Located in the country just outside of Cancale and Saint-Malo in Brittany, this charming hotel-restaurant offers exceptionally good value for money and comes as a relief in a world where everything is so relentlessly  over-marketed. Here, however, I rather doubt it would even occur to owners Chantal and Pascal Duval, who took over this formerly family-run establishment in 2011, to frame their profession in terms of marketing. Instead, their business is well-drilled, old-school hospitality and they do it beautifully.

In fact such independently owned and run hotels are growing rarer in France, which is what makes them such a pleasure – each possesses a unique style and history. In this case, today’s plush hotel and superb restaurant grew out of a simple inn and café across the street from a small country train station. With last October’s arrival of talented young chef Olivier Valade, Maison Tirel- Guérin’s gastronomic credentials have been subtly but authoritatively renewed for the 21st century.

“It’s a fascinating challenge to update a restaurant like ‘La Maison Tirel’,” says Valande, who previously cooked with Jacques Divellec and Bernard Loiseau. “On the one hand, the habituées – the locals who’ve been coming here for several generations to celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries and communions – like to feel at home here, both gastronomically and socially. And on the other hand, an international clientele and younger locals are interested in lighter more inventive cooking. So I try to make everyone happy.”

He succeeds admirably, offering classics like sole meunière, dressed with house-smoked Bordier butter and garnished with truffled baby vegetables, and lobster flamed in Cognac alongside intriguing contemporary creations.

The latter includes a starter of langoustine tails rolled in powdered shrimp and sautéed with garnishes of sea-urchin carrot cream and pickled vegetables, and an open ‘ravioli’ filled with John Dory and prawns in a rocket coulis.

Charming bilingual service assures the impressively ‘la vie en rose’ atmosphere at this excellent restaurant.

Maison Tirel-Guérin, 1 Le Limonay, 35350 Saint-Méloir-des-Ondes. Tel: +33 2 99 89 10 46. Prix-fixe menus €30-€96, average à la carte €65.

From France Today magazine

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Alexander Lobrano
Alexander Lobrano grew up in Connecticut, and lived in Boston, New York and London before moving to Paris, his home today, in 1986. He was European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine from 1999 until its closing, and has written about food and travel for Saveur, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Travel & Leisure, Departures, Conde Nast Traveler, and many other publications in the United States and the United Kingdom. He is the author of HUNGRY FOR PARIS, 2nd Edition (Random House, 4/2014), HUNGRY FOR FRANCE (Rizzoli, 4/2014), and MY PLACE AT THE TABLE, newly published in June 2021.

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