It is perhaps fitting that some of France’s finest and most creative cooking can be found in the artistic enclave of Pont Aven, Brittany.
Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard and Paul Serusier erected their easels here in the late 1800s, attracting students and visionaries from across Europe. Today, the quaint community of 3,000 is home to the world-renowned Pont Aven School of Contemporary Art, and remains an inspired setting.
That inspiration is evident in the local cuisine – simple, fresh and delicious – and nowhere is it better exhibited than at La Taupiniere.
Nestled gently along the rte de Concarneau, and resting in a soft bed of flowers and foliage, the generations-old farm-house is awash in pastels; the supple greens and mauves are warm and welcoming, and make an ideal backdrop upon which many mouthwatering masterpieces are made and enjoyed in an open-design kitchen.
As expected, the seafood is exquisite in Pont Aven, with local fisherman bringing fresh catch to market daily. La Taupiniere prepares and presents it perfectly.
Le bonbon de calamar, fumet homardine – a sweet squid bathed in lobster broth – is light, slightly seasoned, and pleasing to the palate.
Les huitres spéciales pochées, fondue de poireaux – oysters with poached leeks – is also appetizing; savoury and succulent, you can still taste the salt water from the shell.
Both the La poitrine de pigeonneau rôtie – roasted breast of squab – and Le filet de dorade grise, beurre aux olives noires – freshwater bream smothered butter and black olives – are excellent choices. Each is filling, and yet easy on the belly.
For more adventurous eaters, Le blanc de barbue aux légumes, beurre au pesto – white catfish adorned with vegetables and pesto butter – is a tender and terrific treat, though likely not to everyone’s taste. That said, fussy diners would be wise to revisit this delicacy here.
It should be noted that owner Guy Guilloux is an expert on langoustines, having written several acclaimed books on the subject. It is no surprise then that the sultry shellfish is the house specialty.
As such, the Langoustines panées au sesame – breaded prawns with sesame – is delightful; crisp, though not crunchy, and robust and full of flavor.
The same can be said for Les nems de langoustines, confit d’oignons et mangue – prawns, accompanied by onion and mango – a salty surprise that leaves a lingering and lusty aftertaste, and that works well with the house white wine.
As for the wines, La Taupiniere offers a superb selection of both local and regional whites and reds. It is customary and best that you ask the sommelier for a proper recommendation to escort each plate, as the essence varies with individual options.
And while options are few for dessert, be sure to save space for Le mille feuille de crêpes dentelles aux fraises – mille feuille crepes with strawberries – rich, creamy and scrumptious. No one creates crepes like les Bretons, and no one in Brittany does them as well.
Similarly, there are few places on the planet that present food in such an aesthetically pleasing manner; the French are masters of simple chic, well-reflected in their attire, décor and meals.
Though pricey and popular – be sure to make reservations weeks, and perhaps even months in advance of your visit – La Taupiniere is a culinary experience not to be missed. ~ By Vanessa Monteaux
rte de Concarneau – Croissant Saint-André
Pont Aven, Brittany, France