I’ve got two things to say about Calais:
- It’s not as grim a place to stay as you’d think.
- The weather is actually worse than it is in England (if that’s actually possible).
So I found myself in Calais exploring a business opportunity. As with most people these days, my cost of living way extends my means and I’m trying to find new ways to earn enough to allow me and my kids to continue going on holiday/meals out/theatre expeditions/etc. So randomly I ended up spending 5 days in Calais… whether my trip will come to anything or not I am yet to find out, however it was a great experience, not least of all because as with most places in France (in fact everywhere I’ve ever been in France) the food was magnifique!
Now Calais has had a particularly bad press in the UK over the last few years – my mother was certainly rather concerned when I told her I was heading there for work. However as I said in my opener Calais really isn’t as grim as you’d think, although I did see three stowaways being cut out of a sealed freight vehicle and taken away in a police van. And I also saw a large group of immigrants washing themselves and all their clothes in the river that runs through the town centre – it was a sad sight to behold, especially when you consider that it was raining and windy at the time. But this is not the immigrants’ or Calais’ fault – and I certainly at no point felt threatened. The people of Calais are so desperate to attract the people of the UK back to their town that they have a whole festival of London vibe going on this summer, with red routemaster buses dotted around the town and all manner of UK art and icons.
But I digress…my main point about Calais is that the food was fab. During my trip I experienced tasty seafood at La Sole Meuniere, an amazing BBQ steak at La Kabilye, and some tasty couscous, tagine and brick at La Sesame. We discovered all of these restaurants within a five minute walk of our hotel in the old town centre, but we were also lucky enough to be taken for some home-cooked Northern French fayre at Cafe Des Dunes by a Calais local.
This restaurant is tucked away next to an electricity substation near the Port of Calais – and is nothing to look at. But upon entry it’s a buzzing locals restaurant with no menu as such, just whatever food the grandmother/cook has decided to cook that day. We had a selection of backed Camembert, beef and lubina (some kind of fish – sea bass I think). Followed by her homemade chocolate mousse, which was smooth, light, chocolatey and in fact everything you could ask for in a chocolate mousse!
However, the icing on the cake in terms of my Calais dining experiences was the menu at Histoire Ancienne – an amazing restaurant on the main road in the old town – which honestly served some of the best food I have ever tasted in my life! We enjoyed an array of amazing food (we did go twice as it was sooooo delicious) including enormous fresh gambas, seabream, turbot, salmon carpaccio, pistachios and fresh strawberry éclair and chocolate fondant to die for! It’s worth a daytrip to Calais just to go here.