If you’re interested in gourmet oyster tasting, a trip to France can be a wonderful way to experience some of the world’s finest and freshest delicacies. From Cancale in Brittany to Arcachon near Bordeaux, France harbours some truly exceptional oysters, with regional cuisine often featuring the aromatic, delicious shellfish in typical dishes, paired with excellent wines. Read on to learn where to taste the very best huitres — and consider embarking on a private culinary tour with us to make your stay even more memorable and luxurious.
Oyster Tasting in France: Where to Find the Very Best?
..From Aquitaine to Brittany
Aquitaine: Prestige & Local Tradition
For many oyster connoisseurs, Aquitaine is synonymous with incomparably fresh, delicious huitres (French for ‘oysters’ and pronounced ‘WEE-truh’. A large part of the region, whose largest city is Bordeaux, runs alongside the Atlantic coast, a genuine treasure-trove for local oyster-tasting.
Artisanal oyster farmers and superb gastronomic restaurants and bars specialising in the delicacy thrive in Aquitaine, where prestige meets century-long traditions. Any gourmet tour of southwestern France– which may also include caviar and truffle tastings as well as superb wineries around Bordeaux — should and can initiate you to the region’s top-rate huitres.
Where to Taste the Best Oysters in Aquitaine?
Your private oyster-tasting tour in the region may include visits to producers and local gastronomic tables specialised in fresh shellfish paired with excellent wines. We always aim to show our VIP clients the secrets of France’s best producers and top culinary talents. These are just a couple of the local experiences we recommend– others are closely guarded secrets that we reserve exclusively for our clients.
Arcachon, Pyla-sur-Mer & Cap Ferret
The seaside resort town of Arcachon and its magnificent Bay is renowned for its fresh oysters. Why not hire a private boat and embark on a tour of the area’s fascinating oyster farms, implanted around the bay and visible at low tide? Aged for an average of three years before being harvested, the oysters cultivated in this unique environment benefit from an ideal ecosystem: the relative calm of Bay waters fed by the wild Atlantic ocean on one end, dunes and pine forests on another.
This unique “terroir” produces oysters that are delightfully fresh and full of aromatic flavours. Your visit with local artisans will give you deep insight into the painstaking process of producing these delicacies, and the cultural traditions that have endured for hundreds of years. Some oysters in particular, known as “La Gravette” feed on local plankton that lend them a unique, highly-prized flavour.
In addition to visiting local oyster producers in Arcachon and the nearby Cap Ferret, your gourmet adventure in the region might include lunch onboard a privately chartered yacht, prepared by a local chef and featuring freshly caught oysters accompanied by crusty bread and salted butter and some of the region’s finest, crispest white wines. You can even taste them onsite in the area’s many informal yet wonderfully authentic “cabanes à huitres” (oyster-tasting cabins), where you might enjoy breathtaking views over the Arcachon Bay, the astrounding Dune Pilat and the Cap Ferret.
If you prefer to enjoy lunch or dinner at a nearby, high-end table, there are numerous options for an unforgettable gastronomic experience. We particularly recommend tables including Le Patio, a Michelin-starred restaurant on Arcachon’s main beach that’s headed be French chef Thierry Renou and features outstandingly fresh oysters and creative regional cuisine, as well as the recently opened Skiff Club in gorgeous Pyla-sur-Mer, with fantastic views over the dunes, remarkable gastronomy from chef Stéphane Carrade, and a superb wine list. Chez Pierre in Arcachon is also prized by locals for its fine platters and excellent wines.
Heading to Nouvelle Aquitaine and the relaxed seaside town of Bourcfranc le Chapus, you can taste some of France’s most-prized– and expensive– oysters at Maison Gillardeau, established during the nineteenth century and lauded by gourmets as unusually flavourful, fresh, and aromatic. Many consider theirs to be the “Rolls Royce” of French huitres.
Their boutique in Bourcfranc makes an excellent port of call to procure the house’s exquisite oysters for a festive and elegant meal, perhaps aboard a privately chartered boat or yacht. Alternatively, their recently opened tasting room on the Ile de la Ré off the Atlantic coast offers superb views over sea and sky.
Finally, another destination in Nouvelle Aquitaine that reserves some of France’s best oysters is the town of Marennes-Oléron, famous for its “La Pousse en Clair” variety that is elevated in low density conditions and in shallow ponds called “claires”. These oysters are lauded as being unusually sweet and as having a pleasing, complex texture. Your private tour might include a visit to the charming town, stopping to discover the secrets of its finest local producers and tasting rooms.
Brittany: A Proud Heritage and Authentic Present
The northeastern French region of Brittany is as famous as Aquitaine for its world-prized, incredibly fresh oysters. The region, with roots in Celtic roots that stretch back thousands of years and fishing practices that are just about as ancient, has perfected the art of the huitre through a combination of treasured tradition and present-day innovation. During your next private, high-luxury tour of Brittany, make sure to spend some time tasting and learning about their fantastic oysters. Whether you opt to visit a few local producers, charter a private vessel to enjoy local delicacies as part of a freshly prepared lunch, or stake out the region’s best gastronomic tables serving exceptional huitres, your experience will be at once authentic and exceptional.
Where to Taste the Best Oysters in Brittany?
Bretagne produces several different varieties of oysters that are treasured by gourmet connoisseurs and fans of authentic, simple regional cuisine alike. These are among the most sought-after.
Brest: Distinctive wild harbour oysters
The northwestern harbour city of Brest is lauded for its superb wild oysters, which naturally flourish in the nutrient-rich waters around the area. Towns such as Plougastel-Dauolas, also nestled on the harbour, are also noted for their wild huitres, which have a particular texture closer to a scallop and are rich in iodine.
Enjoy a platter of freshly caught, raw oysters accompanied with lemon and crusty bread, or try them cooked in Bréton cider or even as a filling in a traditional savoury buckwheat crepe (galette).
In Brest, we recommend tasting the area’s finest specimens at warmly authentic and lively spots such as L’Oyster Bar, a recently opened, sprawling space overlooking the Port of Brest and serving enormous platters of shellfish, including the oysters for which the area is renowned.
Meanwhile, in nearby Plougastel, a trip to the tasting room of prestigious oyster producers Thierry Larnicol and Jean Le Moal (Keraliou) is a wonderful place to try creative regional cuisine from chef Philippe Lambert, with dishes such as beef tartare with oysters certain to please gourmet palates. The sea views over the port are also superb.
Another variety that seafood aficionados prize is from Cancale, and more specifically an oyster referred to as “Le Pied de Cheval” (the horse’s foot). This flat, rounded and wild oyster variety has a fresh, fleshy interior and is appreciated for its unique flavour as well as its rarity.
Visit the picturesque seaside city of Cancale, exposed to the Atlantic Ocean but featuring a tranquil harbour where the oysters are protected from the harsh currents, and experience the culinary traditions that the city is quietly famous for. Exceptional but relaxed tastings can be enjoyed at places including Au Pied d’Cheval on the Cancale Port, whose oyster platters (sourced from the restaurant’s own local production site) are remarkably fresh and delicious; the seaside views are breathtaking, too.
For a more formal gastronomic experience, we particularly recommend lunch or dinner at Tablé Breizh Café in Cancale, a Michelin-starred address whose Bréton and Japanese menu fuses traditions beautifully; the menu includes oyster platters and fusion specialities using the delicacy as a key ingredient. Dishes such as Cancalaise oysters with apple purée, Japanese vinegar, pink onion flan and langoustine bisque are both delicate and full of gourmet flavour.
Paimpol: “La creuse fine”
Heading northeast to the rugged Cote d’Armor area, discover the remarkable local oysters of Paimpol which are raised in the middle of the sea and celebrated for their rich flavors and satisfying, fleshy texture. Local producers such as Huitres Arin have fantastic tasting rooms/restaurants with sea views; take in the arresting natural beauty of the Bay of Paimpol as you enjoy a platter of the freshest local oysters, accompanied, of course, with salted Bréton butter and bread.
Normandy: Low-Key Luxury & Gourmet Discovery
Last but certainly not least, the northern region of Normandy (which borders Brittany) is also home to some outstanding oyster producers and gastronomic restaurants that make creative delicious use of the shellfish. In fact, one in four French oysters hail from this region and are prized by locals and visitors alike for their variety and frank, complex flavours. While Normandy is perhaps a bit more well-known for its French cheeses and Calvados liqueur, this region should be a priority when you’re interested in tasting superb huitres and related products.
Read related: Experience Our Luxury French Cheese Tours
Where to Taste the Best Oysters in Normandy?
Normandy is known for its unusual variety of excellent oysters. Utah Beach, one of the famous D-Day landing beaches and the westernmost of the five, is located on the Cotentin Peninsula. In addition to its historical significance as a place of memory and mourning following the tragedy of World War II, the area is prized for its delicious and distinctive oysters, which are fed by incredibly strong ocean currents that intertwine with the waters of nearby rivers.
Full of flavour and ideal for tastes that are a bit adventurous, these iodine-rich varieties are said to leave a subtle hint of almond on the palate. They are delicious raw or cooked in different traditional Norman dishes, including ones featuring local apple ciders.
Also raised on the Cotentin Peninsula but further to the east, the “huitre de Saint-Vaast la Hougue” is another noble oyster with a fleshy texture, rich in iodine and featuring a subtle suggestion of hazelnut.
Touring & Tasting on the Peninsula
Why not couple a historical tour of Normandy’s landing beaches with a few gourmet tastings at some of the area’s most prestigious oyster houses and seafood restaurants? You can even board a 2CV vintage Citroen on embark on a rustic yet elegant tour around the landing beaches and picturesque natural sites such as the Cliffs at Etretat, stopping to taste oysters and other authentic Norman products (calvados, wines, cheeses, ciders) along the way.
Our private tours will unveil a host of secretive, exclusive and authentic places to taste the very best; these are just a couple we recommend in the area. In Saint-Vaast-la-Houge, for example, France et Fuschias is a local table helmed by young chef Alexandre Raymond; it has won accolades for its excellent oysters and creative cuisine with roots in Norman cuisine. Meanwhile, at Le Vauban in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, the fresh shellfish platters are excellent, as are the beautifully presented dishes made with fresh local ingredients.
The Oysters of Isigny-sur-Mer
The Norman oysters that are perhaps the biggest household name are those cultivated in Isigny-sur-Mer and surrounding towns, in the Calvados department famous for the liqueur of the same name. Very rich in iodine, these popular oysters are very frequently featured in top shellfish and seafood restaurants around France, but sampling them straight from the source is recommended for ultimate freshness– and to witness the artisanal way they are prepared for consumption.
Generally raised in the plankton-rich Bay of Veys, these are oysters likely to please most palates for their soft, delicate flavours and pleasingly firm texture.
The town of Isigny-sur Mer and nearby Grandcamp-Maisy are both excellent ports of call for sampling the prized local produce. On your private tour of the region and its noteworthy oyster farms, you can enjoy informal but authentic tastings at local sellers– where you can order a few oysters accompanied by a glass of crisp white or try them cooked in apple cider and/or calvados, a local specialty.
Restaurants such as La Marée (in Grandcamp-Maisy) are reputed for their excellent, unpretentious and delicious cuisine, including fresh oyster platters. The harbour views are are charming and memorable, too.
Book a Private Oyster-Tasting Tour in France
Have we managed to intrigue your palate? If so, get in touch with now. We’ll create an entirely personalised gourmet adventure in France that includes exquisite fresh oyster tastings with some of the country’s finest producers, perhaps paired with exclusive wine tours. And while the three regions above are perhaps the most popular ones for sampling superb shellfish, other areas, including the French Cote d’Azur and Sicily, harbour some excellent oyster-tasting opportunities as well.