A September 2004 trip
to St. Malo by su-lin
Quote: I recently attended a conference in St. Malo, a town renowned for pirates (corsairs) in its history and for some of the fastest tides in Europe.
The twin beds were placed side by side, as if it were a king bed. A TV, desk, mini-bar fridge, wardrobes, table, and chairs completed the furniture. A mini-safe was provided in the wardrobe and proved to be useful for our spare cash. The bathroom was split into two rooms - one with just the toilet and the other with the sink, bidet, and bath/shower. I initially found this to be brilliant - you could use the toilet when your roommate is hogging the other bathroom! But then I found it irritating, as you'd have to enter the other room to wash your hands. The same layout was found in the single rooms! Needless to say, though, everything was spotless. Robes were provided for each guest and towels were plentiful.
The hotel is a spa hotel, specialising in thalassotherapy (seawater treatments). The French love treatments and massages, wraps, etc., are all available here. As guests of the hotel, we get free use of the steam room (hammam), sauna, and seawater swimming pool as well as discounted entry to the aquatonic maze (see separate entry). A relatively late checkout time of noon allowed us to take advantage of all this!
Breakfasts each morning were amazing...a gigantic buffet spread of cold sausages; ham; smoked salmon; cheese; breads, both sweet and savoury; fresh fruit; freshly segmented oranges and grapefruits; and fresh juices. A waitress comes to your seat to enquire whether you would like some hot chocolate, coffee, or tea. Breakfast is held in one of the restaurants and the rooms overlook the sea. Many guests of the hotel are in their bathrobes, evidence that they are here mainly for the spa treatments. The dishes labelled to be healthy choices are another spa sign!
The hotel, I believe, is the highest rated in St. Malo and is excellent for a little romantic treat (or for when somebody else is paying!). The location is fantastic and the walk to the walled city is not too long. Their website is both in English and in French.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 6, 2004
Le Grand Hotel des Thermes
Grande Plage du Sillon
St. Malo, France
We chose from the 30€ menu. Our first course would be a seafood platter (minimum 2 people), most people chose either fish or beef for their second course, cheese was the third course, and finally, we could choose from the lengthy dessert menu for our final course.
We shared three large platters of seafood between the 12 of us. Each had a base of ice and seaweed, topped first with a giant's handful of little black sea snails (winkles), then slightly smaller piles of prawns, langoustines, little grey prawns, the pretty spiral shellfish called bulots, and finally, a whole boiled crab on top. This was all accompanied by fresh bread, the salted butter that is famous in Brittany, shallot vinaigrette, and homemade mayonnaise. Scrumptious! It took us forever to work on it, but it was such fun!
I chose the sea bass in a butter sauce with rice and vegetables on the side. It was nothing mind-blowing, but the fish was very, very fresh. I ended up sharing with my neighbour, who had chosen the John Dory (fish of the day), served two-to-a-portion with the same butter sauce and sides. Others in our party had chosen beef, and that was a very substantial portion and was also delicious.
A cheese trolley was wheeled up to our table. There were about 10 cheeses to choose from, all of them at the peak of ripeness. I chose the reblochon (meh) and the epoisses...which with I then promptly fell in love. The cheeses are served with a reduced balsamic glaze that matched the cheeses perfectly. A salad was also on the side.
For this course, I chose what, to me, was the most amusing. It was the dessert of the day from the patissier...but translated literally, it was something like "dessert depending on the mood of the patissier"! Oh, how I wished that the patissier was in a good mood! It turned out to be a large plate with a baked peach, a raspberry compote, and vanilla ice cream. Fine stuff! Others chose ice cream sundaes, fruit tarts, chocolate things...
We walked into that restaurant and were the first ones in at about 7:30pm. We were the last ones out at about 11:30pm. It was a fine meal, and at a good price! They have cheaper menus as well.
They have a menu on their website, and it looks as if the 30€ menu that we had has been modified now to a 32€ menu.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 28, 2004
Brasserie du Sillon
3 Chaussee du Sillon
St. Malo, France
We (there were 5 of us) walked out of the hotel and towards the centre of town. We wanted crepes-not just crepes but galettes, those thin buckwheat pancakes that are a specialty of Brittany. We passed by one empty restaurant and entered another full of locals. The proprietor approached us with a terrified face, "We've stopped serving!" In fact, everything around us was starting to close. St. Malo is not a big city.
We decided to make the trek to the walled city. Surely the centre of town would have restaurants that were open late?
We happened upon the Café Licorne, near the main entrance in the wall. Like many of the cafés in the main area, it had tables extending out into the street. We first checked to see if the kitchen was still open-the proprietor thought about it for a while and decided that she would make us galettes since we were not too large a group. What a relief! We were starving!
I chose the galette complete-the classic pancake filled with cheese, ham, and an egg. Breaking into a soft yolk is still one of my great joys! The ham was a revelation-nothing like those sealed packets of pressed ham that I'm familiar with. Others tried the four cheese varieties and other fillings, like mushrooms, bacon, or cream. They were all very tasty.
One galette, though, does not fill up the average student stomach. Optimistically, we each ordered a sweet crepe for dessert. Galettes are only served with savoury fillings. I chose the creme de marron-a tasty puree of sweetened chestnuts. My friends all chose banana with chocolate sauce. The bananas were unexpectedly stewed. Oh boy, we all struggled to finish our dessert crepes. It would have been wiser to split them.
However, I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of galettes and now have to find somewhere to get them in London!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 14, 2004
6 Place Chateaubriand
St. Malo, France
A couple seemed to be running the front of the bistro, with a woman taking orders and a man serving the food. She brought us a small blackboard with the day's menu on it, and we reckon the menu is determined by what's good in the markets that day. There was a selection of about seven starters, main dishes, and desserts. Most of the group were not terribly hungry and ordered a main each. The greedy pigs in the group (I would be one of them!) split a starter and dessert, as well as ordered one main each. Service was terrific-she patiently explained everything on the blackboard that we could not decipher.
For the past few days, every single meal featured seafood of some kind. We were saturated with fish-it was time for some meat. For the main dish, everyone ordered beef while I had their pork with a honey and shallot sauce. A friend and I split a starter of risotto with squid and then a dessert of a moelleux au chocolat. First, though, we were given complimentary bites of fish pâté on impossibly small rounds of baguettes. They were delicious and a wonderful preview of what was to come.
The risotto was a little mound of buttery rice-an island in a pool of even more clear yellow butter. The squid was lazing on this island, an occasional tentacle swimming in the sea. Oh, was this ever so rich, but delicious. The squid was tender and the rice was perfectly cooked. I forgot to take a photo of this and the dessert as I was too busy eating!
Our main dishes were fantastic. I had perfectly cooked pork tenderloin slices with the honey and caramelised shallots sauce. A buttery potato mash and mangetouts (snow peas) were the accompaniments. I also had a chance to taste the beef, which was perfectly cooked (medium in my friend's case), and in one of the cases, had a crust of pain d'epices (spice bread). Yummy!
A moelleux au chocolat turned out to be a warm chocolate cake with a fondact centre surrounded by creme anglaise (custard). A scoop of vanilla ice cream was perched on top of the cake. This had our spoons out in battle as we attempted to scrape the last dab of ice cream, the last bit of cake, and the last drop of custard.
Everything from the blackboard menus to the tea towel-like napkins was lovely here. I highly recommend it, and perhaps next time, I'll have the fish!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 29, 2004
Bistro de Jean
6 Rue de la Corne de Cerfe
St. Malo, France
Don't go expecting a proper maze - it's more of a large pool with various stations that you can attend with supposed benefits for different parts of the body. A pool-plan can be found on their website. The pool is also quite shallow - about 1.2m at most - and therefore can be used by swimmers and non-swimmers alike. As the hotel specialises in thalassotherapy (seawater treatments), this was the swimming medium. One of their brochures states that the water is pumped from the sea a little ways from the hotel.
What struck me first was the position of the pool - open for everyone to see! Anybody who walks by can see you splashing around. My self-consciousness crept up...and went away again when my feet first hit the warm, comforting water.
I followed the numbers in the proper order:
1. First, you walk along a short winding corridor where jets are places to hit various parts of your body - at the ankles, calves, and thighs. Pausing at each set of jets gives a lovely massage to the intended body part.
2. Seats are placed in the pool, with jets massaging the small of your back and your legs. Handles are provided, as the powerful jets can send you floating away!
3. A high-powered shower hits your neck and shoulders. This also turns out to be the main source of the noise level in the pool; it sounds like river rapids in there!
4. A separate pool filled with warmer water (I guess the temperate changes are supposed to be good?) with a number of jets of various heights; again to massage different parts of the body.
5. Again a separate pool of warm water with lots and lots of bubbles! This one was like a Jacuzzi and sitting on the seats, I was engulfed from neck to toes.
6. This one was my favourite and I returned to it after hitting all the workstations. Plastic loungers are placed in this very shallow part of the pool and jets are placed to hit your feet. This foot massage was very much needed after all the walking I did!
7. Another shower, but a gentle one this time, was available for the neck and shoulders. I think I was the only person who used this one! Personally, I couldn't take the strength of the previous jets for the neck, but I guess everybody else could!
8. This was another corridor with jets at varying heights.
9. This was nice - jets for the legs. You would float there while hanging on to the side of the pool and let the jets hit your legs from the bottom.
You leave feeling totally relaxed, with all your soreness gone. The only downside is that you cannot sleep as with a traditional massage!
And the cost for such a lovely experience? €15 for hotel guests and €21 for everyone else and there's no maximum time (though you are bounded by the opening and closing times!) A real bargain for a full body massage!
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