During the 19th century, when the popularity of seaside holidays in France was boosted by the country’s growing industrial wealth and expanding rail network, many of the country’s best-known resorts were created along its lengthy Atlantic coastline, including Deauville and Trouville-sur-Mer in Normandy. These sibling stations balneaires sit on either side of the Toques River, overlooking La Manche, and have strikingly different personalities. Deauville is gaily flashy and extravagant, whereas Trouville-sur-Mer, once a small fishing village, is more reserved and possesses a proud literary history, as it attracted writers such as Marguerite Duras, who lived here for many years, Marcel Proust and Gustave Flaubert.
This literary pedigree explains the décor of the recently renovated Cures Marines Trouville Hotel, a Belle Époque beauty right on the beach that’s just reopened with a thalassotherapy spa and one of the best new restaurants in Normandy, ‘Le 1912’. The chef at this duplex dining room with lovely sea views is David Drans, aged 32, who just moved to Normandy from Paris, to take over the restaurant and run the hotel’s kitchens.
Normally, when I go to Trouville, I’m happy with a tray of oysters and a moules frites in one of the lively, long-running brasseries near the local fish market – often I choose the Brasserie Le Central – but during a recent weekend I met a friend who lives in Trouville for dinner at Le 1912. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting very much, partly because of the restaurant’s location in a chain hotel – this property is part of Groupe Accor’s McGallery brand – and also because many of the hotel’s guests are on weight-loss regimens.
However, Drans’ cooking is as satisfying to someone whose priority is gastronomic pleasure as it is to the calorie-counter, since his contemporary French cuisine is based on the best seasonal Norman produce, including the province’s superb catch-of-the-day. A beautifully composed modern take on a traditional lobster salad featured the crustacean’s poached tail but replaced the usual mayonnaise with a refreshing salad of fresh fruit and lightly poached vegetables, while another starter, a terrine of luscious slow-cooked pigeon breast and foie gras, was as pretty to look at as it was pleasant to eat.
Drans’ free-range chicken ‘à la Normande’ came to the table as a juicy breast of poached, alabaster-coloured fowl with a garnish of apples and a silky sauce suprême. The selection of Norman fromage – Camembert, Pont l’Eveque and others – offered during the cheese course were perfectly ripened, and the deconstructed tarte Tatin, a witty composition of stewed apples, shortbread pastry, caramel sauce and whipped cream, was every bit as satisfying as the original but better for being half as rich, in terms of the amount of butter and sugar used.
Le 1912, Cures Marines Trouville Hotel Thalasso & Spa— MGallery Collection, Boulevard de la Cahotte, 14360 Trouville-sur-Mer. Tel: +33 2/3 11 42 600. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
From France Today magazine