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The fabulous cuisine of Pas-de-Calais

Come to Pas-de-Calais in the Hauts-de-France region and you鈥檒l discover an area of ancient history and rich culture, fringed by the glorious Opal Coast and brimming with historic villages and quaint hamlets which pepper the bucolic countryside. But what I love most about this friendly region 鈥 is its gastronomy says local Janine Marsh.

The gastronomy of Pas-de-Calais is unique. Its flavours come from the rich natural bounty of its fertile land and sea. It takes a pinch of influence from its Flemish past. And it鈥檚 seasoned by 鈥 well the seasons, in the far tip of northern France, it鈥檚 the rain and temperate climate that makes this area the vegetable garden of France. Come here with stretchy trousers and a healthy appetite because you鈥檙e going to be feasting like a lord鈥

La Mer

Pas-de-Calais is home to France鈥檚 biggest fish port 鈥 Boulogne-sur-Mer and restaurants in the region serve a wide range of the freshest fish from lobsters and mussels to langoustine and herring. Each morning, after a 5am auction, fish is delivered all over northern France and to the famous food market at Rungis in Paris. It might be early, but you鈥檒l still be able to get breakfast. From 4.30am 鈥 4.30pm La Chatillon restaurant, an institution in Bourgogne, serves fishermen and anyone else who loves great food 鈥 their seafood is superb.

Fish fit for a Queen

Journey along the beautiful coastal roads of the Opal Coast and you鈥檒l pass by authentic fishing villages where traditional little wooden boats are parked outside houses and fishermen sell their catch direct from their garages.

Don鈥檛 miss Boulogne鈥檚 fabulous fish market where artisans (local fish) and commercants (fish from further afield) put on a colourful display of fish from scallops and sardines to spider crab and sea bream. At Solutions Fish Market stall the seller tells me 鈥淚鈥檝e won 17 awards for quality of fish, I even had a message from Queen Elizabeth II about my award as a supplier to the royal table – the first French fisherman to win such an award from the Queen.鈥

The King of fish

If you like your fish smoked, you鈥檙e in for a treat here. 100 years ago there were dozens of fish smokers in the town, now there are just four including Accary, famous for their smoked herring 鈥 AKA the king of the fish in this part of the world.

This artisan producer consists of just 5 people who clean, cut, salt, smoke and pack the fresh fish delivered daily 鈥 a process that takes just 24 hours for herring, and a little longer for salmon. Smoked in huge stone chimneys called 鈥榗orresses鈥 using oak and beechwood shavings, they鈥檝e been working this way for almost 80 years and have won numerous awards including a coveted EPV and red label. The ashes are removed weekly and used by a local soap producer, any fish waste is used in cosmetics and animal food production. Nothing is wasted.

You won鈥檛 find Accary fish in supermarket only in good fish shops and gourmet shops, or go direct to their smokery and ring the bell 鈥 you鈥檒l get a warm welcome. 鈥淲e have a lot of happy customers鈥 says Ludovic Sodorge, 鈥渆ven the gendarmes come here for their fish!鈥

It would be a sin to go to the Opal Coast and not eat well. At the Atlantic-Delpierre Hotel in Wimereux, a lovely seaside resort that鈥檚 renowned for its colourful Belle Epoque villas, push the boat out at Michelin-starred restaurant La Li茅geoise. Chef Benjamin Delpierre weaves magic in the kitchen to create an exquisite menu that includes oysters with candied lemon marmalade, seaweed butter and a scrumptious peanut and chocolate dessert that I still dream of! On the first floor, La Li茅geoise has stunning views over the sea, perfect for the extraordinary sunsets that the Opal Coast is known for. On the ground floor is Brasserie L鈥橝loze which also has a great menu 鈥 the smoked salmon with matcha tea waffle and carrot, ginger and yuzu cream is memorable.

Details: Reserve a room and table at . All rooms face the sea, there鈥檚 a well-being spa and tranquil atmosphere – this hotel is a relaxing hideaway and a luxurious little gem.

La Terre

Over the last decade or so, chefs have flocked to create restaurants here, especially those who love to work with seasonal, organic and local produce. They鈥檙e lured by the tasty treasures, the quality and range of ingredients on offer, from saffron grown on the coast to the excellent cereal which (in my opinion, and I am a bit of a cake expert!) makes for the best bread and cakes in France, as well as vegetables grown in the historic marsh area of Saint-Omer. Covering an area smaller than New York City, the agricultural output of Pas-de-Calais is astonishing with premium production of many vegetables including sugar beet, chicory for coffee and beer, and endives as well as sustainable animal farming.

Those chefs have brought with them diverse food heritages from France and all around the world. Chef Christophe Dufoss茅 is one of them. Born in Calais, he moved to Metz in Lorraine, northeast France before deciding to come back to the region. Searching for the perfect place to open his restaurant he knew that he had found it when he stayed at the Hotel Chateau de Beaulieu in Busnes, formerly run by 3 Michelin starred chef Mark Meurin who was contemplating retirement. Since 2021, Chef Dufosse and wife Delphine have breathed new life into the 17th century chateau, creating a spa area, and expanding the 5-star hotel rooms and restaurant space. They鈥檝e also cultivated part of the enormous estate which now boasts beautiful potagers and orchards which provide at least 50% of the fruit and vegetables used in the kitchen. Their efforts have won them a rare Michelin Green Star, awarded to chefs who are leaders and innovators in the field of sustainable gastronomy.

Chef Dufosse鈥檚 team includes 28 chefs – expert patissiers, chocolatiers, glaciers, charcutiers, boulangiers and sweet makers. He works with around 40 local producers, fishermen, market gardeners and farmers. In his 2 Michelin-starred restaurant gastronomique and brasserie Cote Jardin, you鈥檒l feast on the most mouth-watering of dishes, this is more than lunch or dinner, it鈥檚 an epic-urean experience. And whatever you do 鈥 leave room for dessert, resistance is simply futile.

From the UK, DFDS offers up to 30 daily sailings on its Dover to Calais service and up to 24 daily sailings from Dover to Dunkirk. Rest and relax in the exclusive Premium Lounge where you can enjoy complimentary hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, and snack. Add Priority Boarding to be one of the first to board and disembark the ferry. Browse DFDS鈥 duty-free shops onboard and at the ports and save up to 50 per cent off UK high-street prices on some of your favourite brands.

For more information and to book your next trip with DFDS, visit

3 more places to experience a taste of Pas-de-Calais

Head to Houlle to try the world鈥檚 best geni猫vre (genever), a local speciality that鈥檚 like a Dutch gin. The Distillerie Geni猫vre de Houlle is home to the oldest grain distillery in use in France 鈥 making small batches of this hairs-on-your-chest drink since 1812.

Cheese heads will love the artisan-made regional frommages of the Fr猫res Bernard at Wierre Effroy. You can watch the cheeses being made, including mouth-watering Mimolette 鈥 then scoff them without moderation!

Try the divine beer at the ancient Abbey de Clairmarais, Saint-Omer, where beer has been made for centuries.

Janine Marsh is the author of聽 several internationally best-selling books about France. Her latest book How to be French聽鈥 a celebration of the French lifestyle and聽art de vivre, is out now 鈥 a look at the French way of life. Find all books on her website聽

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