Small part of France will "forever be English"

Brexit may be looming fast on the horizon but there is a spot on the French coast, just over the Channel, that to some will “forever be English.”

Le Touquet boasts a rich British heritage, the likes of which you will struggle to find elsewhere in France.

This colourful seaside town is a strange mélange of French and English and, in its heyday between the wars attracted not only rich Parisians but British nobility of the aristocratic, political and showbiz kind. HG Wells eloped here; Edward and Mrs Simpson holidayed discreetly here; PG Wodehouse, Noël Coward and Winston Churchill all frequented the place. It was said that, on occasion, there were more British MPs in Le Touquet than in the House of Commons.

Situated on the English Channel, 32 km south of Boulogne, visitors (including lots of Brits) still flock here, not least to sample the lovely food at Perard, arguably its best known restaurant.

Listed by Gault and Millau, the world respected “bible” for food lovers, the restaurant is something of a local institution - and rightly so.

The success story started in 1964 when Serge Pérard opened a fishmonger and a restaurant.

In 2001, he sold the business to Eric Forget, who then created a 20-seat oyster bar in the old fishmongers next to the restaurant. The oyster bar is still there where customers can eat all day.

Next door is the bustling restaurant, located in a beautiful dining room which can seat up to 120 and whose walls are adorned with framed, black and white cartoons each of which pay “homage” to Perard.The brasserie-style interior has changed little over the years, not least as Eric’s customers like it just the way it is: traditional, cosy and familiar.

With the summer here, you might also want to enjoy a meal on the outside terrace from where you can observe the constant hustle and bustle of the busy street.

On the menu, you will find plenty of types of fish, most of which are locally sourced. Seafood is king with the magnificent Le Plateau Prestige (priced €55.50 pp) one of the two top best sellers here. This very ample dish consists of crab, half a lobster, Normandy oysters, whelks, shrimps and prawns.The other long-time customer favourite is the fish soup for which the restaurant is particularly famous, homemade, using only locally caught fish and other products.

There is a great choice of oysters and fish, including grilled seabass, skate wing, grilled tuna and salmon and steamed cod. You can opt for something from the la carte or fixed menus. Portions are quite generous but if you still have room there’s a nice selection of deserts and a great wine list.Worth noting, too, that (particularly considering the quality) the prices are very reasonable, not least when compared with some other local places to eat.

Eric is now retired and has passed the reigns to Estelle, one of his two daughters, who runs the place on a day to day basis.

She says the restaurant has been so busy since such places were allowed to reopen after lockdown restrictions were eased that they are packed most nights, with two sittings to meet demand.The continued popularity of this “institution” is testament to the quality of the food and service provided by the hard working staff.

One of the cartoons on the wall shows an elderly man celebrating his birthday with someone asking the secret of his longevity.The 95-year-old replies: “42 bowls of fish soup at Perard.” That may be on the excessive side but pay a visit here and you will see what he means!

Le Touquet Paris-Plage – to give the town its full name - is a fashionable seaside resort with casinos, conference and sports facilities, a horse-racing track, fine sands, and a forested background but, undoubtedly, one of the best reasons to visit is to sample the fish at Perard.It's open 7/7, all year round. Reservations, possible online, are recommended.

Perard, 67 Rue de Metz, Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, France

T: 0033 3 21 05 13 33

www.perard-letouquet.fr

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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