Appetite for Adventure: Brittany Serves Up a Foodie Road Trip
Set sail across the Channel for a food-focused mini-break. Linger over le petit déjeuner in Dinan, lunch in Saint-Lunaire and dinner at Rennes’ hottest new bistro, on a road trip along France’s north-west coast.
20 July, 2022
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Our choice for a food-focused French road trip? It's a route through rugged Brittany. This windswept region in the country's north-west is the perfect destination at which to get behind the wheel - all meandering, sea-hugging roads, dramatic granite coastlines and a bistro culture fuelled by the peninsula's deep pride in its local produce.
Surrounded by the sea on three fronts, Brittany puts its coastal location to good use in the kitchen, with a local cuisine of seafood-focused favourites, shaped by whatever arrives daily on the fishing boats. Everywhere from chic seaside 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 alongside the area's beloved crepes. All washed down with Brittany cidre, obviously.
A foodie road trip through Brittany, France
A boat on the Emerald Coast, left, and the town of Saint-Malo.
Day 1: Saint-Malo to Saint-Lunaire
Let's start with le petit déjeuner. Disembarking at Saint-Malo, we're heading straight for elegant Saint-Lunaire. Buckle up and hit the road for the half-hour's drive along the coastline, beating the queues for an early breakfast at the pastel-hued patisserie of hotel Le Nessay Saint-Briac.
An eclectic mix of neo-Breton architecture and Victorian frills, Saint-Lunaire's boho spirit - fuelled by its artsy, creative community - is its best-kept secret. When you roll into town, keep an eye out for Sooo Vintage, a flea market frequented by dreamers and free-wheelers seeking Tiffany lamps and exquisite Epstein cabinets with which to furnish their chichi seaside stays.
Tonight, you'll be bedding down in the diminutive Comète, so check in early and stay for lunch. A seashell's throw from the beach, this exceptional townhouse hotel runs a smart bistro serving a seafood-led menu.
As afternoon arrives, pull on some boots for coastal clambering on the GR34 - a breezy, scenic 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 for cedarwood sauna soaks and open-air massages within earshot of the waves.
Saint-Luniare, left, and the Rance. | Photo credit: Thibault Poriel, Bernard Begne.
Day 2: Saint-Lunaire to Rennes
Today, your itinerary follows the sinuous path of the beautiful Rance River. Bid au revoir to Saint-Lunaire and make the 30-minute drive through the verdant river valley to the silver-stone-turreted town of Dinan, a picturesque medieval settlement home to a plethora of art galleries and craft shops. Stroll through the Hobbit-esque cobbled streets in search of a devilishly decadent breakfast. Kouign-amann cake is a Breton speciality - a layered, flaky pastry bake that makes for a moreish morning snack. Because who doesn't want 30 per cent of their breakfast to be butter-based? The best in town are found at Harmonika. Don't miss perusing the regional produce on offer at the quirky independent shops dotted across town, either. Our favourites include Le Local grocery store and the restaurant D'Ici Delà, where you can pick up home-cooked produce as a savoury souvenir.
Suitably fuelled up, it's time to jump aboard a paddleboard. Potter your way along the expansive Rance estuary for a sun-soaked overwater yoga session. Practise your downward dog or simply soak up the views as you drift past diminutive fishing villages, ancient castles and the chocolate-box green banks.
Rennes' architecture, left, and a city market. | Photo credit: Bestjobers, Carolina Ferrer.
Back on dry land, you'll hop back in the car to head towards unconventional Rennes, Brittany's capital. This city is a maze of half-timbered architecture, historic 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 favourite, galette-saucisse - a sausage wrapped in a buckwheat pancake. Find one at the 400-year-old Marché des Lices food market, the city's largest.
Rennes' creative spirit is made material in its eclectic architecture. Explore on foot the landmark works of Georges Maillol and Jean Nouvel, or take a car out to the south of the city to visit Château des Pères and ogle the recently build and uber-futuristic "tree hotel" (the hotel's La Table des Pères is also one of the city's best restaurants).
Summer in Rennes, left, and the city's electic architecture. | Photo credit: C Noe.
When evening arrives, we're either heading to one of the city's legendary music festivals (check the line-ups for Les Trans Musicales, Rock'n Solex and Le Grand Soufflet) or booking a table at Pierre Restaurant de Copains, a fresh new spot on Rue Nantaise, opened by France's popular Top Chef finalist Pierre Eon. On a road famed for its gourmet offering, the menu stands out, offering a revived take on seafood favourites. Think pollack ceviche, fresh Breton sardines, a chilli-spiked tuna steak and, to finish, a minimalist cheeseboard including Timanoix and Abbaye de Timadeuc. Bon appétit!
Dinner done, we'll be rolling back through Rennes to find a bed for the night at the boutique Hôtel Le Magic Hall.
A regional feast, left, and oysters at Cancale. | Photo credit: Bestjobers, Tommaso Cantelli.
Day 3: Rennes to Saint-Malo
Ready for your final adventures? After a leisurely brunch at Oeuf La Crêperie (mini galettes-saucisses for us, please), you'll hit the road once more, suitably satiated, and with the satnav set for Cancale, a quaint seaside resort 30 minutes' drive away. The fisherman's commune is worth the detour for the town's oyster farms. Browse the seafood stalls that pepper the shingle shoreline, then order a lunch of sea-fresh Pied de Cheval wild oysters - the nutty taste is distinctively different to that of the more conventional molluscs on the menu.
It's just a quick hop across the Pointe de la Briantais to get back to Saint-Malo, where your ferry awaits. Leave plenty of time to swing by Bordier Creameries 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, resulting in a suitably off-beat alternative to the classic. Next door, you'll find Bistro Autour du Beurre, our final stop on this foodie tour. Sit down for a butter-rich dinner, before heading back to the ferry, bidding a final au revoir to the Emerald Coast.
How to get there
Jump aboard Brittany Ferries for your voyage across the channel. With various direct sailings a day from Poole, Plymouth and Portsmouth, you'll arrive in Saint-Malo in under three hours. Pack your Breton stripes and get ready to feast on Brittany's finest fare.
Plot your own Brittany roadtrip at brittanytourism.com