I could say that Cherbourg is my town’s sister (or brother?) in France, the two being connected daily by our local pride and joy, Barfleur the ferry. Being only a 4 hours cruise, taking advantage of the £24 return offer from Brittany Ferries and having a friend who moved there recently, I decided to pay another visit to the french town on the other side of the English Channel. I have been to Cherbourg before, during the August bank holiday, but unfortunately back then I wasn’t able to explore much because everything was closed (including most of the cafes and restaurants). That’s when I chose to go to Barfleur for the day and enjoy the French non-touristy countryside.
This time though I was on a mission: taste as much French delicacies as possible without breaking the bank too much.
Coffee and Croque-Monsieur at Cafe de l’Etoile
Cafe de l’Etoile is one my my friend’s favorite places to go for coffee and when he heard that we were starving after the boat trip, he suggested to go there for lunch. The coffee shop is the perfect place if you are searching for an authentic French cafe, with a cosy decor and views over the busy street below. One wall is decorated with a realistic-looking bookcase wallpaper while the other have large windows with reading lamps next to them. It’s the ideal place to come and have a chat with your friends or simply just enjoy a coffee on your own while reading the paper.
The menu is not very large so it’s quite easy to choose from. I never had a Croque-Monsieur before so I went for the one topped with goats cheese and honey. Croque-Monsieur is a typical french sandwich filled with ham and cheese and then baked so that the cheese on top melts and forms a crust. You can find it almost in every cafe in France.
For coffee, I liked the sound of the Cafe de l’Etoile, an espresso with a touch of Chantilly, a drop of amaretto, topped with cream. It was delicious, with a delicate vanilla almondy aftertaste.
You can find Cafe de l’Etoile at 2 Rue Portes, Cherbourg.
Anything with cheese at Maître Corbeau
Maître Corbeau is a little gem of a restaurant for which I would suggest you book in advance because we had to wait for half an hour for a table. It was worth it though because the food was beyond spectacular. Maître Corbeau is a restaurant where all the dishes have massive quantities of cheese in them and it is in the same time a heaven for any cheese lover. The decor of the restaurant is designed in black and white, same as a cow’s pattern while the walls are decorated with different types of cheese boxes. While we were waiting for our table we couldn’t stop staring at the big fondue pots standing on almost each table. The downside is that the menu is in French and if you don’t know the language you will have a few difficulties ordering. I went to chance and ordered the “Assiette campagnarde fumee”, after the waiter assured me that it’s a very good choice.
What I received was a plate full of goodies, with a pot of hot Reblochon cheese fondue to dip them in: tomatoes, walnuts, gizzards, croutons, gherkins, smoked duck breast, dry sausage and potatoes topped with white cheese, garlic and herbs. The food was delicious and plenty, I struggled finishing all of it.
You can find Maître Corbeau at 12 Place de la République, Cherbourg.
Galettes at Au Saint Michael
You can’t go to France and not stop by at a creperie, a restaurant specialised in making savory pancakes called galettes. Au Saint Michael is a small homely restaurant with only a few tables ( I would recommend again to book a table in advance) and a big fire place taking almost an entire side of a wall, where they cook the steak on an open flame. The walls are covered is uneven stones, with wooden beams on the ceiling. You can see that they have tried to keep the design of how the house used to look like in the past.
Here I went for the galette Normande, a huge crepe filled with potatoes, onions, smoked sausages and a white cream sauce. The galette was served next to a simple salad, to balance the strong flavours of the sausage and the cream. It was a delicious dish and again, I struggled to finish it because of its size.
When dining at Au Saint Michael, instead of wine you should order cider. Normandy is actually very famous for its cider production and at Au Saint Michael you will find the locally sourced one which is served in cute white carafes.
You can find Au Saint Michael at 51 Rue Tour Carree, Cherbourg.
Pave de rumsteak grille et sa sauce maison au choix at Cafe du Port
As I said before, on Sundays Cherbourg is a dead city. Nothing is opened, not even restaurants or cafes so if you want to go for a coffee in the morning… though luck. The only place we found opened on a Sunday was Cafe du Port, a brasserie right next to the harbour, with nice views over the boats. We chose to stay on the terrace, outside, which was surrounded by a plastic tent as the temperatures weren’t quite high at the end of March. The decor was simple, with plastic chairs and tables but we found it like a perfect place to just chill, because of the roof heaters and the blankets provided. We’ve spent a few hours there, starting with coffee and ending with beer, having lunch in between. The waiter was very friendly and laughed at out attempts of speaking in French.
For lunch I chose the pave de rumsteak grille with the homemade sauce which today was mushrooms. I was hoping to try the beef tartar while in Cherbourg but it wasn’t on the menu so I went for the steak. When the waiter asked me how I wanted it I said medium-rare, as I always do. He smiled and said “rare”. “No, no, medium rare”, I replied. He smiled again and said “Rare. If you don’t like it we’ll put it on the grill some more”.
You have to know that in France the steak will come slightly less cooked than you are expecting. And so did my steak, covered in the delicious mushroom and cheese sauce. I could see the bits of red raw meat though the thick sauce and I remember thinking “you wanted beef tartar? Here’s your beef tartar!”. However, as soon as I tasted the steak, it melt into my mouth releasing an amalgam of flavours that I could have only dreamed of. The steak was simply perfect, one of the best I have ever had!
You can find Cafe du Port at 20 Quai Caligny, Cherbourg.
Giant Macarons at Petit Jean Boulangerie
It would be a sin to go to France and not eat at least one macaron, the sweet meringue-based cookie filled with tasty thick buttercream. Petit Jean is a bakery that sells all sorts of sweets, baguettes and sandwiches. I couldn’t resist their 2 for 5 euros offer on giant macarons and I had two buy them: one vanilla and one pistachio. Their taste was amazing, the crunch of the crust melting in my mouth together with the fluffy cream. Even if I love macarons, having more than a giant one at a time is not recommended due to their sweetness. It it however the perfect dessert.
You can find Petit Jean Boulangerie at 1 Rue du Château, Cherbourg.
Drink a local beer at L’Eldorado brewery
You can’t leave Cherbourg without visiting the local brewery, where you can get a beer for as little as 2 euros. Besides the four house beers: dark, ale, lager and white, they also have special beers, often changing. When I was there I got the chance to try the special IPA and the rum beer. They also had a mojito beer, but I didn’t try that one. The rum beer tasted very interesting, much sweeter than a normal ale, with an aftertaste of the Caribbean drink.
I have to mention that L’Eldorado is also opened on Sundays, and even if it’s a brewery locals usually go there to have their coffee in the afternoon.
You can find L’Eldorado brewery at 52 Rue François La Vieille, Cherbourg.