Finding a really first class place to eat in Brittany, I mean the type of place with a mention in the Michelin guide, was proving a bit challenging around where we were staying. No shortage of places to eat moules and St Jacques, but we were after something a bit different. The Tortuga found this place, well off the beaten track near to Erquy. I think she must have a secret guide somewhere because she never fails to come up with good places to eat when we are away together. Le Relais de St Aubin is set in beautiful gardens in an old seventeenth century priory. The first thing you notice is the riot of colours walking from the car park through the stone entrance archway. Hanging baskets, pots and borders are all overflowing with colourful plants and flowers and into the restaurant it gets no less interesting. In fact idiosyncratic is probably how it is best summed up. The entrance hall reminds you of one of those out of the way country museums with lots of ‘things’ dotted around and display cases containing interesting items – a set of bagpipes for instance. Apparently they have them in Brittany too.
The restaurant itself is like walking into an Edwardian parlour, cluttered is the best description, with the walls covered in antique-looking bric-a-brac and paintings. Blue table cloths and busy place settings that give the impression of too much chaos and not enough space to eat. In fact the whole dining room is a bit as your grandmother’s house might have been. Over on one side there is a massive fireplace. This is a bit off-putting on a warm day, but is an essential part of the place. Much of the food is prepared à la cheminée, which means cooked in the kitchen but finished off on the fire. It really does make a difference.
But that is where the homey-ness ends. The food is excellent, as you would expect from the wall full of eating guide recommendations on the way in. We had a fairly extensive trawl around the menu, starters, meat, fish and the children’s menu. It was all excellent quality and well presented. You also get to see your food finished on the fire. All very entertaining. The service was not exactly effusive, but then it often isn’t when you are eating as a guest in someone’s restaurant! They certainly know their market as the place was full of locals and not a tourist in sight. Another great benefit.
The restaurant has its own tame peacock who will join you for coffee on the terrace afterwards if you are lucky.