Escape across the Channel to France’s cider country: Richard Esling July 28

If your leaning is more towards apples than grapes, then there is a part of France where a visit is a must. Normandy in north-west France is cider country ‘par excellence’.

Monday, 27th July 2020, 4:19 pm
Hostellerie d'Acquigny SUS-200727-160827001

Noted for a number of other significant reasons concerning Sussex, such as the invasion of William the Conqueror in 1066 and the landing beaches for the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944, Normandy is a beautiful, peaceful region, producing an enormous quantity of apples.

Although there are references to apple trees in Normandy from the 9th Century, cider making was brought to the region from the Basque country and became firmly established by the end of the 12th Century. Made from a number of different varieties of apples which are only used for cider making, the character of ciders can vary considerably, depending upon the bitter or sweet varieties used and the production methods.

Many top chefs consider that cider can be tasted just like a wine and recommend the service of different styles with their greatest dishes. Sparkling or slightly sparkling, with colours ranging from light straw to dark orange, taste ranges from dry to sweet, with fruity, flowery aromas and flavours on the palate of apples, citrus, peach, apricot and honey.

Now that we are allowed to ‘escape to France’, whether by ferry or tunnel, a great place for an overnight stay or a short break is the Hostellerie d’Acquigny, an easy three-hour drive from Calais, two hours from Caen or 1 ½ from Dieppe. In the heart of the tiny village of Acquigny on the Eure river near Louviers, you can keep your distance from the larger towns and cities. A former coaching inn, the Hostellerie is a restaurant with rooms, rather than a hotel.

Fully refurbished with modern rooms and restaurant, the establishment oozes charm, instilled by the young, dynamic owners Fanny and Eric Georget. The gorgeous Fanny is in charge of front of house operations for the restaurant and five bedrooms, whilst the ‘Maitre Restaurateur’ Eric cooks up a storm in the cuisine. The quality of the dishes served is quite outstanding, always using fresh, local ingredients and it has become one of my favourite French restaurants, where I have stayed on many occasions and can’t wait to go back.

This time of year, barring inclement weather, meals are served on the lovely, shady terrace, under a canopy of trees. For lunch or dinner, booking is a must as this is the ‘go to’ restaurant for gourmets in a wide surrounding area.

Acquigny is ideally suited for forays into the verdant Norman countryside, visiting the charming villages and sampling the local cider and calvados, a fiery spirit distilled from it. The eclectic fishing port of Honfleur is just over an hour away and within the village itself is the magnificent Renaissance chateau, with its romantic 18th Century gardens.

With historic links to England going back to the 100 Years War, a top-quality restaurant with comfortable rooms and a helpful, charming team of staff, an escape to the Hostellerie d’Acquigny is an unforgettable experience.