More from Brittany whether you like it or not. I've got to do something with all these photographs:
This is the view from Jane and Olivier Roellinger's hotel at Cancale across the oyster beds in the Baie de Mont-St-Michel.
And one of the Roellinger's lovely gites with well-stocked kitchen garden:
A couple of years ago Roellinger famously gave up his three Michelin stars and closed his restaurant in Cancale, Le Maison du Bricourt, due to ill-health.
He is now 55, but in his early 20s Roellinger was brutally attacked by a group of youths in St Malo one night, 'For no reason but to make violence,' he told me.
He spent a year recuperating at home during which he decided to change careers (he had been studying chemistry), to become a chef. His mother agreed to let him take over the entire ground floor of the family manor house to turn it into a restaurant. It took him twenty years to win three Michelin stars and, shortly after he won his third, his mother died. He had promised her to keep going for three more years and did so, but the legacy of that attack in his youth meant that, as he grew older, he found he couldn't stand for the hours required by kitchen work and, rather than carry on with another chef behind the stove (not his style), he has now retired from the kitchen.
Happily, you can still eat some of the dishes that won those three stars in Roellinger's more informal, one-star restaurant, Le Coquillage, in his hotel, the Chateau Richeux just oustide of Cancale.
This was the staggeringly great spider crab and langoustine dish:
Even better was this modest bowl of home-smoked new potatoes with smoked haddock and super-
piquant vinaigrette which I spotted on the menu and asked for a taste of from the impeccable hotel manager, Rodolphe.
Roellinger is famed for his use of exotic spices, inspired by the history of nearby St Malo as the port of the French East India company and the history of the Maison du Bricourt as the home of a spice trader: here's his famous lobster with vanille:
And here is Roellinger himself, who kindly took time to show me around his wonderfully aromatic spice shop in Cancale, where he sells his unique, organic, fair trade spice blends.
And, I got to fulfill a long-held ambition to visit the oyster sellers of Cancale.
Tried a plate of belons, the world famous flat oysters. Bit salty, if I'm really honest.
Way better were the huitres sauvage. Staggeringly good. Probably the best oysters I have ever eaten and to slurp them on the sea wall here has to be one of the world's great gourmet experiences. Though not for the oysters, obviously.
I had quite a few.
Well, seeing as I'd come all this way, it would have been churlish not to have a couple more.
Reckon that's my zinc levels taken care of for a couple of weeks.
Brittany is indisputably gorgeous, at least when the sun shines, which it doesn't always, or, if you talk to a lot of people who have holidayed there, ever. But the sun shone kindly while I was there researching a food story for Condé Nast Traveller, and I rather fell in love with a place I had previously avoided thinking it was all a bit dour and 'Celtic-without-the-craic'.
The food helped, of course. It was mostly terrific, especially the oysters - of which much more in a mo - but there was one baddie. Not to dwell on the negative, but the worst meal I had was at the Agapa hotel in Perros Guirrec, where the waiters rolled their eyes and tutted if you asked for anything, and everyone was afraid to speak for fear of appearing uncool. What was that rolled turd on top of the crab timable, I wonder? Tasted fishy. Ugh.
I always order sweetbread when I see it on a menu, but perhaps this wasn't so smart a choice this close to the sea.
It all set me thinking about the things that can spoil a restaurant experience 'cos, actually, this wasn't terrible - the decor and the service were - and, given the right circumstance (and a substantially lower bill, perhaps), this food would have been okay-ish, and wouldn't have had me grumbling the night away and sending Paddington-stares at the maitre'd.
As I waited a good half hour for the bill, I jotted down my thoughts on stuff we can do without in 'upscale' restaurants. On their lovely, pristine white linen table cloth. In purple ink:
i) table scraping, only carried out, as far as I can see, so that the waiter can point out just what a gibbon-faced, gluttonous old Shrek you are when you eat.
ii) Repeated topping up of water and wine, done - quite brazenly - in order to sell you more water and wine. Thanks, just leave the bottle/carafe on the table. I'll use these eye and arm things of mine to judge when I need more fluids and administer them instead.
iii) Smearing sauces across plates. It's old hat, it looks awful, and reminds one only of someone wearing stilletos who has slipped on some goose shit.
iv) Folding napkins while you are in the toilet. Waiter (one raised eyebrow) to diner: 'I know what you've been doing!'
v) Massively over crowded cheese trolleys, with wizened old triangles of cheese archaeology. We only need a blue, a fresh goat, a comté and a camembert, thanks.
vi) Being asked if everything is okay. My Paddington stare will let you know if it's not.
vii) Worse: being told to 'enjoy'. I'll enjoy if I want to, buster! I'm paying, I can be miserable if I want.
viii) Bible-sized wine lists. The sommellier knows you don't know half these wines, he probably doesn't really know them either, you're not here to read, you're hear to eat and drink and dazzle the table with your wit. You got three pages, max.
ix) And while we're at it, we don't need more than three starters, mains and desserts to choose from.
x) On second thoughts, keep the cheese trolley (as long as it's well stocked). And dessert trolleys are compulsory.
xii) And foams, gels, spherifications, dry ice, all that stuff. Only joking. Keep it all. I love it.