the beach, this elegant townhouse hotel runs a smart bistro serving a seafood-focused menu. Then head out to explore the low-key seaside town. Pull on some boots for coastal clambering on the GR34 - a breezy, windswept route that connects the Emerald Coast's many fishing enclaves. Or, if you're more inclined to stay still on the sand, head to the beachside eco-spa L'île Saint Lu for cedarwood sauna soaks and open-air massages beside the waves.
It's just a quick hop across the Pointe de la Briantais to get back to Saint-Malo, where your Brittany Ferry awaits, with plenty of time to swing by Bordier Creamery for a few souvenir sticks of the region's signature produce. Jean-Yves Bordier's traditionally-made butter pats are infused with smoked salt, Szechuan pepper and yuzu - a suitably off-beat alternative to the classic for France's boho coast. Next door, you'll find Bistro Autour Du Beurre, our final stop on this foodie tour. Sit down for a butter-based dinner before heading back to the Brittany Ferry port, bidding a final au revoir to the Emerald Coast.
Plot your own Brittany roadtrip at brittanytourism.com