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Ferry tasty; Vegetarian Jo Kelly succumbs to temptation as she sets a course for St Malo's myriad culinary delights.

Byline: Jo Kelly

IF IT can make a vegetarian of three decades change her ways, then there must be something special about Brittany's cuisine.

Within three days of leaving Portsmouth for St Malo, I'd eaten more seafood and meat than in the previous 30 years.

There's something of the fairy tale about this little walled French port city and it's difficult not to get swept along by the atmosphere of adventure. And to fall for the food in a big way.

Hopping off a Brittany Ferries ship feels like a step back in time to the days of pirates, privateers and corsairs. St Malo was founded in the 12th century and history echoes through its quaint cobbled streets.

It was originally built on a rocky island at the mouth of the Rance estuary, allowing it to control the trade heading into the heart of Brittany.

Now grand fortifications guard charming rows of five-storey houses, restored after bombing during the war. Inside the city's walls there are cosy hotels, cute gift shops and stores selling compasses and other seafaring knick-knacks.

The piece de resistance of St Malo is its array of restaurants. It's impossible to put one foot in front of the other without glancing through the window of yet another deliciouslooking place to eat.

My boyfriend Matt and I spent the first afternoon of our short break - we were using the website Airbnb for a couple of nights - strolling around starving, simply unable to decide which chalked-up menu board looked the most enticing.

In the end we ducked into the restaurant with the widest variety of mussel dishes.

After sampling St Malo's oysters, Coquilles St-Jacques and moules mariniere, we stumbled around the blustery beach - until it was time to forage for our next meal.

St Malo is all about eating and drinking, drinking and eating. But for Brittany's produce providers food is not just for devouring... it is history, family, always a story.

When we tried some Kerisac cidre, Laurent, the pourer and head of marketing, wove a tale of how the company had been passed down four generations since 1920 and how the smiling man on the logo was his great grandfather, Edmond.

When sampling scallops on a bed of pureed parsnip, from Fumaison Artisanale we were regaled with dramas of how one man dived in the Bay of St Malo and St Brieuc for these seafood treats returning only when his bag was full.

The scallops are then cleaned and salted before they are gently smoked over wood chips made from Scotch whisky barrels. The result is so delicate yet tasty, it turned the head of this once-nervous vegetarian who now, as a result, regularly tucks into scallops.

AWe were discovering the cuisine on board Brittany Ferries' flagship Pont-Aven at a tasting in port courtesy of Tables et Saveurs de T Bretagne, a collective of the top restaurants and their chefs in Brittany.

aboard Pont-Our French food odyssey also included L'Entre Deux Verres on Rue des Grands Degres, one of St Malo's best restaurants. With intimate space for about 20 diners it feels more like a room in someone's house.

To start, we tucked into T langoustine "snackees" in Thai bouillon made with coconut milk and shiitake mushrooms, along with thinly sliced duck among a crisp salad. We moved on to a main of beef cheek cooked in red wine on a bed of gnocchetis and L'Oignons de Roscoff, as well as an unusual but delicious lentil risotto with dos de cabillaud fish and facon bacon.

Finally, we couldn't leave without trying their signature dessert of chocolate and caramel mousse with salted butter. At the end we could not fit in another mouthful. L'Entre Deux Verres is now firmly on life's To T Return To list. T If culinary excellence sounds like your kind of holiday, then a St Malo trip offers it en route as well as when you get there.

On our overnight trip on the Brittany Ferries Pont-Aven we enjoyed a fourcourse a la carte meal in the elegant Le Flora restaurant.

buffet. The highlight was a mushroom and rosemary risotto which arrived in Aven three parts - a stack of buttery mushrooms, salad and potatoes plus a veloute of creamed mushrooms topped with whipped cream.

There's also a good value buffet option in Le Flora - PS25.90 for adults, PS5.20 for children - featuring the likes of organic Scottish salmon, saddle of spicy lamb and artichoke raviolacci.

The self-service restaurant, La Belle Angele, is pretty decent too with mains from PS7.50 and a kids' menu again at PS5.20.

Flashbacks of school ferry trips spending the night awkwardly curled up in the cafe were dispelled when we opened the door to our Commodore cabin. Two beds, a T sofa, balcony, fridge, bathroom, TV, DVD rental and even more edible treats welcomed us.

The night-long journey on board Pont-Aven, was not simply a means of transport but as enjoyable a part of the trip as exploring St Malo itself.

FACTFILE |JO KELLY visited Brittany with Brittany Ferries, which operates year-round from Portsmouth to St Malo with two-night gourmet cruises including dinner on board, cabin both ways and lunch in the walled city starting at PS109 a head. Pont-Aven usually serves the route from November to March, and Bretagne from April to October. See brittanyferries.com/offers or call 0871 244 1400.

For general tourism advice on the region go to saint-malo-tourisme.com and uk.franceguide.com

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St Malo recalls an age of pirates and privateers

A buffet aboard Pont-Aven
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 20, 2015
Words:926
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