Fine Dining in Northern France
Brasserie "Le Chatillon"
62200 Boulogne Sur Mer
One of the culinary delights of the
Opal Coast (as this part of France along the North Sea is known) is
a "brasserie" tucked away between the fishmongers of the largest
fishing port in France: the Brasserie Le Chatillon.
And yes, we are really talking about Boulogne-sur-Mer, in the
'North'. The same Boulogne that was called Bononia by the Romans,
and that was connected with Cologne (Germany) by the "Via Gesoriacum
ad Colonia Agrippa". In later centuries, the city became part of the
Spanish Netherlands, and was called "Boonen" (="Beans")
Nowadays, Boulogne-sur-Mer consists of two parts: besides "la haute
ville" on top of the chalk-cliff (a reminder from the Jurassic
period), and built atop the remains of the camp mentioned by none
other than Julius Caesar, downtown Boulogne is situated along the
water on the "basse ville" where the fishermen reside. During the
French Revolution, the city was renamed "Port de l 'Union",
which emphasises the importance of this port.
The upper city is still surrounded by a fortified wall (where you
can stroll along) and home to the magnificent Basilica of Notre
Dame, with a 330ft high tower from miles away to identify. There is
also a museum, a belfry, a calvary, and more. Plenty of history, to
be discovered in the "old Bean". Also plenty of restaurants uptown,
but do not be tempted by a skinny tourists menu: keep your appetite
for downtown, where the Boulonnais themselves are eating out.
Those inhabitants of Boulogne may be proud of their port. And did
you know that the famous "Belgian" crusader Godfrey of Bouillon
(brother -in-arms to Richard The Lionheart) was born in
But let 's return to the culinary purpose of this website. Thanks to
the fishing port one can buy the freshest fish in all of France. At
the "Quai Gambetta" there are a number of seafood stalls that pamper
you daily with a variety of freshly landed fish. Warning: if you
arrive after 9.00AM, you will usually return empty handed...
If you like to watch the fish in
their natural habitat, Boulogne has the place to visit in Nausicaa,
with plenty of aquariums, appropriately built on the sea front. If
after a day looking at the fish you got hungry, you can enjoy a fine
meal in one of the many restaurants around the harbor and have a
delicious (fish) dish for dinner.
The best place to do so is at Brasserie Le Chatillon. This former
pub was originally only known to the fishermen and the workers of
the fish processors. But the kitchen of this "café" was of such a
high level of excellence that it gradually became known outside the
port area. Le Chatillon had to open it's top floor to cope with the
flow of gourmands. Reservation, even on a midweek day, is a
We visited "Le Chatillon" on a weekday in November without
reservation. Because we were quite early, it was just before
12.00AM, we were fortunate to be offered the last free
table in the house, in a busy corner. The next unannounced guests
were'nt so lucky and had to leave on an empty stomach.
We probably had the worst seat in the house, in the route of waiters
with trays of glasses and bottles, but nevertheless enjoyed the
exquisite fish dish. The portions were large, the service, despite
the cacophonous bustle, friendly and correct. We were sorry not to
be able to dine on the ground floor, in the old "bar", where
everything is just that little bit more "real", with lots of dark
wood and brass, as one could imagine a marine environment.
The clientele of Le Chatillon still exists in part of workmen in
sticky jumpsuits, but office people and day trippers are also
welcome. An experience not to forget.
Recommended are the "Menu du Jour", which varies from day to
day, depending on the season and the fish landed. The specialty of
the house is a "bouillabaisse" with North Sea fish, but for those
looking for something simpler the marinated herring is not to be
Le Chatillon has recently got an internet address, one can now
make an online reservation, at least 24hrs in advance!