Anchored beside the Channel, on the northeast corner of the Cotentin Peninsula, in the County of La Manche, this very picturesque port has strong historic links with England. Delicious moules de Barfleur are wild mussels harvested just out to sea.
With its sturdy granite houses, unusual church and tempting restaurants gathered around its harbour, Barfleur now presents a glorious picture of a traditional Norman fishing port. It did also sometimes play a role in Anglo-French history, from 1066 through to colonial wars. The squat church looks a bit English, with its square tower, rather than a spire. One chapel inside boasts a surprising octagonal dome. On the quays, witness the unloading of the fishing catch and you’ll get a good feel for how closely the local community is connected to the sea. Nearby rise a shipping communications tower, or semaphore, and the imposing Gatteville lighthouse, the second-highest in France.
Barfleur wild mussels
The vast majority of mussels on sale these days come from mussel farms. However, there are still natural mussel banks in the waters off the eastern side of the Cotentin Peninsula, providing the moules de Barfleur and of Ravenoville. These mussels are harvested from boats. The particular mussels known as ‘Barfleur blondes’ have been distinguished for some years now by the quality charter ‘Moule de Barfleur Normandie Fraîcheur Mer’. There’s no better place to taste them than in one of the port-side restaurants. Cooked à la marinière (in a classic shallot and white wine sauce), in a cream sauce, or à la normande (with fish stock, cream, butter and egg yolks), they make the summer dish par excellence here. Do check with local restaurateurs though as to the precise season for these mussels, as they are not available all the time, coming as they do from natural banks.