A meal on the high seas: Why not?
TEXT: HANNAH JANE THOMPSON | PHOTOS © G. HERRIAU
Its very name – which translates as ‘Why not?’ – may invite guests to expect a panoply of possibilities, but Le Pourquoi Pas restaurant in Dinard, France, is, in fact deceptively clear in its approach.
Right on the Breton cliffs, around an hour’s drive north of Rennes, the 28-cover, cosy corner of the five-star Castelbrac hotel overlooks Prieuré Bay and St. Malo, and is named in reference to French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot, who sailed oceans far and wide in his ship, the Pourquoi-pas?.
Locally-born chef Julien Hennote describes his philosophy with just one word: “simplicity”, and the ever-present proximity of the sea is evident throughout. Not only do the large, domed windows – and impressive summertime terrace – give every guest the perfect view, but the exquisitely-prepared food on their plate puts seafood front and centre, too. “What interests me most is the taste,” Hennote says. “[But] we practically have our feet in the water, so we focus on seafood.”
As a Michelin-starred restaurant – Le Pourquoi Pas won the accolade just this year – the kitchen seeks to champion high-quality local ingredients, taking care to source only the region’s best. Seasonal dishes might include in-shell scallops with cauliflower semolina; wild yellow pollock ‘a la plancha’ (grilled), with rhubarb and razor clams; or young mackerel in crab broth with curry herbs.
The style is international, modern and pared-down, focusing on a few choice ingredients and methods that are chosen for texture as much as for taste. But the menu goes beyond seafood and fish, and is careful to use standout products from the land too. Indeed, one of the chef’s signature dishes uses a particular kind of free-range veal, dubbed ‘Bretanin’, which is raised on whole milk, and sold by one of the region’s “best butchers”, Hennote says.
As with any gastronomic restaurant, wine is also paramount. The wine list is just as seasonal as the menu, and especially seeks to highlight the dishes’ textures and flavours, as well as provide a viticultural tour of the local terroir.
There is more than a hint of the seafaring explorer here and the wine list blurb explains that everything must “start with a story, emotion, new flavours, and discovery”. Discovering Le Pourquoi Pas is akin to voyaging the ocean without ever having to leave your table – and any discerning and hungry seadog or landlubber need look no further.