La Grillardine is hidden in plain sight. Blink and you’ll miss it. It’s literally the size of terrace house in the old industrial Yorkshire towns and hidden amongst far larger hostelries in the Old Town of Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France.
I’ve long said that one of the marks of an establishment is not how they fare when things go well, it’s how they act when things don’t go so well. In this respect. La Grillardine deserves top marks.
Having done substantial pre-holiday research into the area, we had noted that La Grillardine was ranked number one out of a hundred or so in the town. It also had favourable write ups in other sites. That meant we made a booking; given its size this is a highly recommended strategy. We’d actually arrived ten minutes late for our allotted time, only to find that the earlier seating was squatting on our designated table. A very apologetic host explained and we opted to sit outside and have some drinks in anticipation of the squatting guests imminent departure.
45 minutes later, we were finally seated inside for dinner. Normally such a long wait in this situation would irritate me, but we had a bottle of a fine Saint-Emilion, some nibbles (nowhere in France would incur my ire for a lack of snacks with a drink as it’s in their DNA), lots of people watching to do on a warm September evening on holiday. Throughout, the hostess was apologetic and attentive; and given the size of the establishment, I cannot imagine this was the first time.
Service and Decor at La Grillardine
The interior is appointed like a standard family French bistro. Nothing remarkable in itself. However, given its size, the kitchen is on the ground floor in the restaurant (along with 10 covers) and cannot measure more than one or two square metres. The size of La Grillardine also means that every nook and cranny is used for storage of restaurant essentials; part of the wine storage was on the windowsill next to our table, for example.
Service, as you can gather from my introductory comments, was spot on. This is not the sort of establishment were everything is also listed in English and you’ll have to make an effort with your rusty French to get along. To me, this is always a good sign.
Food at La Grillardine
The menu is simple. The handful of starters and desserts are listed on a blackboard and clearly vary every day. We shared the Camembert Au Feu; a small round of grilled Camembert served with some toast and mixed with walnuts which complemented it nicely. Main course for me was an Entrecote (rib eye) steak, cooked medium. Always remember to go one notch up in France – that way, like I did, you’ll get it cooked perfectly. Rib-eye always requires a little work to separate the meat from the fat and other undesirable sinewy elements but is always worth it. The chips, as you can imagine in France, were crispy outside, fluffy middle, actually tasted of potato. I had opted for a Roquefort sauce which was served separately and was milder than I had expected, but still worked well with the steak. Friend had the beef brochette (kebab) which was thick cubes of meat grilled rare and also excellently done with a pepper sauce that was remarkable.
The rest of the menu followed a similar theme; cuts of pork, beef and duck, grilled. Given the limited sized of the kitchen at La Grillardine, the lack of breadth is wholly understandable.
Dessert was a simple affair of three local cheeses, served at room temperature (chilled being an all to often fail in many English establishments) and washed down with a second bottle of the rather lovely wine.
The only criticism you can level at La Grillardine is the salad dressing….. the same simple garnish accompanied all three courses. Whilst it was a perfectly acceptable balsamic based affair, some variety would’ve helped!
There are more upmarket places in Boulogne-Sur-Mer; La Grillardine, at its heart, is simply a small, family, French bistro that does such bistro fayre excellently. Boulogne is also a major fishing port and it would be criminal not to sample that day’s landed catch somewhere in the town instead if you’re staying only one night. However, regular readers will know that I like small and quirky. You don’t get much smaller and quirkier than La Grillardine. And nor do you often find places that can do the classic French bistro the way they do either.
|Restaurant Name||La Grillardine|
|Price Range||€30 a head (Dinner), circa £25|
|Phone||+33 3 21 80 32 94|
|Address||30 Rue de Lille, 62200 Boulogne Sur Mer , France|