Cod is “off” at La Matelote!

This article originally appeared in Frogsiders magazine pages in 2009.  Written by Ian Blackshaw with additional background material by Patrick Hay

One of Tony Lestienne's signature dishes - Warm Lobster Salad

This fine restaurant, run by chef/patron,Tony Lestienne, celebrated its thirtieth birthday in 2009. Its distinctive antique furniture, paintings and eclectic artefacts combine with creative cooking and the fine – but rather pricy – wine selection to ensure a memorable visit – and a Michelin star.

La Matelote takes its name from a famous local fish wife who sold fish from the quayside in Boulogne. A portrait of her is on display in the main dining room.

Apart from the a la carte menu, the restaurant offers three formule (set) menus, including an eight-course menu degustation, which shows off Tony Lestienne’s ‘signature’ dishes of warm lobster salad, monkfish with parmesan gratin and raspberry millefeuille.

On our recent visit, we opted for the great value €31 menu, recently reduced from €35 to reflect the change in TVA charged for restaurant food. So, what did we have to eat?

Between us we had a long-time favourite, fish soup and a delightful salmon starter billed as le fondant de saumon mi-cuit a l’aneth. This lived up to its exotic name and expectation.

Fish featured again in the main course – after all, this is a restaurant by the sea in Boulogne, reputedly the premier fishing port in France. The whiting (filets de merlan) didn’t disappoint and I was equally pleased with my veal served with courgettes aux sesames.

Tony Lestienne (centre) - not serving cod

One variety of fish you won’t find on the menu at La Matelote is cod. Chef Tony told Frogsiders he won’t serve it any more as he believes the species has become threatened through overfishing. He has tried to convince other restaurateurs in the area, but in vain, so for the moment he leads the way as the only chef to have taken this conservational stand. “I serve a lot of rouget, now,” says Chef Tony,” it’s an excellent fish, as is lieu noir (pollack) and they are not under environmental threat”.

After the course of local cheeses, my wife had an apricot desert served with a fromage blanc sorbet and, being a chocoholic, I couldn’t resist le parfait chocolate tiede, biscuits aux noisettes. As in many fine restaurants, the desserts are ordered at the beginning of the meal and much time and care, therefore, is taken over their preparation and presentation.The meal was topped and tailed with some mouth watering appetisers and delightful mignardises (home-made chocolates and sweets), and washed down with a half bottle of Macon Villages 2007 and a 2003 Bordeaux Superieur. The bill, tax and service included, came to €121. Fine dining and well worth the price!

Since 1991 Tony Lestienne has also run the popular brasserie restaurant at the “Nausicaa” Sea World centre, on the seafront close to the site of “La Matelote”.  In this glass fronted panoramic seaview restaurant you can eat wonderfully fresh seafood, prepared under Tony Lestienne’s supervision, at very reasonable prices.  (Frogsiders thinks there’s something gloriously and appropriately French about going to the Nausicaa centre and then sitting down to eat its inhabitants)

Restaurant ‘La Matelote’
80 bd Ste Beuve
Boulogne sur Mer
Tel: 03 21 30 17 97
Fax: 03 21 83 29 24

Closed Sunday evening and Thursday lunch time

Nausicaa Restaurant
Open every day 12.00-15.00 & 19.00-22.00 including Sunday evenings
Reservations Tel: 03 21 33 24 24