(Article first published in Frogsiders Magazine – Aug 2009)
It was going to be a birthday celebration and we had chosen a quiet little restaurant in the country where the cuisine is reliable and the atmosphere is intimate. I left it rather late to make the booking, confident that there would be no problem, so that when I finally picked up the phone, only to find the restaurant closed on Wednesdays, I knew I would be in the doghouse if I didn’t come up with an equally attractive alternative at very short notice.
Sang froid is what is needed in a situation like this. Recovering quickly, I made a booking instead at La Verrière in Berck, which I know is open every day during the July and August summer season. La Verrière is the restaurant attached to the casino in Berck. It’s a place that impresses with the quality of its furniture and fittings even before you are shown to your table by the impeccably mannered Maitre d’Hotel, Jean-Michel Caron.
As this was a special celebration we chose à la carte. First they brought us a delightful amuse bouche, a crisp samosa filled with a veal stuffing. Next, I had the Carpaccio de Canard, thin strips of duck breast, salad with a hint of mint in the dressing and a crisp parmesan biscuit. The birthday girl chose a starter of roast tuna. She continued with a spectacular lobster dish, Méli mélo de homard, sabayon de concombres et poivres torrifiés, sur une fondue de légumes de saison, while I enjoyed a beautifully presented Poelée de rougets aux sucs de volaile et d’asperges vertes, farce fine de champignons, petite salade d’herbes aux pignons de pin caramelisées. We chose a Sauvignon Blanc which added only 17 euros to the bill. It came in a 50cl bottle, ideal for two. Cheeses come from the celebrated fromagerie, Caseus, at Montreuil.
After the main course my wife mentioned to our waiter how much she had enjoyed her lobster. “Thank you, I’ll pass your compliments to the chef, madame,” replied the waiter, “but not before he’s made the desserts!”
Now, this was a celebratory dinner, so yes, it was relatively expensive at €137.50 for two, including aperitifs, but we both agreed La Verrière was worth every penny. However, you don’t have to spend a lot to eat at la Verrière. We noticed as we browsed through the carte and the menus that they offer a couple of excellent value menus at fixed price, plus their “Suggestion du Jour” formula at only €13.50. For this you get an amuse bouche as a starter, a choice of main course from the €29 “Saveur de Temps” menu, and a generous glass of wine. This formula is available at lunch or dinner, any day of the week. We decided there and then to go back on Saturday night and try it.
It’s not often you’ll see a review of a restaurant in which the reviewer tests two completely different types of meal, at widely different prices, in the same establishment in the same week. It’s a great pleasure to report that for only €31 we enjoyed another excellent meal. This time we both had Filet de Lotte rôti au thym sur une fondue de poivrons doux et poireaux, étuvée de céleri et jus crémeux de bouchots. A generous piece of monkfish, perfectly cooked, arrived on a bed of leeks, peppers and celery, all surrounded by mussels. A glass of a very good house white accompanied the meal and the only extra we ordered was a small bottle of mineral water.
Whether it’s for a full scale celebratory dinner, or a quick lunch La Verrière will not disappoint. The service, under M. Caron’s calm supervision, is efficient and formal without the unnecessarily elaborate flourishes you sometimes find in other Michelin listed establishments. A comfortable restaurant with a warm and friendly atmosphere, excellent service and fine cooking – places as good and as accessible as this are not easy to find, even in France.
La Verrière, Place du 18 Juin, 62600 BERCK-SUR-MER
Telephone +33 (0)3 21 84 27 25