The excuse – strictly research of course; the justification – a birthday lunch; the result – simply, superbly replete
‘My we bring our dog inside?’ says our niece, on the threshold of l’Atelier Gourmand.
‘I believe we’ve a table booked for ten people?’
Fabrice Durand’s stern and guileless face creases into a wide smile accompanied by a shrug that says ‘Gotcha!’ and which sets the scene for the rest of our lunch at Fabrice and Christine’s wonderful restaurant on the quay at Dinan Port.
Although we’re here on the strength of a recommendation and the imposing building on the corner of the bridge and quayside looks inviting, first impressions are of any other creditable but run-of-the-mill French eatery in a popular town – especially when you realise that half of the building appears to be shared with another restaurant that seems to have bagged a better terrace alongside the river.
We’re not quite sure which entrance to use (it has two that lead to the same place) but eventually find ourselves in a small reception area where we’re confronted by Fabrice and jovially lead through the upper restaurant area and down a small set of steps to the terrace; a covered open-air space that overlooks the river and can only really be seen from the other bank.
The whole ambiance is friendly and intimate with no indication of what to expect in a culinary sense other than the name – l’Ateleir Gourmand.
With the sun streaming into the terrace we scan the menu, which seems to offer an interesting cross section of fish, meats, tarts and shellfish – and the wine list which is thankfully limited, with a few sensibly priced wines to compliment any of the dishes.
The menu is shown here to give you an impression of the variety and choice – and we’ve added some photos of a selection of the dishes we ordered to give you a sense of the place and presentaion. None of this, of course, gives you an idea of taste or of service – both of which are perfect for our niece Georgie’s event.
My own Filets de Harengs, Pommes a l’huile (Herrings in apple oil) are exquisite both in preparation, presentation and flavour – not too strong but with plenty of texture; whereas Cherrie’s Salade au Magret fumé Maison (salad of house smoked duck breasts) is prepared just as we like it with very little sign of any form of cooking but with a delicate flavour complimented by the oil and vinegar salad dressing. The fish soup special of the day also goes down well with those who have it and once again presentation is spot-on.
Service is typically French ‘matter-of-fact’ but friendly, courteous and attentive without being imposing or pretentious – in fact just right for an authentic French restaurant/auberge atmosphere that has more locals and French dining here than foreign tourists.
Main courses are wholesome, tasty and of sufficient volume to dispel any fear of malnourishment by couture chef and the dishes are substantial without being excessive. Cherrie’s Dos de cabillaud en papillotte (cod in foil) is beautifully fresh; set off on a bed of saffron rice. My own entrecote is predictably simple and superb; cooked to perfection. Flavours and presentation are perfect for the setting and as the wine flows so each and every one of us mellows into a lazy afternoon extended lunch.
Although none of us need or really want desserts we manage to pick our way through a smooth communal crème caramel, a large delicious Tart Tatin, Fromage blanc with a coulis of raspberries and yet another raspberry confection with light pastry. Little wonder that no one is in a hurry to rush anywhere this evening.
There are numerous restaurants and bars along the quayside at Dinan Port and no doubt some are equally as good – but if you want a rock solid recommend to avoid disappointment or endless wandering up and down in indecision, then l’Atelier Gourmand will tick all your boxes – as long as Fabrice let’s you in!