As a present to each others for the holidays, we decided to have a mini stay in Nantes at the start of our trip and Paris at the end. And what a lovely present, we had such a great time walking around these cities cheerfully decorated for the festivities!
Our time in Nantes was divided between visiting different areas of the city centre, eating in lovely places, shopping, catching up with my family members who live there and feeling a bit nostalgic (that last bit was just me as this is my favourite city in France, it holds many memories as it was home to me for five years when I was a student).
We had booked boutique hotel La Pérouse (3 allée Duquesne, right in the city centre of Nantes) for the two nights and really enjoyed our time there. We felt incredibly relaxed the moment we stepped in and this feeling remained with us during our stay. The building itself has such a surprising architecture that really fits with the other older ones in the area. Every detail in the hotel is well thought through and its location was perfect for us as we could easily get around or jump on the tram to go and spend time with family members.
Where we went for food and drink
As per our little tradition when we spend time in Nantes, our first breakfast was at La Cigale. I love sitting in that 120-year-old restaurant and admire the decor while sipping a delicious tea and savouring pastries and toasted bread with homemade jams, caramel sauce and apple compote. We like going there first thing to start the day as the shops are yet to open and the streets are still quiet. The area is really beautiful for sightseeing and you could obviously not miss a walk via the famous Passage Pommeraye.
After getting a great recommendation from a Nantes local on Instagram, I had booked a table for lunch at restaurant Pickles. It is owned by British chef Dominic Quirke and the concept of his cuisine marries local terroir produce with flavours inspired from his various trips to Asia, North Africa, Italy and obviously from his own British roots. The meal we had was impeccable from start to finish, with great choices of wines carefully selected by our waiter/sommelier. I started with a potimarron (squash) velouté that was really smooth and creamy with delicious added notes of celeriac and vanilla, topped with toasted hazelnuts and a lemon emulsion. E. had the black pudding starter that was really flavoursome and well put together with lardo di colonnata, sweet potato and tamarind miso. He had the fish main course afterwards which was hake that day served with leek and saffron braised fennel. While it was very tasty, my main course is what really won my heart. I had the homemade ramen with shiitake broth, topped with sauteed mushrooms, garlic cream, capers, pickled carrots and the most wonderful smoked egg yolk. Oh my, the egg! I fell in love with ramen eggs while in Japan a few years ago and this egg I had in Pickles is high up there with the best. It had a thin harder shell which oozed with creamy egg yolk once you cut it in half. I resisted the urge to ask for another serve of egg and focused on the rest of the ramen which was packed with amazing flavours. We finished our lunch by sharing a plate of cheeses and left the restaurant feeling very happy with all the delicious things we had. I would recommend making a booking if you are intending to go there as it was packed for lunch (and we were there at the end of service).
After hearing many good things about bar Le Nid and its famous cute egg shaped tables and seats, we decided to head there for a post dinner drink. The bar was designed by graphic designer and illustrator Jean Jullien who is a native from Nantes (do look him up, you will most certainly recognise his artwork). It is located on the top of Tour de Bretagne and access costs only €1. We ordered mulled wine as it was perfectly seasonal and enjoyed checking out the design of the bar. I loved all the posters representing different areas of Nantes and recognised many familiar ones. After our drinks, we walked outside the bar on the viewing deck at the top of the tower where we got an amazing view of Nantes by night. The names of the different areas of the city are printed on the wall so you know what you are looking at. It's a really fun place for a drink. I know quite a lot of my friends who would really enjoy it.
And obviously, we could not leave Nantes without paying a visit to famous chocolatier Vincent Guerlais. Because we were there a few days before Christmas, it was very busy but we managed to put our hands on wonderful chocolate goods to share with my family over the holidays (and a couple of things back with us). We got a small box of P'tit Beurre which produced a lot of 'oohs' and 'aahs' once tasted at my parents' home but the Guerlinettes (little discs of crispy delicate thin cigarette biscuit pieces with hazelnut Gianduja covered in delicious dark chocolate) created even more joy. The chocolate lover I am is so thankful that my friend Jamie mentioned this place to us a few years ago when we met her for coffee in Nantes. Next time I visit, I will make sure to also check out the macarons which I heard are really good (there was a very impressive queue to order macarons and cakes so we had to skip that as we had somewhere to get to).
Have you ever been to Nantes? What is your favourite place there for a visit, a meal or a drink?