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