Honfleur and it’s weekly Saturday market are always a must when we visit Normandy, just as a long lunch at Le Corsaire is before the journey back to the cottage.
Le Corsaire is a rather traditional French restaurant in the centre of the port town. It is a short distance away from the main harbour which, although perfect for people watching and the ideal place to ‘be seen’, the food invariably lacks quality and is severely overpriced. This is not the case at Le Corsaire.
My family and I must have been coming to Le Corsaire for 10+ years on our visits to Honfleur. The staff, menu and decor remain much the same however, this is what makes the place so charming! Their service is good and it is a great place to sit outside if you are blessed with a sunny day so that you can listen to the clarinet player in the square (who also must have been doing the same route for 10+ years!!). A warning, it does get very busy so booking is essential. The restaurant also, like many traditional restaurants in the area, serves food at specific times rather than all day so try not to get caught out otherwise you will miss out on a truly lovely meal.
As with the majority of French restaurants, there are set menus which vary in price. The four of us, my Mom, Dad, Neil and I, all opted for Le Menu 15,50 E which offered a choice of five starters, four main courses and three desserts. Very good value especially considering the dishes that were on offer.
My Dad, being an avid seafood lover, chose ‘Assiette de Fruits de Mer’ (mixed seafood plate) for a starter. Neil is not quite so much of a seafood lover but due to where we were, he thought he would give it a go. The dish contained quite a selection, oysters, sea snails, prawns and whelks accompanied by seaweed and mayonnaise. Dad, of course, was overjoyed however, Neil did look a little green when the dish was delivered to the table!! I cannot honestly say that they both thoroughly enjoyed it although I think that is because Neil is not a massive fan of seafood rather than the quality of the food!
My Mom and I also chose a seafood option to start, Moules au Creme (Mussels in a shallot, garlic, white wine and cream sauce) for my Mom and Moules Marinere (the same but without cream) for me. The portion was very generous however, I will say that the mussels weren’t as big as normal as they are slightly out of season. They were still delicious thought and the wonderful sauce was mopped up with an abundance of white french bread. Calorific, yes but it certainly was a fantastic gastronomic start to the holiday!
For the main course, my Mom and I again chose the same dish, 1/2 Coquelet Braise au Calvados (Chicken quarter with Calvados sauce) which came with a large portion of crispy frites (chips). The sauce was really creamy and there was certainly a strong taste of Calvados although it was not overpowering. Also on the plate was a single lettuce leaf; I must admit I would have preferred a bit more salad or veg however, I know that is not the French way. Although it may seem like we simply ate chicken and chips, the sauce added another, more local, dimension to the dish.
Neil opted for seafood that he is more at home with, Saumon a L’Oseille (Salmon with a sorrel sauce). He also chose to have a side of chips – it was the first day of our holiday after all!! He really enjoyed the sauce which had a beautiful lemon flavour. The salmon fillet was also perfectly cooked, flaking easily.
As my Father can never get enough fish, he decided upon Filet de Poissons a la creme (Fillet of fish with a cream sauce). This turned out to be the fish of the day, Cod, which was very meaty and the perfect variety of fish to have with the delicate creamy sauce. My Dad opted to eat most of my Mom’s chips and instead had boiled potatoes and rice. An odd combination perhaps and again a distinct lack of veg however, the sauce did have one or two mushrooms in it!!!
By this stage we were all rather full but who can resist a French dessert? I chose the speciality of the region, Tarte au Poire (Pear Tart) which was served warm. Absolutely lovely, the pastry was nice and buttery and not too thick.
Everyone else opted for the Creme Caramel Maison (Creme Carmel) having seen several other tables opt for this already. Very creamy with just the right about of wobble I am told!
Being in France, it would have been rude not to have a few drinks with lunch. Mom was on the red wine, Neil had local cider and Dad had a beer…I had a lemonade as I was on antibiotics! We all felt the need for a nap on the way home after such a lovely, and typically French, lunch in the sunshine. It really was a wonderful start to our holiday.
And now for a recipe for Moules Mariniere from ‘The Food of France’ (Murdoch Books recipes by Maria Villegas and Sarah Randell).
Half a celery stalk, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
410ml white wine
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
220ml double cream
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1. Scrub the mussels and remove their beards. Discard any that are open already and don’t close when tapped on a work surface.
2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion, celery and garlic stirring occasionally until softened but not brown.
3. AAdd the wine, bay leaf and thyme and bring to the boil. Add the mussels, cover the pan and summer over a low heat for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.
4. Using a slotted spoon, lift out the mussels as they open putting them in a warm dish. Throw away any mussels that havent opened after 3 minutes.
5. Strain the remaining liquor into a clean saucepan through a sieve. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble for 2 minutes. Add the cream and reheat the sauce being careful to not allow it to boil. Season well.
6. Serve the mussels in bowls with the sauce poured over and parsley sprinkled on top. Ensure there is plenty of bread for dunking!!